WHO owns the wind? With this recently announced round of ScotWind leases, it’s BP, Shell, a bunch of private companies, Iberdrola and the Swedish state energy company.

The flow of air that rushes around our planet belongs to no one, but where it happens to whistle over the seabed owned by the Crown Estate Scotland, it has been leased out to these companies and is theirs now to turn into not just electricity, but profit. And what profit! Perhaps the ScotWind auction wouldn’t be causing so much controversy if it weren’t for the fact that some have calculated these companies stand to make startling figures.

Common Weal, for instance, estimates that if ScotWind achieves a profit margin similar to that of the Danish and Swedish offshore state wind companies, then it may generate pre-tax profits, annually, of £3.5-£5.5 billion. It’s a deal that seems extraordinarily skewed, long term, towards benefitting shareholders, rather than the people of this land. The only reason we are giving these companies this privilege is because they can finance the vital infrastructure development.

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The deal is being seen as good news by some – and there are reasons to applaud. Infrastructure investment of £26 billion coming our way, and the beginnings of a genuine transition to renewables that will see multiple gigawatts of energy sent into our grid, is not to be sniffed at. But it looks as if, in order to get the necessary investment, we’ve given away too much.

No wonder there have been voices, like that of Kenny Macaskill, saying: “This offshore wind giveaway is selling the family silver cheap while Scots families face crippling energy bills this April. Those who don’t learn from history are destined to repeat it. It looks like the Scottish Government have surrendered vast chunks of the North Sea wind resource for a relative pittance just as Westminster gave away Scotland’s oil in the 1970s.”

One has to wonder if Big Wind is just going to be the follow-up to Big Oil, and a source of regret in future years?

The think-tank Common Weal weighed into this controversy when it published a response to the auction titled ScotWind: Privatising Scotland’s Future Again. It argued for setting up a national energy company that can run, own and develop renewable energy, as well as extending the Scottish National Investment Bank so it could accept investment from other sources and finance such significant developments. These are all strong ideas. But, of course, the problem is that right now it doesn’t feel like we are anywhere near realising them – and only independence or a significant shift in devolved powers would enable that.

It’s hard therefore to see how, at this point in time, things could have been otherwise. Every year that passes in which we do not rapidly decarbonise our energy system brings us closer to warmings of 2C and above. But, at the same time, since energy is reserved, the Scottish Government doesn’t have the powers Common Weal mentions. Work could have been done to make this happen – but that’s not where we’re at.

Meanwhile, the rapid, but necessary, rush towards wind is also part of the problem – globally, as well as here. Multinationals, with their ability to step in, have us in their grip. American author David McDermott Hughes observes in his book, Who Owns The Wind: “If we decarbonise in thirty years – as we must – a single generation of firms and individuals will profit handsomely. There is an alternative to this atmospheric phase of capitalism. Governments and other institutions may strike a new deal for energy, wherein the sky remains open to all.”

With ScotWind we see ourselves already setting out towards a future in which profit will likely be prioritised over fairness. This deal is already done. We can cry over this failure. Or we can consider what it would take to get to a situation where the people of Scotland do own the energy created by the wind that whips around these islands. The value of the Common Weal report is that it reminds us of this, and creates pointers for debate and discussion.

We can also look at what happens to the revenues that come into Scotland from these deals, and use them to our benefit. Community Land Scotland has asked the Government to ringfence some of that £700 million and target it directly at community wealth building approaches to deal with climate issues.

ScotWind has opened the door. A gust of Big Wind has rushed in. But the door doesn’t have to stay wide open. It’s not too late to keep at least some of our energy future local or national. Perhaps by the next leasing round – for there will be more – there will be community or public companies able to bid. Perhaps the winds will change in favour of the people.