Utilities and the Referendum

What is probably the longest campaign in political history comes to a conclusion today. We haven’t declared for either side, primarily because we split fairly evenly on the issue and our Editor isn’t saying.

That doesn’t mean we haven’t got a view on the issues. Oil, or rather the amount and value of it has been a central feature of the campaign. Sadly, the utility issues that we focus on haven’t had the same prominence. Water didn’t even get a mention in the White Paper and we had to tease a response out of the Scottish Government. Energy markets are a complex issue and not well understood by the media and the public at large.

Some of the contributions have been very poor indeed, if not downright misleading. One example was a piece on the BBC last week, when a Green MSP said vote Yes to stop us subsidising English nuclear. In the very next segment, the First Minister said if we vote Yes we will remain in the UK energy market. This of course means we will continue to subsidise English nuclear, just as the English consumer will subsidise Scottish renewables. A lot of our colleagues expressed their irritation with this nonsense, but the journalist who put the piece together clearly didn’t understand the contradiction.

While even those of us who are voting Yes would admit the energy case is weak, some of the UK analysis has also been poor. The UK government paper ignored their failure to properly address the capacity margins across the UK. Energy Market Reform has been badly planned and the Treasury interference in energy policy has been a malign influence on the development of a credible policy. Even those of us voting No, accept that the UK Government’s green credentials are in shatters and we all feel strongly that climate change, as the greatest threat to the planet, is being downgraded by Westminster.

In conclusion, we doubt if anyone was swayed one way or the other on utilities issues. While disappointed, we are not surprised. One of the reasons we established this site was to address the paucity of analysis in our sector. We hope our contribution to the debate was helpful.

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