Tom Gordon Scottish Political Editor
NICOLA Sturgeon is holding out the prospect of a new era of cheaper energy
bills with the creation of a publicly-owned, not-for-profit energy company.
The First Minister said the new company would be set up within the current
Holyrood parliament and offer a new choice of supplier, with consumers
paying “as close to cost price as possible”.
The ambitious plan was the most eye-catching in a series of announcements
made by Ms Sturgeon in her closing address to the annual SNP conference in
Scottish ministers already own one utility – Scottish Water – and publicly
owned energy companies, such as Sweden’s Vattenfall, are common across Europe.
Nottingham City Council also operates not-for-profit Robin Hood Energy,
which was launched two years ago and sells gas and electricity to customers
across the UK.
Keen to avoid a repeat of Theresa May’s conference meltdown last week, the
First Minister appeared before delegates at the SEC holding a box of cough
“At the risk of tempting fate, I’ve come prepared,” she joked.
On the constitution, she said the SNP would “always make the case for
independence”, but supporters also had to be patient, with no decision on
timing until Brexit came into focus.
She said the idea behind the energy company was “simple”, with the
state-owned company acting as a selfless middle-man between energy
wholesalers and customers.
She said: “Energy would be bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland –
renewable, of course – and sold to customers as close to cost price as
“No shareholders to worry about. No corporate bonuses to consider.
“It would give people – particularly those on low incomes – more choice and
the option of a supplier whose only job is to secure the lowest price for
She said details would be published in the government’s Energy Strategy
later this year.
Richard Leonard, the left-wing candidate for Scottish Labour leader, said
Ms Sturgeon was “clearly driven by her fear of Jeremy Corbyn” and had
copied his energy company idea.
Theresa May has said she will cap energy prices to stop “rip-off” bills for
The Tories accused Ms Sturgeon of promising “jam tomorrow”.
Scottish Government officials were unable to basic questions on the energy
Ms Sturgeon’s official spokesman was unsure if it would supply only
electricity or would offer gas as well, and whether electricity would only
be sourced from renewables.
He was also unable to say if would also supply only Scotland or the whole
of the UK.
The SNP’s Holyrood manifesto last year spoke of research into a company
helping “the growth of local and community energy projects”, rather than a
competitor to ScottishPower.
Ms Sturgeon’s speech, which was interrupted by several standing ovations,
was designed to show the SNP was still vigorous and open to new ideas after
a decade in power.
It was also meant to put the party back on the front foot after the loss of
21 MPs in June.