I was really hoping that this week’s column would have been an ecstatic story of public democracy winning out over policy-by-diktat. I can’t tell you how disappointed I am that it won’t be. The story of a Scottish National Energy Company is one that is deeply intertwined with the story of Common Weal. Before Common Weal was even an independent think tank, when it was still a policy unit within the Jimmy Reid Foundation, it published a call to renationalise energy in Scotland, how doing so would allow Scotland to develop our renewable energy resources to the full, bring energy to consumers in a way that benefited the society over profits and how it would help us reconfigure our energy infrastructure to meet the challenges of transition to a decarbonised sector. We have kept up our work in this area ever since, to the point of forming a dedicated Energy Working Group within Common Weal composed of some of Scotland’s top experts in the sector. We have created a detailed blueprint called Powering Our Ambitions which laid out what a nationally owned energy company (NEC) should be, should do and how it should be run. In short, the company must be more than just an energy supplier but must own and develop its own energy assets. We said this long before the current volatile energy crisis laid bare the vulnerabilities of the “energy market” imposed on energy companies that don’t own anything and merely supply customers. I remember the headlines that were generated by the SNP’s announcement in 2017 that they had accepted the case for public ownership though it became clear very quickly that their heart wasn’t in it. Despite the evidence, they seemed intent on the company only being a supplier, not a generator. Then after the 2019 demise of Our Power they got spooked and shelved the plans – finally scrapping them as quietly as they possibly could. Except the members of the SNP conference the week after the cancellation evidently objected and nearly unanimously passed a motion in favour of a public energy company. This was followed up yesterday by Monica Lennon’s amendment to the Net Zero Nation debate motion to reintroduce an NEC along the lines proposed by Powering Our Ambitions and to add an actual policy to a motion which otherwise wasn’t much more than an afternoon dedicated to saying “Parliament agrees with things that the Government is already doing”. Unfortunately, despite the clear mandate from members, the SNP chose to vote against the amendment. Perhaps worse, the Greens also chose to vote against citing today their objection to a national company in favour of local companies and cooperatives.
Commonweal 23rd Sept 2021 read more »