As the future of our country is debated over the next two years, one of the key reasons why I will be supporting the YES Scotland campaign is to re-energise our democracy and bring decision-making closer to the people it affects. That could not be more applicable than to the energy market.
There is no doubt that Scotland has a clear comparative advantage in renewable energy that amounts to a major European resource. Not my words but the leader of Scotland’s largest producer of clean energy, Ian Marchant's. Yet, the UK Government is lukewarm to renewable energy if not downright hostile towards onshore winds.
Contrast that with the inspirational attitude found in Scotland towards the renewable energy sector. As secretary of the crossparty group at Holyrood for six years until 2011, I saw how MSPs of every political party have been drawn to the compelling arguments that we have huge natural resource to generate low carbon heat and power. And this is an attitude that extends beyond politics and into the communities and business world.
There is a recognition that Scotland is in a very fortunate position to be able to draw on such resources. It has people with skills and know-how, often gained from other energy sectors. It has accessed sources of finance that have confidence that projects will deliver. It has ambition in working towards green energy targets that sends a clear signal that this is a country that means business – renewable business – for more than just the popularity of a term of government.
That is the kind of long-term ambition which business and communities like. It provides certainty in a world of increasing fossil fuel price volatility and fears about security of supply. There is no doubt that Tom Johnston, a Secretary of State for Scotland and pioneer of hydro-electric power in Scotland in the first half of the 20th century, would be smiling at seeing his legacy continued.
Let the rest of the UK soldier on with plans to steamroller nuclear power over the next 30 years. During that time, it will be reliant on clean green Scottish electricity to meet its demand in the short to medium term.
As Ernst and Young state: “The elevation of energy efficiency, use of renewable energy and self-generation as key strategic issues at the C-suite level of billion-dollar corporations suggest that only those with a comprehensive and diverse energy strategy will be able to create competitive advantage in an increasingly resource-efficient and low-carbon world.”
An independent Scotland is much more likely to provide that business operating environment, whether you are a corporation or a corner shop. Combining our indigenous technical knowledge and embedding it with inwardly investing companies is surely a collaboration for a prosperous green future.
Grant Thoms is director of MacThomais Political Consulting & Public Relations based in Glagow.