IAN Sinclair’s article in the Manniefest Special in The National on June 4 (Caithness is ready to be engine powering whole of Scotland) made me think of how Scotland’s resources are being stolen to fund the excesses of the Westminster governments over the last 60 years.

We have enjoyed Caithness since 1972, maybe three or four times each year, and have witnessed the gradual pillaging of the energy-rich assets of that county, with little or no benefits to the inhabitants.

On July 26, 1976, I remember watching the production platform for the Beatrice Oil Field being emplaced eight miles off the coastal village of Lybster. This was to produce oil for the “next 15 years”, if you believed the Westminster propaganda at that time. Well, it’s still there producing oil 46 years later! It immediately produced oil while flaring off the gas. Day and night the flare could be seen from Lybster, a village with no gas supply. They even emplaced an undersea electric cable from Latheron to the production rig to save the diesel for their generators in the 1980s.

A relevant digression. On a return voyage from the Arctic, we were sailing down the median line between the Norwegian and British oil fields. While on deck, I was joined by a fellow passenger (from England). I pointed out to him that to the east (Norwegian fields) the sky above their oil rigs was clear, while to the west (the British sector) the oil rigs were

all burning off gas, with the resultant loss of gas and accompanying air pollution.

He wondered why, so I explained that in Britain’s rush to get the oil money, the oil companies had a field day and were allowed to cut corners, whereas the Norwegians said “you will link up all the fields to a gas pipeline or you don’t get the oil”. The result, in this time of energy crisis, is that we have to augment our gas supplies by buying gas from the Norwegians.

Also, some time after 2011, British operators were finally instructed to stop flaring, but to do so meant they needed access to the existing gas pipeline courtesy of the Norwegians.

Around that time, Caithness was being festooned with onshore wind turbine sites. There were also numerous improvements and upgrades to transmission stations and pylons to ensure that the wind energy could be transmitted south. While some very minor benefits were passed on to the local villages and residents to buy their acceptance of these sites, they still have to pay massive electricity bills.

In Ian Sinclair’s article, he says that “there are 333 wind turbines in Caithness with another 200 planned – and that excludes the mighty Beatrice”. As an aside, Westminster has banned onshore wind turbines in England for some years due to Nimby fears by Tory MPs fearful for their seats. This doesn’t apply to Scotland as planning law is “devolved” to Scotland, ie “normal” planning law. In the 1960s, when hydrocarbons (oil and gas) were first proven to be present in the North Sea, the government hurriedly took planning for hydrocarbon extraction from the Scottish Office and made it the responsibility of Westminster.

As regards the “mighty Beatrice”, so much power is produced there that it was worthwhile to lay a transmission cable under the Moray Firth to reach transmission pylons in Aberdeenshire as those in Caithness couldn’t cope with both their planned expansion and the Beatrice production.

So while Scotland sleeps, Caithness and the Moray Forth is already producing sufficient energy for its needs even before the Pentland Firth is tapped to provide “the Saudi Arabia of tidal energy”.

In the meantime, Scotland pays more for its electricity than England, so yet again we are witnessing the economic results of the lack of independence.
Paul Gillon