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  • Ian Ritchie : Scottish Business Insider

Here's a vision for our politicians: we will become a totally carbon neutral country over 20 yea

WELL, the elections for the Scottish Parliament are looming ... and are we bored rigid yet? Maybe we shouldn't be disappointed at the lack of imagination being shown by our political masters, they consistently offer us a huge deficit of vision. It certainly is depressing and not likely to encourage people to vote with any kind of enthusiasm.

The SNP's vision is pretty much limited to telling us how wonderful it would all be if only we were an independent country. And whatever the Labour Party says they will do, they can only credibly offer us more of the same. The Liberal Democrats have some interesting ideas, but it's difficult to imagine them having enough power to get any of them into action and the Conservatives in Scotland are so irrelevant as to be, well irrelevant.

What we need is a bit of vision. You know, the "by the end of this decade we will put a man on the moon and return him safely to the earth" type of declaration that set a decidedly ambitious goal- and then delivered on it.

When President Kennedy made that statement in 1962 he only had a very sketchy idea of how it was to be achieved, or even if it could possibly be achieved. But in July 1969 it became a vision achieved.

So, what kind of dramatic vision might we have for Scotland? Something to capture the imagination and admiration of people from all around the world. A target that would be both hugely ambitious but potentially achievable.

I have a modest proposal.

Scotland has relatively few natural resources going for it: we inhabit a relatively cold, wet, under-populated bit of northern Europe, battered by waves and blasted by winds from across the Atlantic. We do have the oil reserves in the North Sea, which are now past their peak but are likely to run for another 20 years or so.

But, wait a minute, isn't that exactly what we should be taking advantage of? Why

don't we declare the vision that over the next twenty years we will become a totally carbon neutral country? We should declare that, by 2027, all of our power would be supplied from renewable sources - from wind, waves and tidal power.

This will require some major investment in technology, both in research and in practical engineering. We would be required to build a power grid that stretched up the west coast to where the waves are and we would have to tackle the planning problems to enable all this to be done in a reasonable time. And the carbon dioxide that is still produced could be pumped down the empty oil wells in the North Sea.

It does need government investment. The fact is that burning coal, oil and gas will always be cheaper than new investment in renewable energy - for a while, anyway.

Nicol Stephen made a start recently when he announced £13m to be invested in a range of renewable energy projects. He declared a target of 40 per cent of power generation by 2020, but that's just not remotely challenging enough. And since we are currently spending over £70bn to decommission the UK's existing nuclear power stations and £9bn to host the Olympic games, this £13m looks really small beer. How about making it a billion - £50m a year for 20 years?

We could, with the right level of commitment, lead the world in this field.

A real vision for the future of Scotland.

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