The £700m “windfall” the SNP-Green government have claimed from the ScotWind auction is “not very much money” at all according to experts.
Crown Estate Scotland held an auction on Monday where they sold off a number of seabed plots around the Scottish coast to developers who will create new offshore wind farms.
In total, 17 projects covering about 7,000km2 were chosen to go ahead, netting the Scottish Government £700m to spend on the country.
However, despite this money being called a “bumper payday” by Greenpeace UK, it is thought that the money will not go very far in the grand scheme of things.
Ewan Gibbs, a historian at the University of Glasgow who has researched labour, community and policy in energy transitions, labelled the cash as not “very much money.”
He said: “It’s very common in politics for what seem like large sums of money to be thrown around without much context. As a one off payment for access to huge tracks of wind resources, £700m isn’t very much money – it’s around the same size as Aberdeen City Council’s annual budget.
“The annual earnings that are projected to accrue from rent on the wind farms are similarly small – under £100 million pa. Not to be written off but also far from the transformational resource windfalls Scottish nationalists used to expect from oil.”
Media sociologist Dominic Hinde agreed with this sentiment and added: “700m is not a huge amount if only a one-off contribution to the public finances
“At best it will plug some of the gaps caused by council tax freezes and public spending cuts. No mention of it going toward development of public utilities.
“When you break it down, this represents another example of the long term economic benefits of renewables going overseas, and is not radically different to how oil and gas has worked with the promise of jobs as a substitute for actual control of assets.
Business as usual instead of green revolution
“To put that figure in perspective, in the 21-22 budget the Scottish Government spent 825.9m on motorways and trunk roads alone.
“This is important as for the past 10-15 years offshore wind has been trailed as a gamechanger for Scotland’s economy and finances, as well as being a critical component of country’s international presentation as a modern and technologically advanced state in waiting.
“When you combine this with the stalled plans for a national energy utility (and not clear where the Green plans for regional utilities have gone), it looks like business as usual instead of a green revolution.
“Caveat is that until things start working and everything comes online, nobody knows exactly how much money will be made by anyone each year.”
The ScotWind announcement was criticised at the time by the fishing industry and the RSPB, with concerns raised about the effect of the turbines on fish and birds in the areas where they would be installed.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) warned “proper scrutiny” must be given to developers’ claims wind farms and fishing can co-exist with little change to existing patterns of activity.
Scotland Against Spin, a campaign group against wind farms, said that reassurances must be made that the country’s natural heritage and fishing industry must be protected during the project.
Chairman Graham Lang said: “If our fishing industry and natural heritage are protected then the Scotwind announcement of winning bids for offshore wind developments is good news for Scotland.
“We hope that at last local industry can gain a decent share of the work generated. At ten times the present offshore capacity it would be good if this could take some pressure off the Scottish Government’s scattergun approach to onshore development.”
Scottish Labour net-zero spokesperson Colin Smyth was critical about the awarding of some of the contracts to foreign-owned companies.
He claimed that the Scottish Government had sold “Scotland by the pound to the highest bidder.”
Only three of the successful winners at the auction were Scottish companies, with SSE and Scottish Power Renewables buying one and two projects respectively.
Mr Smyth said: “It is symbolic of the bankruptcy of this SNP-Green government that they are attempting to spin the handing of the profits from Scotland’s natural resources to foreign owned corporations as a victory for the ‘just transition’.
“Instead of investing in the future of Scotland, too many of these contracts have been awarded to a foreign government owned or multinational company.

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