Conservative in-fighting over the EU is holding back the development of North Sea energy, the SNP have claimed.
A total of nine member states surrounding the North Sea have signed up to an action plan to encourage the development of offshore wind energy – but the UK Government is unable to do so because of rules surrounding the referendum campaign.
Last night, the SNP slammed David Cameron’s party over the situation, claiming “discord within the Tory ranks is holding Scotland back”.
The Department for Energy and Climate Change (DECC) said the government was committed to “investing heavily in offshore energy in Scotland”, but confirmed it was unable to sign the deal because of the ongoing referendum campaign.
The clashes came after it emerged DECC head Amber Rudd MP would lock horns with deputy Andrea Leadsom in tomorrow’s televised EU debate, which also features Nicola Sturgeon and Boris Johnson.
SNP MSP Fiona Hyslop said: “While key powers over energy strategy and cooperation remain at Westminster, we rely on UK ministers acting in Scotland’s best interests.
“(This) is a prime example of those interests being sidelined while Tory ministers in the same department fight among themselves over Europe.
“While nine North Sea nations are looking outwards seeking common cause over shared opportunities, discord within the Tory ranks is holding Scotland back.
“One of the huge advantages of the European Union as the world’s largest single market is in creating jobs and investment in Scotland and addressing shared challenges on energy and tackling climate change – and serious questions have to be asked of
the UK government in putting opportunities at risk for the sake of internal squabbling within the Tory party.”
Aberdeen South MP Callum McCaig added: “At a difficult time for the energy sector it is imperative that this government takes the urgent action needed to secure its future.
“The Tories are stifling the kind of co-operation which is so badly needed.”
But a senior Scottish Conservative source said: “Having been through a referendum process less than two years ago, one would think that the SNP would be aware of the restrictions on government activity in the run-up to polling day.”
The stated aim of the declaration is to “create good conditions for the development of offshore wind energy in order to ensure a sustainable, secure and affordable energy supply in the North Seas countries”.
EU Commissioner Arias Canete said the signing of the agreement on Monday marked a “turning point in cooperation” for the region.
A DECC spokesman said: “We’re continuing to invest heavily in offshore energy in Scotland, most recently with the £2.6billion SSE Beatrice project.
“The only reason the UK has not signed this declaration is because there are statutory restrictions on government activity in the UK in the run-up to the referendum on June 23.”