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Energy / Scottish energy secretary visits Shetland: ‘We have all of the energy but none of the power’

MSP Neil Gray (right) talking to a Malakoff apprentice. Photo: Shetland News

NEIL Gray, cabinet secretary for wellbeing economy, fair work and energy, says high levels of fuel poverty in Shetland are “a terrible indictment” and that the solution lies within Scottish independence.

Gray, originally from Orkney but now MSP for Airdrie and Shotts, is currently visiting the isles.

Following a visit to the Viking wind farm construction site he spent some time at Malakoff in Lerwick on Thursday afternoon.

He praised the company for their commitment to offering apprenticeships, training and work opportunities.

“It fits both in terms of the work that they do on the energy side to my portfolio, the economic side obviously but also the fair work,” Gray told Shetland News. “Ensuring that there is good, strong training and reskilling opportunities for the workforce.”

Expanding on his role in energy, Gray said: “We’re in a situation in Scotland where we have all of the energy but none of the power.

“We are able to produce huge amounts of energy through oil and gas at the moment, but the renewables revolution that’s coming through has an opportunity to make a huge economic difference.

“It is a terrible indictment on the current situation in the UK that we have an energy-rich Scotland with such high levels of fuel property – that’s why I believe in independence, why I believe that we could do much better by our citizens if we had control of our energy resources.”

Turning to Shetland’s own resources and the controversial Viking Energy wind farm, the SNP politician says it has “the potential to overnight, effectively, decarbonise the domestic energy network” in the isles.

Wind farm halfway complete with 52 turbines installed – whilst locals raise concerns

“That’s bringing with it a huge amount of economic benefit, in terms of the supply chain already £72 million worth of supply chain contracts to Shetland-based but also other contractors,” Gray said.

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“We’re already seeing investments in community projects coming through that wind farm project and it’s estimated over the lifespan of the wind farm development that you’ll see over £70 million of community benefit here in Shetland – that’s huge.

“I would hope that […] part of those investments would be about ensuring that there’s better fuel security here in Shetland.”

As the country tries to transition from relying on oil and gas, Gray thinks it is important to support workers in the sector.

He said: “It’s about making sure that those that are currently working in oil and gas don’t see their jobs cut off.

“We don’t [want to] see a deindustrialisation that leaves communities in a workforce behind, the same way that we saw in areas that I represent in central Scotland under Thatcher and the Tories in the 80s and 90s, where we saw steel and mining communities destroyed.

“It’s about making sure that those communities that have an oil and gas footprint at the moment are able to move on, are able to take advantage of the renewables revolution.

“Some of the engineering and skills that’s involved in oil and gas, a lot of that is transferable to what we’re going to be requiring in renewables.”

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