Nicola Sturgeon has been accused of having “sold out Scottish values” after overseas firms with “woeful human rights records” won crucial offshore wind power contracts.
The First Minister has faced claims of hypocrisy after the SNP criticised the UK Government over deals with nations with poor human rights records but then having companies with questionable human rights records “being part of the price worth paying for Scottish opportunities”.
Earlier this week, 17 companies were awarded leasing contracts for allocated areas of the Scottish seabed to develop renewables projects.
The companies will pay a combined £700 million to the SNP Government for the leases and will hand over billions more in rent when the wind projects are operational, subject to obtaining the correct permissions.
It is estimated the 25GW capacity the latest round of ScotWind contracts could lever in £25 billion for the Scottish economy, with companies committing to investing in the Scottish supply chain.
But speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Labour leader Anas Sarwar raised the “questionable human rights records” of some of the successful firms.
He also warned that foreign countries would have a bigger stake in the offshore energy produced in Scotland than the Scottish Government after a Swedish company, which is part publicly owned was successful while the SNP’s promise of a publicly-owned retail energy company have stalled.
Mr Sarwar said: “This SNP Government have sold on the cheap the right to profit from Scotland’s energy transition to multinational companies with questionable human rights records.
“One of the new owners of Scotland’s seabed were fined 54 million US dollars for bribing Nigerian officials and 88 million US dollars for bribing Indonesian officials.
“Another one was found to have contributed to human rights abuses at one of its construction sites, of destroying villages in Myanmar, of relying on forced labour and using slavery to build pipelines.
“Surely these aren’t people the Scottish Government should be doing business with?”
Cases referenced by Mr Sarwar include the Marubeni Corporation that, in partnership with SSE, has been awarded rights for a floating offshore wind turbine site across 858 square kilometres of seabed.
The Japanese organisation paid a the multimillion-dollar penalty in connection with a decade-long scheme to bribe Nigerian government officials for engineering, procurement and construction contracts.
France’s TotalEnergies, which in a consortium secured rights to develop a wind farm off the west coast of Orkney, was implicated in historic claims that the military government in Burma had used forced labour and its soldiers had employed murder and rape in the laying of a pipeline through the country.
Ms Sturgeon said there were “appropriate processes in place to do due diligence” on the consortiums allowed to develop the offshore projects, and said the deal “offers massive potential to Scotland”.
She added: “This is one of the most exciting things for Scotland in a long, long time – which probably is why Scottish Labour is being so negative about it.
“Not only does this give us the potential to meet our own energy needs from renewable sources, it positions us with the ability to be a major exporter of renewable energy, including green hydrogen, and it gives enormous potential for our supply chain.”
The First Minister stressed that there are “complicated consenting and planning processes that lie ahead”, but insisted it offers a “massive potential to Scotland”, which her Government “intend to seize with both hands”.
But Mr Sarwar said that “values matter” as he accused the SNP of hypocrisy.
He said: “Just last week, the SNP were right to accuse the Tory Government of tolerating human rights abuses a price worth paying to secure deals for the UK.
“This week the SNP has done the same. In effect, what Nicola Sturgeon is saying is it’s bad when the Tories do it, but it’s okay when the SNP do it.”
Mr Sarwar highlighted part publicly-owned Swedish company Vattenfall, which won a floating wind lease.
He said: “That state-owned Swedish energy company can now use their part of the Scottish seabed to keep energy bills down for people in Sweden.
“Why is it the people of Sweden now own a bigger stake of Scottish energy supply and distribution than the Scottish people?”
The Labour leader accused the First Minister of accepting companies with questionable human rights values as “being part of the price worth paying for Scottish opportunities”.
He added: “The sad reality is that this is an SNP Government that doesn’t understand economic development – Scottish bridges built with Chinese steel, Scottish wind farms with turbines built in Indonesia, ferries not built at Scottish shipyards but built in Poland and Turkey, and now Scotland’s seabed owned by foreign multinationals with woeful human rights records.
“After 15 years, isn’t it the case that this is an SNP Government that has sold out Scottish jobs, sold off Scottish assets and has now sold out Scottish values.”
The First Minister pointed the finger at Labour, stating it was rich of Mr Sarwar to have “accused me of behaving like a Tory a day after his party threw open the doors to a Tory MP”.
She added: “There’s now so little difference between Labour and the Tories that their MPs are just interchangeable”.
She added that Labour has been “trotting out these negative, talk-down Scotland tropes for years”.
Ms Sturgeon said: “All that has happened is that they have gone further and further and further down the ratings in Scottish politics.”
|Wind Watch relies entirely
on User Funding