THE ScotWind auction this week, the first such leasing round for a decade, certainly has the transformative potential that its proponents claim. The options fees raised by the Crown Estates and projected generating capacity – two and a half times what had been suggested – are in themselves votes of confidence in the prospects for green targets, energy production, industry and technology, jobs and the wider economy.

That amounts not merely to the initial £700 million for the Scottish Government, but the possibility of enough to capacity to power 40m homes, and a £25 billion supply chain and ancillary industries with thousands of jobs, as well as being a huge boost to net zero ambitions.

But potential energy, as the great Scottish engineer and physicist William Rankine, who devised the concept, demonstrated, depends on position relative to other objects and many other factors. It must first be realised.

Our existing resources are considerable; not merely the natural ones of wind and waters, but the infrastructure of ports and factories, the innovation in our universities and the engineering expertise of an existing skilled energy workforce.

But the track record of delivery, and of government maximising opportunities, is less impressive. The examples of Seagreen, BiFab and Machrihanish are evidence that such projects require more than natural resources and starry-eyed optimism; delivery entails commitment, strategic planning and support from government, as well as genuine engagement with business, and the record on that front has been patchy, to say the least.

Though ring-fencing funding to be doled out from central government – as Scotland’s local councils have discovered to their considerable cost – often leads to poor results, there is at least an argument for directing this money to the energy sector, to say nothing of the £500 million Just Transition fund for the north-east. Again, the Government’s inconsistent attitude towards the oil and gas industry (especially as an energy crisis looms), and its refusal to engage with the UK on its freeport scheme – giving Teeside a huge head start on wind turbines – are poor augurs that these funds will be well-managed and well-directed.

To the Government’s credit, however, is an apparently sincere and admirably clear stance on the ambition to transform Scotland’s infrastructure on a foundation of renewables. This must be matched by an understanding of what is necessary to bring it into being.

Despite the SNP’s hostility towards Brexit, for example, Holyrood should recognise that the new freedom from EU rules on state support offer more room for manoeuvre, and the ability to link Scottish jobs, factories and technology to contracts. To gain the most from this opportunity, it is essential to build up a whole range of infrastructure, support and supply, and, by working closely with industry, ensure that its benefits spread to a huge range of other areas of the economy.

As well as close links with business, the ability to listen to its priorities, and to prioritise genuinely useful measures over doctrinaire and short-sighted policies, there will also need to be a genuine level of accountability and transparency that has not until now been Holyrood’s chief characteristic.

The promise offered by investment and innovation in this field is difficult to understate, and the rewards for the Scottish people commensurately huge. There are no guarantees. It will require real delivery from the Government beyond its prior rhetoric and record. But there is a prize to be seized, if the will and commitment can match the ambition.

NO matter the safety case for interlinked smoke alarms in domestic properties, a delay in implementation, or at least enforcement, is the only sensible course when many households are unclear on the rules or cannot meet the costs, when equipment is not available to everyone, the position on insurance remains unclear, and while half of Edinburgh’s council housing hasn’t yet met the new requirements. That is not to downplay the desirability of the measure, but to accept straightforward practical realities. If legislation cannot do that, it is operating in the realm of fantasy.