Sturgeons independence rubbished as Scotland has to align with UK over energy demands

Nicola Sturgeon quizzed over 'trust' of Green Party

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The Scottish First Minister moved to consolidate support for independence in Holyrood over the weekend after entering an alliance with the Scottish Greens. They are the only other mainstream party currently backing Indyref2. It marks the first time the Green Party has entered government anywhere in the UK.

However, many argue getting the Greens on side will do little to persuade Boris Johnson to grant Ms Sturgeon her wishes of a 2023 independence referendum.

While the Scottish National Party (SNP) and Greens agree on a UK breakaway, their policies regarding the environment differ hugely.

Ms Sturgeon and her SNP have often relied on gas and oil as a way to boost the economy, something the Greens are vehemently opposed to.

They are both part of the wider debate on how Scotland might power itself and source its energy post-UK, this having thrown independence and what it means into question.

Currently, the entire UK is connected by the National Grid – a network made of high-voltage power lines, gas pipelines, interconnectors and storage facilities that together enable the distribution of electricity.

The same applies to gas transmission.

During the 2014 Scottish independence referendum, the SNP proposed that a single, Britain-wide, market for both electricity and gas should continue and that an Energy Partnership with the continuing UK should be established to ensure a joint approach.

In a white paper published at the time, ‘Scotland’s Future’, Holyrood said, “regardless of its source, Scottish generation is now essential to ensuring the lights stay on across these islands”.

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It added: “The continuation of a system of shared support for renewables and capital costs of transmission among consumers in Scotland and the rest of the UK is a reasonable consideration for meeting the UK’s ongoing green commitments.”

Yet, as a research paper compiled by law firm Herbert Smith Freehills earlier this year noted: “To maintain full integration, an independent Scotland would have to agree with the continuing UK to dynamically align standards, regulations and industry codes across the whole of the current Great Britain.”

This could become “increasingly difficult” over time, particularly if as proposed in the 2014 white paper, Scotland requires a “far greater degree of oversight of the market arrangements for energy and firmer safeguards over Scottish energy security” – backed up by a separate regulator.

The paper will come as a bitter blow to the Scottish First Minister, as one of the SNP’s most pressing and salient arguments for independence is to gain sovereignty and give Scotland full decision making power over policy and rules.

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Over time, the likelihood of increasing divergence in standards, regulations and network codes would transpire as different priorities were followed and judgements made.

The research paper continued: “Even having a single regulator would likely raise considerable challenges in this context – having to be accountable to two governments with different priorities.

“For analogous reasons, while certainly not impossible – as the example of the Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) for the island of Ireland has shown, a single system operator (as proposed in the 2014 White Paper) would also raise challenges.

“Such challenges would increase if Scotland were to join the EU.”

“In any event, following independence, the arrangements that are put in place for the energy market between an independent Scotland and the continuing UK will be part of wider discussions on an exit and future relationship agreement.”

Even when Scotland proposed the continuation of “shared support for renewables and capital costs of transmission”, the UK Government rejected it.

It said it saw no basis to justify continued cost-sharing between British consumers for shared renewables support, or for the costs of electricity or gas transmission following independence.

More generally, it argued that the integrated British energy market for electricity and gas “could not continue in its current form”.

Westminster said any decision made would be taken with “national interests of the continuing UK and its consumers” in mind.

The 2018 Sustainable Grown Commission report has led to Holyrood updating its position in many areas since 2014, it did not make recommendations for the areas of energy policy mentioned.

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