Updates from the Scottish National Party
Sign up for myFT Daily Digest to be the first to hear about the Scottish National Party.
The Scottish National Party’s autumn conference on Saturday called for the creation of a national energy company – an implicit rebuke from SNP leader and Prime Minister Nicola Sturgeon, who pledged such an undertaking four years ago but did not broke his promises.
The online conference supported by 527 votes to six the creation of a national company to ‘set the standard for clean energy production in Scotland’, prioritize the use of Scottish equipment and provide affordable energy to “consumers with limited means”.
Sturgeon made the promise of a Scottish public energy company the highlight of his speech at the SNP’s 2017 autumn conference, saying it would ensure low prices, especially for those on low incomes.
However, the prime minister’s government has since backed down on the idea, which was not mentioned in its agenda for next year released on Tuesday. Instead, the SNP’s agenda for government promised a “national public energy agency” to accelerate change in energy use, increase public understanding, and coordinate investments. .
Speaking on behalf of Saturday’s conference motion, delegate Marianna Clyde pitted the national energy company announced in 2017 against an agency she said appeared to be merely advisory.
“I think we need to do a lot, a lot more than just advising the public and Scottish local authorities on energy efficiency measures,” Clyde said, accusing UK energy regulators of undermining energy development renewable Scottish with “unfair” connection charges.
“Without access to energy markets, our vast renewable energy resources are somewhat meaningless,” she said.
The failure to deliver the promised public energy company has given ammunition to critics of the SNP, who accuse it of failing to deliver on promises such as a high-profile pledge to close the academic achievement gap between lower-income students. more and less well off.
In June, Lorna Slater, co-leader of the Scottish Greens party, lobbied Sturgeon over the lack of progress on a national energy company, suggesting that failure to act would undermine the fledgling energy industry. tidal power in Scotland.
However, the goal of starting such a business was not included in an SNP-Green power-sharing deal reached last month under which Slater joined the government as minister of green skills, circular economy. and biodiversity.
Asked about the vote, the SNP said the conference had ‘clearly expressed its support for the accelerated decarbonization of energy supply and use in Scotland, including by supporting the creation of a Scottish National Energy Company “.
But the party declined to say why it had not been able to create such a company or if it would now seek to do so.
Scottish opposition Tories said the conference’s decision to relaunch the energy company plan showed the SNP was “tired and out of ideas”.
“Like so many of their commitments over the years, these were just headlines and no substance,” said Liam Kerr, Conservative Shadow Energy Secretary.
While some SNP members are dissatisfied with his recent performance in government and his failure to secure a second UK independence referendum, Sturgeon remains very popular within the party and enjoys a huge lead over his rivals. opposition in opinion polls.
Sturgeon is aiming to organize a repeat of the 2014 referendum, in which Scottish voters rejected independence by 55-45%, before the end of 2023.
However, she has yet to set a timeline for legislation for a second referendum, which will face a legal challenge anyway as the UK government insists its approval is needed for such a vote.
In an online speech on Saturday, SNP Westminster chief Ian Blackford made no mention of these obstacles, insisting voters have the right to choose their constitutional future once the coronavirus crisis has passed.
“It is a clear promise we made to the Scottish people – it is a democratic promise that we will keep,” said Blackford.