My Column

Put heart and solar into net zero bid

  • Date: Monday 17th April 2023
column Picture

The Scottish government has set ambitious targets for Scotland to achieve net zero carbon emissions by the year 2045.


Humza Yousaf recently recommitted his government to these targets when he was confirmed as First Minister, saying: “My government will seize the economic and social opportunities of the journey to net zero.”


Since then he’s visited Nova Innovation in Leith and boasted about how Scotland is one of the most advanced hubs in Europe for marine energy tech.  On his visit he had a chance to view Scotland’s first array of floating solar panels ahead of their installation later this year.


It’s a spectacular example of innovation in the sector. But how healthy is the wider sector?


It’s obvious that Scotland’s existing North Sea energy sector, based in and around Aberdeen, should form the lynchpin for economic activity to thrive as we make the urgent transition to a low-carbon future.  


However, those with expertise in the sector have warned the North East may not be match-fit and ready to seize upon the economic potential of Scottish ingenuity, like solar panels floating on water, which our First Minister is only too happy to lend his support to.  


The chief executive of Energy Transition Zone, Maggie McGinlay (a company which seeks to ‘reposition’ Scotland’s North East as a global ‘energy cluster’ to deliver net zero) says we need significant investment and effort, as well as “the right regulatory environment”.


The regulation problems have been exacerbated by the UK government flipping the switch on Aberdeen’s low tax regime through high windfall taxes on energy providers.


It’s a tricky one, because oil and gas giants have been accused of making obscene profits at a time when households across the UK have been squeezed by high energy bills. As such, politicians have been under pressure to hold energy companies to account through higher taxes on profits. 


But on the flip side, high tax can dissuade investors and stifle innovation at a time when we should be doing the opposite.


The UK government says existing oil and gas adds £17bn annually to the UK economy, supporting 120,000 jobs. However a recent report by climate activist group the One for One campaign warns the UK could suffer 500,000 job losses if the value of fossil fuels collapses.


Meanwhile Sandy Begbie, chief executive of Scottish Financial Enterprise says we need Scotland’s transition to net-zero to be more “carefully thought through” with “far clearer” government policy.


I couldn’t agree more. Oil and gas producers will be key players in the transition to net-zero so how can we be in the unedifying position of seeking to boost innovation in the energy sector, to become less reliant on fossil fuels, while simultaneously putting the dampeners on it through taxation as high as 75 per cent?   


We have already seen how easily spooked markets can be and the impact that can have on things like interest rates, so we need careful planning to avoid more shocks. Greater collaboration is required if we are to avoid companies with fossil-related assets rapidly losing market value.  


It’s all well and good for Mr Yousaf and other politicians to gladhand at press events but if key thinkers with broad knowledge of Scotland’s energy sector are issuing warnings, they need to be listened to carefully and quickly.


Colette Cohen, chief executive of the Aberdeen-based Net Zero Technology Centre reportedly said “We have a clear destination put out by the Scottish and UK governments” in reference to the transition to net zero – but hit the nail on the head when she added “but we have no route map to get us there.”


Carbon capture projects are still awaiting approval; Aberdeen’s port doesn’t know how it’s going to be powering ships in the future so can’t invest in infrastructure; the Scottish government is winding down nuclear and has banned new oil and gas exploration while we currently have no clearly defined infrastructure to get the future energy produced from net-zero sources to market.


It’s all a bit of a mess. In my opinion Scottish and UK government ministers need to set aside the politicking and get to the businesses of working out a clear and funded route map, otherwise Scotland’s energy sector could be in real jeopardy.




SIDE (277) 


According to experts, small and medium-sized UK businesses that are reluctant to adopt new technologies could be putting their futures in jeopardy.


Those who fail to evolve with the digital landscape are losing out on valuable custom due to fear of change.


More than 50 per cent of small and medium-sized enterprises have accelerated their digital transformation in recent years, but technophobia is continuing to hold other companies back.


In fact a whopping 48 per cent of SME leaders in the UK still lack a tech investment strategy, which I find hugely surprising in this day and age.


The company behind the research, TelephoneSystems.Cloud, cited a few great examples of consumer behaviour which has driven technological change – remember shopping solely on the high street and watching videos cassettes?


Those days are long gone and the companies that transformed (offering online retail and streaming) remained fit for purpose while others lagged behind.


Apparently technophobia comes from the top, deep rooted in business leaders resistant to change or intimidated by tech. They stick with what they know instead of adapting and making the decisions that make good business sense.   


But Covid forced the hand of many companies and saw technologies like cloud computing exploding. Microsoft Teams hit a huge high of 1.4 billion users.  These things weren’t new, but companies started making better use of these technologies to work more collaboratively and cost effectively.


Relying on the tried-and-tested and shying away from change means you will inevitably fall behind.


There may not be a quick-fix for technophobia, but I’m pretty sure keeping an open mind is the first step.





I couldn’t help laughing when I saw a video showing two dolphins chasing a windsurfer in Aberdeen harbour and knocking him off his board.


It was shot by an Aberdeen tour operator who sees funny things like this quite often – but says it’s rare to capture them on camera.


He may not have been meaning to shoot a promotional video, but what he has described as a “golden shot” has probably also turned into a golden opportunity to showcase the sights you can see on one of his tours.


Apparently there were some 25 dolphins in the area at the time and there’s also a high chance of spotting porpoises at the location.


It did get me wondering if those cheeky dolphins knocked the guy off his board by accident or if they, ahem, did it on porpoise…





Glasgow City Council is set to increase the rent prices of allotments by nearly 400 per cent next year.


That’s a huge jump considering that Scotland’s largest local authority also hiked things like council tax and parking charges. 


The news will no doubt be a shock for plot owners, with rent jumping from £34.50 to £170 (or from £25 to £115 concession) per year.


It’s a real shame because allotments have a huge number of health benefits and often serve as a social meeting place for those in isolation – but I reckon this price hike may make it unaffordable for some now.



Sadly, it looks like our dear green place is about to become a very, very dear green place indeed.

Back to column listings

Recent News

News Archive