THE successful deployment of MeyGen’s tidal stream turbines to generate 700 MW hours in August as described by Martin Hannan (Scottish turbines break tidal power world record, The National, September 1) is a cause for some celebration.

It is perhaps not fully realised, however, that tidal stream energy has the potential to be a clincher in making the case for Scottish independence.

This new form of water power is based on the fortunate fact that many of Scotland’s sea channels, such as the Pentland Firth in the north and Kylerhea in the west, feature some of the world’s strongest tidal streams.

MeyGen have shown that it is now possible by means of underwater turbines to harness their enormous power to generate clean, carbon-free electricity in prodigious quantities.

The first phase of the MeyGen project will eventually generate 86MW by employing an array of 86 turbines of 200 tonnes each assembled at Nigg Energy Park in Easter Ross. Eventually 269 turbines will be installed on the MeyGen project site, producing 398MW – enough to power 175,000 homes.

Driven by the gravitational pull of the moon and the sun, tides are predictable for centuries to come. It may be noted that four times per day for brief periods at high and low water, tidal streams are slack and no power can be generated.

This would be a problem if we had to rely on a single location for tidal stream generation. However, tide times vary at different places round the coast, so that, for example, there is a four-and-a-half hour time difference in high water at Kylerhea, as compared with the Pentland Firth.

This means that when the tide is slack in the Pentland Firth it is running fiercely at Kylerhea.

So long as tidal stream arrays at several locations from the Mull of Galloway to Shetland are connected to the grid, a constant current will be maintained indefinitely.

Not only that, but it has been estimated that a combination of Scottish tidal and wave power could produce up to almost ten times Scotland’s current electricity usage.

What to do with that huge surplus of constant green power? Well there are two main opportunities.

One is to export it, for example to England. The other is to use it to generate hydrogen by electrolysing water, another resource that Scotland has in abundance.

Hydrogen is the automotive fuel of the future, for unlike petrol and diesel, when converted to power, the only emission is benign water vapour which of course ends up from whence it came – in the sea.

All this could be achieved whether Scotland is independent or not, but remember that the vast fortune generated by Scottish North Sea oil was appropriated and frittered away by a succession of incompetent Westminster governments, who had little or no interest in benefitting Scotland.

With independence, Scottish licensing plus government or community equity in key projects can harness this very substantial tidal stream income by directing it to resolve many of Scotland’s social and economic problems while building up the kind of reserves of sovereign capital that Norway has achieved through its oil fund.

We must seize this golden opportunity and emphasise to the Scottish people the potential of this huge wealth creating resource in securing a prosperous independent Scotland.

Let us not throw away this bonanza as we did with North Sea oil.

Roy Pedersen