IT’S been one of the most commonly-asked questions of the week – why hasn’t the Scottish Government gone ahead with its promised national energy company?

Amidst a new and urgent focus on the domestic energy market thanks to a clutch of company failures and soaring gas prices, there’s been marked discussion of the 2017 pledge. First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said that would offer cheaper, greener energy to those experiencing fuel poverty. It was supposed to be in place by this year and prep work worth almost £500,000 has taken place, but the plan’s now been shelved and a public energy agency is promised instead.


Under the plan, Sturgeon said energy would be “bought wholesale or generated here in Scotland – renewable, of course – and sold to customers as close to cost price as possible” with “no shareholders to worry about, no corporate bonuses to consider”.

But there was no mention of it in the latest Programme for Government, produced after the Greens-SNP deal that saw co-leader Lorna Slater become Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity. In June, she’d said the lack of progress on the public generator could cost Scotland the chance to capitalise on the potential for tidal energy. This month, she said there had been a “significant change in the wider policy landscape and energy market” and, amidst the climate emergency, new net zero targets, supplier failures, rising consumer debt and volatile energy prices, “a different approach is required”.


Net Zero, Energy and Transport Secretary Michael Matheson has said the “scale and nature of our priorities have had to change” because emissions reduction targets were not in place when the energy firm policy was announced in 2017. The national public energy agency now pledged will, it is said, co-ordinate decarbonisation work. “The scope for a public energy company at some point in the future is still there,” Matheson said. “However, the immediate action we need to take is the co-ordinated plan around this mammoth task.

“There may still be, at some point going forward, a role for a public energy company that can assist us around meeting some of the challenges we have within the existing energy market. Our key priority at the moment has got to be about trying to achieve what is a very stretching target between now and 2030 that has been set down in a statutory basis by parliament.”


A strategic outline case and outline business case were drawn up by independent consultants before the plans changed. The new body will, the Scottish Government says, “co-ordinate and accelerate delivery of heat and energy efficiency work, inform and educate the public on the changes required, provide expert advice to national and local government, and work with public, private and third sector partners to deliver this transformative national project”, with further details to be set out in parliament “in due course”.

However, the Common Weal think tank slammed the move, as did Liam Kerr of the Conservatives and Monica Lennon of Labour, with Lennon branding it an “embarrassing downgrade” that will produce a “toothless government body”.