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Sparks Fly at Scottish Affairs Meeting

Laura MacLaughlin

Fresh from their most recent jaunt north of the border, the Scottish Affairs Committee return to Westminster this week to continue to take evidence on the renewables sector in Scotland.

The Committee has already met in Scotland on a number of occasions, both in and out with the central belt. This is a testament perhaps to Chair, Pete Wishart’s commitment to ensure that the Committee “regularly” meet in Scotland as part of its initial inquiry into how the Committee functioned in the wake of changes to the Scottish political landscape. A report looking at the work of the Committee said it was “crucial for us to be as accessible as possible”.

This latest session in Edinburgh was an early test for the recently appointed Minister for Business, Innovation & Energy, Paul Wheelhouse, who comes fresh from the justice brief where he acted as Minister for Community Safety & Legal Affairs. Steered ably by Chris Stark, Director of Energy and Climate Change at the Scottish Government, the Minister seemed focused on repairing the relationship with colleagues in UK departments with a conciliatory message of collaboration and consultation, marked by an appeal to involve the Scottish Government at an earlier stage of policy development. The tumultuous effect of recent UK Government energy policy on the renewables sector in Scotland, while acknowledged, seemed to take a back seat to this pragmatic plea for consideration.

Pete Wishart suggested that the Scotland Office had been an “underwhelming” champion on the issue of renewables, describing the lack of consultation as “shocking and appalling”. This, along with a pledge from Margaret Ferrier to raise the issue with the Secretary of State, would seem to suggest that, despite the Minister’s entreaty, the two departments should not expect to re-establish a friendly relationship without some concessions from both sides.

The Committee will next meet in Scotland on Monday 4th July on Skye to hear evidence on its inquiry into the demography of Scotland and the implications for devolution. 

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