Onshore wind farms support barely 2,000 jobs in Scotland despite Alex Salmond’s claim they are a major source of employment, ministers have admitted.
Fergus Ewing, the SNP Energy Minister, published figures showing there are 2,235 posts “connected directly to onshore wind”, less than a fifth of the total for all forms of green power.
Mr Salmond last year told MSPs that 18,000 Scots were employed in renewable energy before downgrading that total to 11,000 by requesting the Scottish Parliament written record of proceedings be secretly changed.
The Conservatives last night said the new figure raises further questions about the SNP’s drive for a speedy expansion of wind farms across rural Scotland.
The First Minister has claimed his target of generating the equivalent of all Scotland’s electricity from renewable sources by 2020 would lead to the country’s re-industrialisation and thousands of jobs.
However, most of the target is expected to be met using thousands of onshore wind turbines as this is by far the most mature of the renewable technologies.
John Lamont, Scottish Tory Chief Whip, said: “The rhetoric from the Scottish Government over recent years has given the clear impression that wind farms are worth the visual sacrifice because they are such a major source of employment.
“Yet now we learn that far from the misleading 11,000 figure, which includes all renewable sources, there are only 2,000 employed thanks to wind farm developments. This is deliberate manipulation by the SNP – and they can’t even say where these jobs are.”
Mr Lamont received the real jobs total after asking the Scottish Government how many people have jobs “directly connected to wind farm developments”.
Mr Ewing replied initially using an oft-quoted estimate by Scottish Renewables, the trade body representing wind farm companies, that there were 11,136 full-time posts in green energy in 2011/12.
However, he then admitted that only 18 per cent of these jobs were in onshore wind. But the minister added: “The success of the onshore wind industry has contributed towards the wider success of the renewable energy sector and, in particular, provided a rationale for major grid upgrade projects.”
The Scottish Government has claimed offshore wind alone will generate up to 28,000 jobs but critics have claimed the majority of posts will be filled by foreign turbine manufacturers and installation teams.
After realising he had wrongly stated there are 18,000 renewables jobs, Mr Salmond wrote to Holyrood’s administrators last year asking that they change his answer by altering the official report, a written minute of parliament’s proceedings.
However, he did not simultaneously follow Scottish Parliament guidance that he publicise the correction by telling the MSP whose question prompted his inaccurate answer and the opposition parties.
MSPs only discovered that the jobs total was incorrect and Mr Salmond’s subsequent attempt to alter Holyrood’s records after the error was highlighted by an anti-wind farm campaigner.