Scottish National party members backed a call for a state-run energy company to be set up on the second day of their autumn conference, four years after leader Nicola Sturgeon first pledged one. The move will be seen as a direct rebuke to the leadership’s failure to make good on the promise.
On Saturday activists overwhelmingly supported a motion demanding the creation of a Scottish national energy company, which first minister Nicola Sturgeon first promised in October 2017 at a previous conference.
It emerged recently that ministers had shelved the plan, with efforts re-focused on a new national public energy agency.
Sturgeon told 2017 conference delegates that a “publicly owned, not-for-profit energy company” with charges “as close to cost price as possible” would be set up by 2021.
The Scottish government has since said that work on the plan was halted by the pandemic and altered because of changes in the energy market.
The motion, passed by SNP members by 527 votes to six, stated a new national energy company could set “the standard for Scottish clean power production that prioritises made-in-Scotland electricity”.
Former SNP MSP Rob Gibson told the conference: “A Scottish national energy company could guide us to a fully clean powered future.”
He added: “Why have electric cars if they are really powered by nuclear or gas-burned electric, they have got to be powered by clean electricity. A revived public spirit will create a Scottish national energy company, that is our aim.”
Responding to the vote, the Scottish Conservatives energy spokesman, Liam Kerr, said: “The SNP spent half a million pounds on a much-fanfared public energy company. Like so many of their pledges over the years, it was all headlines and no substance.”
He suggested that the motion reflected the party’s recent power-sharing agreement with the Scottish Greens: “Shelving the company has plainly tarnished the newly minted partnership with the Greens. Perhaps the move towards renewables wasn’t as important to them as getting into government.”
Tomorrow delegates will debate a motion calling for a referendum bill to be brought forward at the “earliest moment” after the current public health crisis has ended.
On Friday, Sturgeon insisted that holding a second independence referendum in the next two years is a realistic timetable. She announced in her programme for government earlier this week that civil servants were resuming work on its plans to hold the vote by the end of 2023.