SCOTLAND’S aspirations of a net-zero future are being hampered by national security policy from Westminster, according to academics, who have warned the situation could worsen amidst a “more complicated policy environment”.

Dr Paula Kivimaa and Marja Sivonen say UK Government security concerns are prioritised when they conflict with Scottish energy policy, with no proper consideration of low-carbon energy transitions and national security.

They analysed 15 years’ of policy documents for their study, which highlights examples where strategic aims around a low-carbon transition conflicted with UK security policy, such as objectives to safeguard oil platforms in territorial waters and abroad.

The study warns that the “incoherence” between security and energy policies could lead to less efficient use of public spending and a slowing down of the transition to a more sustainable energy system.

Kivimaa, senior research fellow in the Science Policy Research Unit (SPRU) at the University of Sussex Business School, and Sivonen, a researcher in the Finnish Environment Institute (SYKE), warn the security risks from moving to low-carbon energy – including the availability of materials and cyber threats to smart systems – may not currently be well understood or mitigated for in government policy.

They also raise concerns that moving towards a low-carbon energy future will create an even more complicated policy environment.

Kivimaa, also a research professor at SYKE, said it had to be acknowledged that traditional security policy may be hindering energy system change, and the energy transition is changing the security implications of energy systems.

She said: “A good example is how Boris Johnson’s announcement to increase UK nuclear warheads is a traditional security move that may further reinforce the nuclear industry more generally instead of strengthening the Scottish transition to renewable energy ... This may also work against the Scottish Government’s position to no new nuclear power.

“Our analysis highlights a significant risk; that by giving stakeholders conflicting signals and neglecting the security implications of renewable energy, the current national security framing that prioritises fossil fuels is likely to delay the energy transition.”

In an article for Energy Research & Social Science, the pair analysed the degree of coherence and integration between low-carbon energy and security policies in Finland, Estonia and Scotland – three European countries – by reviewing 72 policy documents from 2006 to 2020.

Their analysis reveals how UK energy policy is diverging from that of Scotland, notably through Scotland’s strong opposition to nuclear power, as well as the administration’s more ambitious plans related to climate change mitigation, economic development and energy efficiency.

Kivimaa said: “Our study indicates that most countries experience political conflicts between a shift towards zero carbon energy and national security policies.

“However, this may be more pronounced for Scotland given the devolution of powers between Westminster and Holyrood. In small administrations, like those in Nordic countries, advancing policy coherence is easier due to informal networks between policy areas.

“As we move into an increasingly complex landscape for climate and energy policy, pursuing coherence between energy and security policy is going to be even more difficult.”

The SNP’s Bill Kidd added: “The priorities of the Tories at Westminster are completely wrong. Increasing our nuclear capacity is simply a stunt of political posturing and completely unnecessary.

“Scotland has a tale of two governments, the one at Westminster that is increasing its nuclear arsenal by 40%, whilst in the same week the SNP government in Edinburgh was passing legislation to enshrine the rights of the child and taking our railways into public ownership.

“Later this year COP26 rolls into Glasgow and I am sure world leaders will not be impressed that the Tories are sacrificing our renewable recovery to beef up our nuclear weapons.”