As regular readers will know, I am no great fan of Alba Party. But I have to admit that I’m tending towards Kenny MacAskill’s perspective on this much trumpeted “wind boom” (Scotland set for ‘transformational’ wind boom ‘like black gold rush’). Not least because it is being so fervently trumpeted. I get a strong sense of Nicola Sturgeon’s unquestionable turd-polishing skills being called upon. That may just be my natural cynicism, of course. Just as Kenny MacAskill’s criticism may just be opposition for its own sake. Of one thing I’m sure, however, and that is that it’s more complicated than it is being made to look. It’s unlikely to be the unalloyed boon as proclaimed by the First Minister. By the same token, it’s probably not the unforgivable sell-out some suppose it to be. There will be benefits. There will be costs. Who reaps the benefits and who bears the costs is unknowable other than in a very narrow sense and over the very short term. But with the little information we have and the benefit of experience we can get an initial feel for the thing. And I feel much as Kenny MacAskill does.
It looks like the Scottish Government have [sic] surrendered vast chunks of the North Sea wind resource for a relative pittance just as Westminster gave away Scotland’s oil in the 1970s.
Instead of a one off payment of under £700m there should be annual payments. Instead of Scottish resources being just handed over to international investment companies there should be a public stake in every single field.
That sounds only sensible. But one would need far more knowledge of the energy sector than I possess to make a truly informed judgement. Like most people, I’ll look at what the ‘experts’ say and maybe read a couple of Wikipedia articles and make a provisional judgement on that basis. My initial impression is that it’s not such a good deal for the people of Scotland. I like the idea of annual payments and a public stake. Development of renewable sources of energy is a long-term project. It would seem only sensible that a long-term benefit to the people of Scotland should be secured from the outset. I’m seeing no sign of that.
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! It sometimes seems there’s no limit to what can be justified by the claim that it will bring jobs. I suppose it ‘naturally’ follows that once the product of labour and the the labour itself have been commodified then the role of labourer should also be turned into something that must be purchased. Capital ‘owns’ the jobs. Governments buy jobs with subsidies and deregulation. Individuals buy jobs with subsidies in the form of low wages and poor conditions. And it doesn’t matter how good you think your working conditions are or how well you suppose you’re remunerated, it is always the case that you could do better in all regards if you weren’t in the position of having to trade time, sweat and personal dignity for a job before you even start to make a living.
When I read of deals such as the auctioning of opportunities to exploit our nation’s natural resources I can’t help but note how well protected from the vagaries of ‘The Market’ private interests tend to be; and how precarious is the portion which accrues to the public purse or the worker’s wage-packet. Apparently, this is just how it is. It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the way things work. At which point I’m prompted to wonder why, if this is the case, we so richly reward those who claim to be in control of the way things work.
I suppose it’s my own fault for thinking too much. Or at all. Maybe I should just cheer along with Nicola Sturgeon and leave it at that.
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