SNP politicians have for years been promoting out-of-date figures to make their case for independence, an FOI request has revealed. Nicola Sturgeon’s party has spent much of the last decade claiming Scotland “has 25 percent of Europe’s potential offshore wind resource”.
Senior figures in the independence movement have repeated the claims in order to make the case for breaking up the UK, claiming Scotland can lead a green revolution.
However, the Scottish government has now been forced to admit that the figure is wrong.
A freedom of information request by the pro-Union think tank These Islands reveals the 25 percent claim relies on data from nearly 30 years ago.
The figure is thrashed out by combining two out-of-date studies.
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One uses a definition of Europe that included only 11 countries from 1993 and excludes Norway, Sweden, and Finland. The other report was published in 2001.
The true figure for Scotland’s potential European offshore wind resource is a much lower four to six percent.
Scotland’s government first started touting the figure in 2010 but still referred to it as recently as earlier this year.
Cabinet Secretary for Finance and the Economy Kate Forbes used the figure in the government’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation in March and was repeated by Ian Blackford just last month.
The FOI request revealed the out-of-date figure continued to be used despite officials being aware that it was inaccurate.
In one email, a government official said “the 25 percent estimate has never, to my knowledge, been properly sourced”.
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Another official wrote: “Yes we did recycle those figures quite robotically without really checking them.”
A third admitted the figure “proved very difficult to source”.
Sam Taylor, who runs These Islands, said: “Scotland has substantial renewable resources and that’s a very good thing.
“But hugely exaggerating the size of the potential resource for political purposes is not a good thing, and the role of the Scottish government civil service in all of this is especially concerning.
“An obviously inflated claim has been allowed to appear in multiple official Scottish government publications over the last decade, and only difficult questions asked via Freedom of Information have put a stop to that.”
A Scottish government spokesman said they were “confident” about Scotland’s wind potential despite the factual error.
They said: “The statistic relating to Scotland having 25 percent of Europe’s offshore wind potential was set out in a 2010 publication and was calculated accurately at the time.
“We recognise that changes in technology and use of marine space mean that this statistic now requires updating and will be undertaking work to update the figure.
“However, we are confident that Scotland remains at the forefront of the developing offshore wind industry in Europe.”