A lot has changed since 2014 – not least because the year of the independence referendum was before the majority of us woke up to climate change.

It pre-dated the IPCC 1.5C report of 2018, the declaration of a climate emergency, Scotland’s setting of an ambitious target of 2045 for net zero, and of course, COP26. It took place back in a time when we thought we could slowly chip away at our carbon emissions while also making the most of Scotland’s oil.

In that sense, we live in a different world, and not just because of Brexit and Covid. The world we live in now is one of climate crisis and threat, one in which the idea of “Scotland’s oil” comes wrapped in as much responsibility and guilt as it does opportunity.

Maximising economic recovery of oil and gas is not the shiny phrase it was.

Renewables are now at the centre of any new economic and energy-security case for independence. It’s Scotland’s wind! But oil is still there – and it’s not going to be left to be any time soon. Who owns it, who makes money from it, and who controls it, is going to continue to matter, as we attempt to decarbonise. Among the big questions, for those of us who take addressing the climate-crisis seriously, is what government, or constitution, is going to allow us the lowest net carbon emission route out of the fossil fuel age?

Scotland’s energy resources remain a key independence issue. A big question is, if Scotland were to control or take ownership of the oil and gas within its maritime boundaries, would it keep it in the ground, or use it for economic gain?

A report published last year, titled, “Scottish independence – implications for Great Britain’s single energy market, renewables and net zero”, touched on who would own and control what, as well as the possibilities of a continued single integrated GB electricity market, citing the example of the Integrated Single Electricity Market (I-SEM) for the island of Ireland. Addressing the issue of offshore renewables, it noted that there is as yet no "agreed maritime boundary", but that such a boundary would "determine the jurisdiction of both sides over such projects".

Such a boundary would also be relevant for oil and gas - and a big issue with oil and gas is who would own any new assets, and therefore control their discovery and development. In a recent article in the Express, titled, "Sturgeon could take North Sea Projects hostage if Indyref2 pays off", Simon Cran-Mcgreehin, head of analysis at the Energy and Climate Intelligence Unit, said, "In terms of new assets, it would be up to each nation to use its territorial land and water in the ways that it wished to.”

The First Minister, of course, has already said she believes it to be “fundamentally wrong” for Scotland and other countries to continue exploring and extracting oil and gas, to conduct a strategy of maximum economic recovery. She described the challenge as the “most difficult question” for oil-rich countries such as Scotland with regard to climate change.

However, Net Zero Secretary Michael Matheson, when asked, last November, whether an independent Scotland would prevent new oil and gas drilling, from the outset, observed that the country would still “require access” to oil and gas and that we are “still some way off from decarbonising our society and we will still require an access to a level of hydrocarbons.”

Currently, although the UK Government has a strategy to be a net zero country by 2050, its licensing of oil and gas field developments undermines that. Do we believe an independent Scotland’s strategy would be so very different?

Perhaps. One good sign is that Scotland is already leading the way on many levels. We have the most widespread EV charging infrastructure in the UK. A recent Climate Change Committee report noted that while there has been limited UK-wide progress on policies to improve the fabric efficiency of homes, “more progress has happened in Scotland in the last year”. It also observed that Scotland has “consistently reported greater tree-planting rates than the rest of the UK combined”.

Above all, Scotland has the virtue of already being a net electricity exporter. Often it’s said that Scotland produces almost 100 per cent of its electricity from renewables – though the picture is more complex and it’s more accurate to say that Scotland produces renewable electricity equivalent to its annual consumption, but some of this is exported. The amount generated in 2021 was the equivalent of powering all households in Scotland for almost three years.

Given all this, are there ways that being part of that Union may be holding us back from pushing harder and hitting future targets? Certainly. There is, for instance, the extraordinarily high transmission charges Scottish renewables providers have had to pay. Or that the UK government slashed subsidies to onshore wind developers from 2015 till last year.

A Scottish government minister Lorna Slater says: “We don’t have the power to upgrade our own electricity grid, or to connect our vast renewable resources to continental Europe so we can sell our excess zero-carbon energy. We don’t have the power to change VAT to make it cheaper to upgrade our homes and install heat pumps, or the freedom to invest the public money that is needed into the infrastructure and industries of the future, as the rest of Europe is doing.”

But making the necessary changes is not going to just be about powers like these. There is a much bigger question of finance – which is one of the biggest questions not just for Scotland, but globally. The cost of getting the UK to net zero is estimated to be £1.4 trillion – and some have estimated that this could leave Scotland potentially with a bill of over £30 billion in the coming decades.

It’s easy to lose sight and to forget the climate emergency is the biggest issue of our time. Independence? Maybe. But above all let’s keep our eye on the net zero goal.