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  By Lynda Williamson

Patrick Harvie has reacted to this year’s GERS figures by again calling for the establishment of a publicly owned renewables company.  According to the Scottish Green MSP, the figures highlight opportunities for Scotland but also beg questions about future ownership of Scotland's energy assets.

The GERS figures show that Scotland's estimated deficit, at £7.6 billion, is 5% of GDP compared to a UK deficit of £121 billion which accounts for 7.9% of UK GDP.  These figures are arrived at using revenues from Scotland's oil and gas revenues and show the importance of these revenues to Scotland's economy.

The Scottish Green co-convenor, who celebrates his forthcoming 40th birthday with a fund-raising event for Practical Action this weekend, said:

"These figures show the strength of Scotland's finances but are also a reminder that we face risk and uncertainty if we plan to rely forever on unsustainable fossil fuel reserves.  Scots who are as yet undecided about next year's referendum have the right to know how we plan to reduce that over-reliance.

"By taking control of our finances we have a chance to be bold, directing our resources to tackle inequality, creating stable employment and minimising our environmental impact.  That control will be lost if we allow the country's prosperity to accumulate in the pockets of the few."

Mr Harvie has, in the past stressed the need for a managed transition from reliance on fossil fuels recognising that switching from oil and gas to renewables cannot be done overnight.

He added: "There is no question that our world needs to start living for the long term, leaving a proportion of known fossil fuel reserves unburned.  But if Scotland invests the revenue from what we do decide to extract into a public renewable energy company, we can replace the income from oil and gas and build a legacy that will transform our economy and serve future generations well."

As well as a national publicly owned renewables company, the Scottish Greens have long called for more community ownership of micro generation of renewable energy.  They propose that local authorities be given the power to create local energy companies which could provide valuable income for cash strapped communities.

Speaking in September last year, Mr Harvie said: "In addition to reducing our demand for energy, perhaps the best investment we could make at present would be a massive programme of publicly owned renewables with every council empowered to set up a locally owned energy company.

"Rather than see the big energy companies taking all the rewards, we should take early action to keep a share of the economic benefits of renewables in public hands."


# Onwards 2013-03-07 05:30
Why just renewables?
We would benefit from a Scottish national energy company, including hydrocarbons.

A high priority would be put on renewables, but we should benefit more from all the countries natural resources.
# Blanco 2013-03-07 08:20
I would be concerned that a national company would run roughshod over a local community's interests. Would rather see local communities in charge of renewables with central government providing just startup money, advice and a national grid. Of course the problem with that is that Scotland is not divided into communities, there would have to be far more local councils than there are now. 
# Mr Angry 2013-03-07 10:13
I would suggest that this is a good idea from Mr Harvie. We used to have the SSEB and Hydro Board, so why not a new company based on public benefit for the good of all consumers.
It may take some capital to set up but the way we are being ripped off for our energy needs by the private companies makes this a +ve idea in my opinion.
# Leader of the Pack 2013-03-07 10:29
Couldnt agree more with this proposal. Privatising needed public services doesnt serve the public in any way shape or form it only helps unscrupulous business executives bleed them dry for no better return in product. Nationalised services dont have the drive for profit mentality that infests all private enterprises so youve a better chance of getting a priority of service rather than a priority of profit mentality!

The problem with localising the control of community services is that they will be used by political parties in opposition to oppose Government rather than to serve the communities they are in.
# robbo 2013-03-07 16:40
Quoting Leader of the Pack:
Privatising needed public services doesnt serve the public in any way shape or form it only helps unscrupulous business executives bleed them dry for no better return in product. Nationalised services dont have the drive for profit mentality that infests all private enterprises so youve a better chance of getting a priority of service rather than a priority of profit mentality!

I strongly disagree with that. They just have to be privatised in a way where companies can compete and the barriers to entry are reasonable.

I would suggest keeping the grid public at least at a local level.

I would propose a carbon tax for renewables.
# bringiton 2013-03-07 17:12
In a northern European country like Scotland,utilit ies which are essential to sustaining life should not be in private hands.
The expected benefits of privatisation (lower prices through competition) have not materialised since the market effectively operates as a cartel.
Instead of having one company which makes £billions profit we now have to support several who each need to generate vast amounts of profit (at our expense).
The energy market is not functioning as intended and needs a radical overhaul so that it operates in a manner beneficial to consumers and not board room pay and shareholder dividends.
Some sort of state intervention is definitely required to address this problem.
# chicmac 2013-03-07 19:38
Agree with this and would point out that these cartels are not electorally accountable, neither it would seem, are they brought to account by any relevant government bodies (or should that be 'buddies').

However, NOW, is not the time Cato!

Come back in 2015.
# theycantbeserious 2013-03-07 18:17
Why does everything have to be for shareholders to make a profit? That just lines the pockets of the rich who can afford the shares. As long as it breaks even and provides jobs, why not nationalise the industry to ensure any profit goes to the country and jobs and the industry are secure! That way any profit can help the many and not the rich! Vote YES 2014
# robbo 2013-03-07 22:26
It's far from just the rich who buy shares. Never the less shares can go down as easily as they can go up so buying shares is no better an investment than any else.

Profits just go back into the economy creating jobs and competition between companies ensures profits are fair and that pressure to innovate is constant. Monopolies on the other hand are not so efficient.

It's actually a bit of a myth that energy companies are making ridiculous profits. Their margins are similar to many other industries. Though i still think there's room for healthier competition and more innovation.
# scot1alba 2013-03-07 19:17
I agree with this as well. The control is already in place as coucils have the authority on planning applications. All it needs is for a national framework and the right safeguards. I also agree that we sould not stop at renewables. Rail and energy need to be nationalised, along with the banks. No, I am not a communist. The private sector has had their cake and not eaten it, they have destroyed it.
# Onwards 2013-03-08 01:19
Perhaps a public sector energy company could subsidise fuel costs for a passenger ferry to Europe again. The benefits of more tourism and publicity could pay for itself.
# Breeks 2013-03-08 08:28
I want the best of both worlds; an energy company which the nation can recognise as an investment for the common good and an end to fuel poverty, - but at the same time, I do not want the stereotype fat and indolent public sector industry which excuses inefficiency and lacks drive and motivation to innovate and compete on the open market.

Renewable energy is going to be a MASSIVE sector, and IF nationalisation is the answer, then we'd best do it soon while we can afford to.

And please, no quangos. I want the best of both private and public sectors, not the worst of both.

We need a hybrid company if such a thing exists, and that's where it gets complicated.

Perhaps the secret lies in rewarding innovation, performance and productivity, not profit. Let's try and be clever about this, and get it right.

The Scotland I want to see is a meritocracy, where being good at your job/trade/craft is appreciated over and above making money.

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