THE SNP’s Energy Secretary has insisted that £700m of wind energy leasing contracts will ensure Scotland can “reap the economic and social benefits” of renewables after admitting his government has “not achieved the level and scale” expected in the past.

Crown Estate Scotland announced 17 winners of the ScotWind leasing round yesterday, with multi-national companies, including oil giants BP and Shell, successfully being given the thumbs up to develop wind power schemes, subject to securing permissions.

The winning companies will pay £700 million to the Scottish Government for the leases, with Energy Secretary Michael Matheson telling MSPs that the funding boost will be used “in part to support our net zero ambitions”, with the rest being used across other parts of the budget.

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Mr Matheson also insisted that the seabed is not being sold off for just £700 million, stressing that there will be “an ongoing annual rental payment which comes in from those who go on to start producing electricity from these developments”.

He added: “That in itself will bring in further billions of pounds over many years while the projects are operating, and this money again will help to benefit the whole of Scotland.”

As part of the leasing agreement, companies have committed to invest in the Scottish supply chain. Up to 25GW of renewable energy could be generated by the ScotWind contracts, with an expectation that could provide £25 billion of supply-chain investment in Scotland.

But Labour’s Colin Smyth warned Mr Matheson that there cannot be a repeat of past failings which have resulted in Scotland missing out on supply chain opportunities and blunders in tallying up a promised number of green jobs.

He insisted that the ScotWind contracts pose “an opportunity for the Scottish economy and Scottish jobs but this time it must not be squandered”.

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Mr Smyth said: “History has shown us that if developers can go elsewhere, they will go elsewhere.

“Scotland’s sea beds are now being franchised entirely to private overseas owned big multinationals and investment funds. It will raise around £700 million for the public purse, but billions more for firms, none of which are registered in Scotland are owned in Scotland.

“The Government's record on green jobs is not good - they promised 130,000 a year but have delivered less than a fifth.

“So given that supply chain commitments from bidders which remain unpublished were excluded from the auction tender and assessment process and the penalties for failing to deliver developer statements are negligible, can the Cabinet Secretary tell us what binding action will be taken to ensure that the bulk of the work, not the crumbs, the bulk of the work remains here in Scotland?”

Mr Matheson highlighted that the supply chain development statement was drawn up in consultation with Holyrood, “given the experience in the past”.

He added: “I accept that we have not achieved the level and scale of inward investment and supply chain development in the renewable sector that we would have wanted to.

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“That's why it's absolutely critical that we maximise the potential benefits from this particular ScotWind leasing round.”

Mr Matheson said the SNP Government “will be doing everything that we can” to make sure the supply chain commitments are followed through with.

He added that the scaling up of renewables will be done “in a way that ensures that we reap the economic and social benefits that can come from such a significant level of financial investment”.

Scottish Conservative energy spokesperson, Liam Kerr, said: “It is vital that Scotland harnesses it’s massive potential renewable energy resource to help the UK drive to achieve net zero.

“While jobs will be created through projects that have received the green-light – this is only one piece of the jigsaw needed to secure the green jobs promised, but not delivered by the SNP, and could still leave thousands at risk of a fair transition to the renewables sector.

“By submitting successful bids, the oil and gas sector still continue to support the net zero transition, despite opposition from the SNP and Scottish Greens whose anti-business approach could jeopardise jobs, and stifle our economic recovery.

“Long-term initiatives, like ScotWind could see Scotland as a leader in offshore wind energy, but only if the SNP-Green Government are willing to work with companies to maximise Scotland’s sea-bed potential.”