Brian Wilson is right that gas and electricity are natural monopolies and at least some of that belongs in state, not private, hands. There are great examples across Europe of publicly owned and partially publicly owned energy companies, often working in parallel with public sector providers.
However, when serving as UK energy minister in Blair’s Labour government, he had his chance to bring British Gas and Britoil back into public ownership but didn’t.
On top of this, the Labour Government chose not to renationalise the National Grid, privatised by the Tories in 1990, but approved Ofgem’s 2003 grid transmission charges that penalised Scottish renewable providers and landed Scots with the highest transmission charges not only in the UK but in Europe. In the north of Scotland, charges are £7.36 per MWh but only £.49 in England and Wales.
This is especially galling since Scotland possesses a quarter of Europe’s wind resources and 60% of the UK’s offshore wind capacity.
And Mr. Wilson has nothing to say about Starmer’s reneging on Labour’s pledge to renationalise the Big Six energy companies, despite last autumn’s overwhelming party conference vote to take energy back into public ownership and Sir Keir’s own leadership campaign promises to do the same.
It’s clear that Labour would rather pacify private energy companies and their shareholders rather than ease the misery of millions facing ruinous energy bills.
So long as Scotland remains a UK region, its vast renewable resources won’t be harnessed for Scotland’s benefit but, like our oil and gas, will be sold off to private companies with the proceeds squandered on tax cuts for the wealthy and UK debt servicing.
For Scotland to have a state-owned energy company, as Brian Wilson says he wants, it must first become a state. The investment needed over several years isn’t possible with the limited borrowing and capital investment powers of a devolved region of the UK. Wilson should know that, which exposes the incoherence and or dishonesty of Labour’s opposition to Scottish independence.
Restoring Scottish sovereignty is the only way out of this quagmire.