SCOTLAND has a capacity to be a global leader in renewables unlike any other country is Europe – but the UK Government cutting green policies almost a decade ago is still having consequences – now being felt by consumers facing soaring energy prices.

In 2013, then prime minister David Cameron instructed his officials to “cut the green crap”.

Mr Cameron’s change of gear effectively banned onshore wind in England, stifling the UK’s renewables industry and shifting investment overseas, despite offshore wind now a huge cash cow.

Developers are now lining up to invest in offshore wind projects aft years of stuttering progress and a lack of confidence given to the sector by UK governments.

The UK Government’s energy security strategy, published in the wake of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, talks the big talk. Boris Johnson’s government bigged up its ambitions to scale up offshore wind to some 50GW by 2030 and nuclear power to 24GW by 2050, despite the eye-watering build costs and timescales.

But it also pointed to opening up the North Sea to drain every drop of oil and gas – amid questionable claims that this will end the UK’s reliance on Vladimir Putin’s fuel.

Liz Truss had been even bolder in her intentions to burn the North Sea’s fossil fuels reserves – formally opening up new licences.

Rishi Sunak continued pushing oil and gas expansion, but appears to be finally relaxing onshore wind rules for England.

This rhetoric comes 12 months since the UK hosted the COP26 climate conference in Glasgow when the Tory government insisted the developing world stops burning its go-to fossil fuel, coal.

READ MORE: Gathering wind: How much power is offshore wind set to deliver?

There is huge political capital in energy.

Earlier this year, a poll found that the majority of Scots support a move away from oil and gas on environmental grounds.

Political parties and big companies are queuing up to flex their green credentials – with consumers and voters being swayed by a serious response to the climate crisis.

But the Scottish Conservatives have put great stock on insisting they are fossil fuel fanatics, risking alienating some but placing them in the north east’s fossil fuels power house’s corner.

The Scottish Government’s strategy is to bump up the country’s renewables capacity even further – opposing nuclear power and calling for an accelerated just transition away from oil and gas.

By 2030, the Scottish Government said it will have a capacity of 11GW of offshore wind – with developments set to easily exceed this ambition if all goes well, including around 28GW through ScotWind contracts.

SNP ministers also want to scale up onshore wind north of the border by an additional 12GW.

Renewables will likely form a key economic and environmental strand of any future case for Scottish independence – replacing the 2014 mantra of ‘Scotland’s oil’.

The Scottish Government will publish its delayed energy strategy later this year – the first update since 2017.

Since the last document in 2017, energy has been further politicised with the climate crisis now a key consideration.

The strategy is expected to include details on when oil and gas demand will be ended – a key ask of climate campaigners which will give more confidence to the renewables industry and further encourage fossil fuels giants in the North Sea to accelerate moves to clean energy sources. The Scottish Government’s opposition to nuclear power under current technology, including small modular reactors, is largely on costs grounds compared to offshore and onshore wind.

Things will only get bigger.

But had Mr Cameron and his coalition partners, the LibDems, kept his initial climate strategy on track, think where the UK could be compared to the rest of Europe.

His government cut spending on energy-efficiency improvements and the number of homes insulated each year fell off a cliff – falling by 92 per cent and then 74% in 2013.

The UK Government’s energy security strategy also spectacularly failed to mention energy efficiency – a strategy the Scottish Government has admitted will cost £33bn, a costly consequence of Mr Cameron’s reversal.

Data for 2021 shows that a host of countries including Norway, New Zealand, Brazil, Canada, Sweden, Portugal, Spain, Romania, Germany and Italy have a higher percentage of electricity generated from renewables than the United Kingdom.

But there is much more to renewables than offshore wind farms.

If Scotland is to reach its potential with renewables, it must unlock tidal power, green hydrogen generation and other technologies like geothermal energy.

Tidal power harnesses the energy produced by tides – a very predictable form of renewable energy usually generated by underwater turbines.

The largest tidal turbine in the world, the 02 turbine, anchored at the European Marine Energy Centre at Orkney, will generate 2MW of energy – enough to power 2,000 homes.

After years of being neglected by the UK Government, the Orbital project won out in the latest Contracts for Difference scheme with tidal power to generate 40Mw of renewable power from the latest round.

Another emerging technology, geothermal energy, which could heat up to 8% of Scotland’s homes, will also need ring-fenced priority and help in the next rounds of the Contract for Difference auctions.

If cheaper and cleaner energy is the priority amid the and the climate crisis, then renewables has to be top of the list.

The cost of new offshore wind has fallen by 50% since 2015 and it is now one of the lowest-cost forms of energy – cheaper than new gas and nuclear power.

Onshore wind is the most cost-effective choice for new electricity in the UK - less expensive than gas, nuclear and other renewables options.

So instead of big promises about nuclear and oil and gas, the UK Government would be more sensible focusing on renewables projects and ensuring that tidal, geothermal and other clean power sources can be another success story that the North Sea’s wind sector has finally become.