Scotland’s recently-appointed First Minister went to London yesterday to meet the Prime Minister. The advance billing coming out of Edinburgh did not promise a particularly productive encounter.

Mr Yousaf was going to express outrage about increased duty on Scotch whisky. A week ago, whisky was such a threat to public health that the Scottish Government in which Mr Yousaf was Health Secretary wanted to stigmatise it to the point where it would be illegal to sell a T-shirt in a visitor centre.

Now the horror of increasing duty for the first time in a decade was top of the agenda for Mr Yousaf’s first meeting with the Prime Minister. Followed by “democratic outrage” (non-existent) about blocking the Gender Recognition Reform Bill. Followed by another “democratic outrage” (also non-existent) about not granting another independence referendum.

It sounded horribly predictable as “same-old, same-old”; a continuity bore-in at which the only interest was in finding points of difference to spin for a jaded audience back home. In reality, if that’s the way it turned out, Mr Yousaf would have spent his time more usefully on the phone, begging auditors to accept the poisoned chalice.

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In the unlikely event of me being asked to suggest a different approach, I would have recommended an advance message to Downing Street: “Let’s cut out the play-acting and have a serious conversation about just one subject. We need to work together on North Sea transition and how to make the most of it. The rest can wait”.

In that context, the meeting of real potential importance for Scotland one way or the other was not taking place in London yesterday but in Ostend – a North Sea Summit involving nine states around the concept of an offshore electricity grid that will link all of them together within the foreseeable future.

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It is exactly the kind of process the Scottish Government could and should be involved in if civilised relationships existed with Whitehall, just as Scottish Ministers used to form part of UK delegations to EU Councils of Ministers. For that to happen, there has to be a serious degree of goodwill and trust, rather than the perpetual grudge and grievance which have replaced them.

That is what Mr Yousaf should be signalling. There is an overwhelming case for the Scottish Government, whoever is running it, to work closely and constructively with the rest of the UK to drive the expansion of offshore renewables and, critically, to attract manufacturing capacity and investment which have plenty of alternative destinations.

So far, Scotland has failed dismally to attract investment which would create significant numbers of manufacturing jobs from renewables. In Ostend, there will be discussions about standardising infrastructure in order to accelerate investment in offshore wind and reduce costs. We should be part of a UK-wide approach to ensuring a slice of that cake, before it passes us by again.

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The concept of a European offshore grid would be based largely on the expansion of offshore wind, hydrogen and other renewables. Scotland can be part of that network, but is only a part. Instead of wasting so much breath on boasting about our unique capacity, we need to recognise that the value of our resource is based almost entirely on inter-dependence, with the rest of the UK and with Europe.

I first heard the concept of a European offshore “supergrid” being advanced by Eddie O’Connor, who founded the Irish company Airtricity. Eddie was a genuine visionary and what seemed far-fetched a decade ago is now the focus of a united endorsement, backed by the EU and spurred by the Ukraine war which brought belated awareness that over-dependence on Russian gas was never a very good idea.

Yesterday in Ostend, an agreement was signed between UK and Dutch governments to create an interconnector between the two countries which will harness offshore windpower in the North Sea and increase energy security for both by the early 2030s. This kind of development will, if the vision is fulfilled, act as a stepping-stone towards the eventual offshore grid supplying the whole of northern Europe.

It is a vision which should rise above arguments in which we are otherwise bogged down. The transition to offshore renewables will be over decades, even when accelerated, and requires a scale of investment which is not yet forthcoming. Meanwhile, fossil fuels will play a part in the mix and it is surely no more than common sense that it is better to produce than to import. How much more false virtue will be expended on denying that reality?

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Nobody can doubt the direction of travel or the commitment of every government represented in Ostend – including the UK’s – to the expansion of renewables and the transition away from oil and gas. The faster and further that imperative can be driven forward the better, but don’t get carried away by rhetoric. Even yesterday, with the wind blowing hard, we were getting more of our electricity from gas than from renewables.

The ScotWind programme, which is part of the UK’s drive to secure 50gw of renewables by 2030, offers huge opportunities. It will be impossible for it not to create substantial numbers of jobs and some of this is already happening. But the potential benefits and job numbers will only be maximised through a strategic plan which identifies the infrastructure required and ensures it is in place before the big decisions are made.

Again, whoever likes it or not, this involves UK-wide co-operation around grid connections and interconnectors, investment in ports and harbours, ensuring the skills exist to provide a workforce for the industry, and so on. These are the nuts and bolts of an economic opportunity that Mr Yousaf could have been focused on yesterday instead of droning on about lost causes.

The transition from fossil fuels to renewables is happening and yesterday’s summit in Ostend has raised the stakes still further. The Ostend Declaration could have been matched by a Downing Street consensus – that the only way to do this is together.

Brian Wilson is a former Labour Party politician. He was MP for Cunninghame North from 1987 until 2005 and served as a Minister of State from 1997 to 2003.