Reid Foundation makes the case for public ownership in Scotland’s energy future

The case for public ownership in the Scottish energy industry is persuasively set out in the latest Reid Foundation publication, ‘Repossessing the Future’.

They argue that existing UK energy policy is failing and Scotland, under independence or greater devolution, needs a much greater level of state intervention and public participation.

I covered similar ground in the energy chapter of the ‘Red Paper on Scotland 2014’ and at last weekend’s Morning Star conference on public ownership.

They rightly point to the issue of ownership, something that has been given too little attention in the referendum debate. The UK and Scottish government’s appear relaxed about our renewable developments being dominated by overseas owners and large companies. While fuel poverty is rising, large landowners are some of the largest gainers from the subsidy regime.

The report points to the Nordic social model of energy production “to emphasise the importance of policies framed around the common good and benefiting the ‘whole of society’ as opposed to private appropriation”. These models engage local authorities and communities in energy generation, not just big business. However, a key element is control of the grid and the report makes the case for renationalisation.

Finally, the report develops an alternative set of proposals for Scotland’s energy resources that prioritises long-term objectives and the common good (e.g. social justice over private profit). They suggest the following key principles:

resources should be commonly owned to benefit the whole of society rather than vested interests;
resources should be geared to social need rather than private economic return;
respecting the rights of future generations and the planet, resources should be used sustainably and geared towards tackling climate change and developing a post-carbon economy;
Scotland’s energy system should be planned by public bodies to achieve security of supply as a priority policy concern;
public policy should be informed by collective decision-making and public deliberation (rather than faux consultation).

While UNISON Scotland might disagree with aspects of the proposed energy policy, that is more about what you do with a new approach. The focus in this report is rightly on the importance of structures and they should put new forms of public ownership at the heart of Scotland’s energy future.

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