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SNP come under fire after UK blackouts warning

THE Scottish Government has come under fire after claims renewable energy from an independent Scotland would be needed to keep the UK's lights on.

The UK Government will publish its latest analysis paper tomorrow, stressing the benefits of the UK's "strong, stable consumer and tax base".

It will also suggest ­households ­post-independence would face energy bills that would rocket by several hundred pounds a year, amounting to an annual overall cost by 2020 of £1.8 billion.

In contrast, First Minister Alex Salmond, who is in the US, will today use a speech to extol Scotland as, per head, the "most energy-rich nation in the EU" and one which can become the intellectual powerhouse of green energy.

In a report published yesterday, the SNP administration said the UK faced its highest risk of blackouts for a generation and said Scotland's renewable power would be needed to keep the lights on and bills down in England.

Tom Greatrex, Labour's Shadow Energy Minister, pointed to comments by Keith MacLean, power firm SSE's policy director, who described warnings of energy shortages as scaremongering.

Mr Greatrex said: "The views of SSE ... undermine the SNP's justification for why billpayers in a foreign country would continue to subsidise our renewable electricity into the future."

Steven Camley's cartoon

The MP said pooling resources ­benefited Scottish generators and UK consumers as well as provided a boost for green technology in Scotland.

An SNP Government spokeswoman noted how Dr MacLean had admitted the electricity capacity margin was getting "quite tight", caused in part by a "hiatus" in energy policy.

She added: "This week's report by the Scottish Government confirms sufficient reserves of ­generating capacity are needed to cope with peaks in demand and to prevent price rises and the lights going out."

An SSE spokesman said: "We will continue to advocate views we believe are in the best interests of energy consumers, whether those are around price, sustainability or security of supply, and will continue to work constructively with all governments and political parties on these issues".

Ed Davey, the Energy Secretary, said the "broad shoulders of the UK" were key to the success of Scotland's renewables potential.

Noting how Scotland benefited from a disproportionate amount of support for renewable energy - 28%, despite it only accounting for 10% of electricity sales - the Secretary of State said: "Going green will become more expensive if Scotland goes it alone. The consumer would see energy bills rocket if they have to pay for Scottish renewables alone without contribution from the rest of the UK.

"Right across the energy mix, Scotland benefits from being part of the UK's strong, stable consumer and tax base; supporting thousands of jobs, creating new supply chains and cementing the energy sector as the engine room of the economy."

In New York Mr Salmond will say Scotland is blessed with strengths in energy innovation, hailing Aberdeen as Europe's oil and gas capital and saying Glasgow has "become pre-eminent in the development of offshore wind technology".

He will add: "Our energy resources can power much of Europe, our energy ­innovation can power the world. It's a time for Scotland - working with nations and companies from across the planet - to become the intellectual powerhouse of green energy."

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