A UK government minister has been accused of not knowing “her Beatrice’s from her Berwick’s” after mistakenly relocating a Caithness offshore wind farm to East Lothian.
Helen Whately, the Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury, was accused of speaking “arrant nonsense” by former Scottish Justice Secretary Kenny MacAskill after telling him his East Lothian constituency – more than 250 miles from Caithness – is benefiting from the Beatrice offshore wind farm, just off the Wick coast.
Mr Macaskill, who defected to the Alba party in 2021 and is an MP in the House of Commons, told the John O’Groat Journal: “I’ve been seeking a meeting with Treasury for quite some time. East Lothian, as with Caithness, is seeing renewable energy burgeon off its coast. Indeed, the county will also be having a cable taking it south with another going from near Peterhead, both to the north of England.
“I’ve been seeking to have the local authority receive cash through agreed revenues as happened in Shetland with oil. Not simply donations from developers to their pet projects that boost their profile. I’ll keep pushing the issue but there’s no give so far.”
Mr MacAskill thinks the junior minister – appointed to the post by Boris Johnson in September last year – mixed up the Caithness town with Innerwick in East Lothian on the southern coast of the Firth of Forth. Innerwick, which looks onto the Torness nuclear site, is where the Berwick Bank Wind Farm will come ashore and also where the transmission and cable will take the power south.
It is expected to generate up to 4.1gigawatts of electricity, making it one of the largest offshore opportunities in the world currently in development. The wind farm is due to be constructed by 2024 and producing electricity three years later.
“Mr MacAskill said: “There are no jobs from Berwick Bank, let alone Beatrice. The turbines are going elsewhere, the boats servicing it are outwith the county and even the transmission site is contract labour from beyond. She doesn’t know her Beatrice’s from her Berwick’s but East Lothian and Scotland are losing out and the Treasury is failing to address it. First it was oil, now it’s offshore wind.”
Mrs Whately said her “exceptionally busy diary” meant she could not meet the MP but in a letter said: “As you know, Scotland has a very rich industrial heritage and is already seeing the benefits of the renewable energy transition, including in your constituency of East Lothian which has been revitalised by the development of the Beatrice offshore wind project. As more projects are developed north of the border, we expect similar benefits to be realised for other harbours.”
Mr MacAskill was disappointed his request for a meeting was rejected and described the reply as “arrant nonsense”.
He said: “They don’t even know the geography of Scotland. How can we expect to benefit from offshore wind when they don’t even know what’s where?
“Where are the benefits from Beatrice for East Lothian? It’s located off Wick not Innerwick. I can’t think of any benefit that’s accrued to East Lothian from Beatrice.”
Beatrice, which cost around £2.5 billion, became fully operational in June 2019 and its operations and maintenance base is at Wick harbour. The wind farm has 84 turbines which are capable of providing enough wind-powered electricity for up to 450,000 homes.
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