THE Scottish Government has "thrown away" the benefits of the country’s major green potential, according to a world-renowned renewables entrepreneur. 

Simon Forrest, the CEO and founder of tidal turbines firm Nova Innovations, warned ministers there are “many things” they should be doing “to capture billions of pounds worth of opportunity” from the green energy sector.

In an exclusive comment piece for The National as we mark 50 years of the McCrone Report, the businessman hit out at the UK Government, saying “Westminster is squarely to blame” for Scotland being “asset-stripped” for its energy sector.

But he said the Scottish Government must “up its game” if it wanted Scots to reap the benefits of the country’s world-class renewables potential – highlighting how ministers had “thrown away” chances to bring in major investment during the controversial ScotWind auction.

Read more from our McCrone 50th Anniversary special edition here:

The ScotWind auction in 2022 – the first in a decade – saw offshore territory sold to companies to develop windfarms.

Critics have said the Crown Estate undervalued the areas sold and could have brought in more money for the public purse.

Forrest (below) has now hit out at the Scottish Government for what he says is its failure to ensure companies comply with rules to make them invest significant sums in the local economy.

The National:

The Scottish Government said it is constrained by rules set in Westminster determining public contracts.

He said: “Most self-governing countries insist on a certain level of local spend and content in major energy or infrastructure projects. Not Scotland.

“The UK Government, the Scottish Government and Crown Estate Scotland will tell you that targets have been written into contracts. This may be true, but the penalties for missing them are paltry, measuring in the thousands of pounds, so they are meaningless and ignored.

“In other countries like Canada, Indonesia, France, and the United Arab Emirates to name just a few, a company or project can expect to typically deliver 40% to 60% local content or ‘in country value’ – defined as the percentage of total project cost, spent on goods and services in the local country.

“If a company doesn’t deliver, it may forfeit the project – huge penalties are stringently enforced. The stakes are high; heads are on the block; the game is real.”

And he took aim at Westminster for letting Scotland down over the decades with its “short-termism”.

The National: Wind farm

Forrest added: “Of course, energy is a reserved power. Westminster is squarely to blame for Scotland’s results with coal, oil, gas and now renewables (grid, charging, tariffs, etc).

“Scotland has been asset-stripped, had its wealth off-shored and its hope and investment suffocated with short-termism. Our energy and industrial strategies are an abomination.”

But the businessman added Scotland could do more while remaining tied into the Union.

READ MORE: Experts defend ScotWind auction from 'selling Scotland short' accusations

“Despite Westminster’s unquestionable failures, there are many things - easy things - that the Scottish Government should be doing to capture billions of pounds worth of opportunity, but they seem uninterested or without the hunger to pursue this.

“The Scottish Government lacks strategy and conviction. By way of simple examples, we could have retained a 29% share in each ScotWind lease, created our own national energy company and piggy-backed on the professionalism of the lease winners.

“We could enforce local content targets by rewarding leaseholders who excel with preferential treatment in planning and consents, e.g. go to the front of the queue.

“We could set our universities on a war-footing mentality (just get it done!) and align with a green industrial strategy, especially hydrogen.

“All easy wins, short-term cost neutral, long-term financial heaven. None have been even attempted.

“There are many more examples of what we can be doing with a little guile, conviction and strategy.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “ScotWind will deliver around £700 million in revenues for the public purse just from these initial awards alone – the programme promises to deliver billions more in rental revenues once projects become operational, to be invested for the benefit of the people of Scotland.

Read more from our McCrone 50th Anniversary special edition here:

“It is not, however, possible to define a certain level of local spend since powers are reserved to the UK Government.”

They added that ministers expected ScotWind projects to generate £25 billion of investment across the wider supply chain and that revenues will be invested in “our journey to net zero”.

A UK Government spokesperson said: “These claims are entirely baseless - we have consistently invested in the clean energy sector resulting in over 40% of our electricity coming from renewables compared to just 7% in 2010.”

They added that to date oil and gas revenues had brought in £400bn in tax revenues, used to “help families in Scotland and right across the UK with the cost of living and to fund public services”.

Crown Estate Scotland did not respond to a request for comment.