By Omar Ali

IT'S a mark of a progressive society that we can engage in healthy debate on the issues which affect everyone.

COP26 demonstrated there was a shared commitment to work towards improved sustainability targets. Less than a year on and the world feels a different place. The energy discussion has quickly shifted from sustainability to security.

The ScotWind project is an opportunity for us to have both.

Years in development and now becoming a reality, ScotWind is Crown Estate Scotland's first round of offshore wind leasing in Scottish waters for a decade. It is the world's largest offshore wind leasing competition. As a significant infrastructure project, it should be considered on a par with the Queensferry Crossing.

It is easy to rush to a short-term fix when our economy, and every household, are feeling the impact of global issues. ScotWind will deliver nearly 25GW of clean energy for future generations. But it won't come overnight.

Constructive debate and challenge are expected when delivering projects of this scale. Major infrastructure projects take years to develop, and longer for their benefits to be felt.

The same could be said of collaboration, which is often felt to be rhetoric. However, we are already seeing government and industry coming together to create a strong pipeline of projects that would serve as a cornerstone to tackle the climate emergency.

On average, developers intend to invest £1.5 billion in each of the 17 ScotWind projects, meaning the strength of the supply chain is key. We also need to see collaboration between developers, the supply chain and the public sector to help Scottish suppliers win work. It cannot be delivered operating in isolation.

The number of individual floating or fixed turbines is not yet known, but we expect it to be significant to cover the 7,000km2 of seabed leased to the developing companies. Each turbine will stand to the height of a modern office block. The planning process requires a thorough assessment of the environmental impact to ensure they won't interfere with our precious marine habitats or existing infrastructure.

More hand-in-hand partnerships will be required. Significant investment is required in our ports and harbours to ensure they can deliver on the ScotWind ambitions. The associated skills will also need to be developed.

Robert Gordon University recently published a report which suggested 54,000 direct and indirect renewable energy jobs could be created by 2030 – with the right investment. This means we need to harness our existing expertise while helping to deliver a wider economic transformation that will benefit the local communities across Scotland which will have a significant role to play.

Scotland is not short of innovators, or the ambition to do things bigger and better. ScotWind is a prime example of that innovation and making the most of our natural capital without impacting on our existing environment. Delivering these winds of change will not come overnight. What is needed now is a calm head, and the will to continue to work together.

Omar Ali is a partner at law firm Harper Macleod and a member of the firm's energy team