IT’S too easy in these times of political crisis, hate, terror and division to think of humanity as somehow inherently failed; that the society we’ve created will only spiral ever more downwards. But humanity has always had its saving grace: our ingenuity, our ability to imagine a better world for all.

I’ve been researching the state of our economy and how to fix it. We’ve a job market so volatile it makes the word “precarious” sound stable. Demography is against us and it’s squeezing the public purse. Our ageing population needs an ever-bigger spend on health, putting pressure on education, policing and other public services. Robotics, automation and artificial intelligence are coming for your job.

How do we pay for more care for the elderly, while keeping our streets safe and educating our young people at the same time as there are fewer well-paid jobs to go around and a resulting decline in taxation essential for public spending?

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It sounds like a recipe for a dystopia of mass unemployment and social decline. However, the key to a brighter future exists and Scotland is in prime position to benefit. The answer lies in climate change. The threat it poses has focused some of the world’s sharpest minds on exploring alternative energy supplies. The problem with green energy is that it’s been impossible to store, which makes it unreliable and means it cannot be transported and exported.

Australia has cracked the problem. Scientists there have worked out how to store green energy and are preparing to commercialise the industry for export. The science involves the extraction of hydrogen from ammonia, produced as a result of solar, wave or wind power. The hydrogen can be used as a cheap, dependable, clean, plentiful energy source. It can also be stored and exported while in ammonia form. Some have described the process as bottling sunshine and wind.

A blueprint has been drawn up by the Scottish think-tank, HIAlba-Idea, laying the groundwork for Scotland to become a global powerhouse for green energy through renewable hydrogen. It is run by Ronald MacDonald, professor of economics at Glasgow University’s Adam Smith Business School, and the mathematician, scientist and engineer Dr Donald MacRae. Mr MacDonald has been a consultant advisor to the European Central Bank, the European Commission, the World Bank, the IMF and the Audit Office. Dr MacRae held positions in the Australian government and was a director with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation.

They say renewable hydrogen would be transformative. Scotland could fuel the proposed European Supergrid, generating so much money that a sovereign wealth fund could be established as Norway did with its North Sea oil. It would be a public services windfall. Renewable hydrogen is a “skeleton key” technology: it unlocks many doors. First, and crucially, it provides a reliable green energy source when the planet is in peril from global warming. Jobs will cascade from the renewable hydrogen industry. A “Highland renaissance” is envisioned. Wind farms will be located in remote areas and people will be needed to run them. They will need houses, shops and schools, creating employment.

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Productivity and growth will increase. Energy and transportation costs are often the biggest drain for any business. If you run a deli, microbrewery, internet start-up or you’re a plumber, the cost of keeping your lights on and your supply chain working hit you hard. Cheap green fuel would change that.

It’s the possibility of exportation that is the game-changer. It’s estimated that the North Sea could provide enough power to make Europe energy-independent four times over. French President Emmanuel Macron wants a carbon-free Europe by 2050. Many parts of Europe are heavily reliant on Russian gas imports, causing security concerns.

Europe wants to be green. It will need a supergrid. That grid will need green energy. Dr MacRae told me: “You can imagine an energy independent Europe, through power generated by Scotland going into a supergrid.” Everything feels in place, just at the right time, for the nation to prosper from the hydrogen revolution. Scotland is literally in the right place. Other countries don’t have our coastline or our weather. Like the Australians, who have worked out that no-one can rival them for exploiting solar power, we need to realise that few can rival us for wind and wave power. We have economic needs to address: employment, taxation and public services. We have social needs to address: climate change, an ageing population and our commitment to our children. We have technological needs to address: how do we stop scientific advancements rendering many of us redundant? It appears we have the answer to those needs in the shape of renewable hydrogen.

All we need is a little government action and we’ll see it flourish. The big oil companies are desperate to diversify from carbon. If government stimulates a new energy industry, they’ll come knocking to help develop the market.

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But there is no real action. It feels like we’ve just invented electricity but are stubbornly insisting on living in the age of steam. Governments may be hypnotised by Brexit but they cannot be blind to a pot of gold sitting before them.

The way forward is to take the work of HIAlba-Idea and use the think-tank to help construct a roadmap for the commercialisation of renewable hydrogen in this country. The Australians have already done that and have their eyes on Asian markets moving towards hydrogen vehicles. If we act fast, we can dominate the new industry. If we don’t, a country such as Norway could overtake us and we’ll have thrown away the benefits of what sits in our own backyard.

It wouldn’t be the first time we have led the world in revolutionary change. We helped forge the first industrial revolution, and the Enlightenment was the creation of Scottish minds. There’s no reason why this small, smart nation cannot be at the forefront of global change for a third time, shaping a new and better future for our troubled world.