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Green shoots for SMEs: Scottish businesses key to boosting renewable energy projects

3 min read

25 August 2015

It is not just Labour leadership candidate Jeremy Corbyn who is reviving the language of the left and raising the banner of nationalisation this summer. The Scottish Green Party has that Scottish SMEs can play a pivotal role in boosting renewable energy projects if the oil industry is wrenched from private control.

The announcement came as part of a report into the oil and gas sector in Scotland, which calls for nationalisation to break the nation’s dependence on “distant multinationals and neoliberal forces” and cut down on drilling.

Written by oil industry critic Mike Minio-Paluello, the report said an economy focused on green energy could create thousands more jobs than the current oil and gas industry. It called for a change in UK economic policy away from tax cuts for foreign oil companies in the North Sea to boost production and towards empowering local communities to create an economy-based on “publicly-owned renewable energy”.

Despite this public control, Minio-Paluello claimed there would be a major role to be played by Scottish SMEs. He said: “The transformation we are proposing involves reducing dependency on distant multinationals and centring the public sector, workers and energy users cooperatives as well as small and medium Scottish companies.”

Proposed new jobs in this new sustainable economy would include electrical engineers, geologists, biochemists, foresters, pipefitters, bus drivers, organic waste collectors, crane operators, welders, helicopter pilots, designers, manufacturing engineers, construction workers, environmental impact assessors, surveyors, engineering analysis, offshore maintenance, seafarers and shipbuilders.

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“The North Sea oil industry says jobs are threatened by falling oil prices, but a better future for Scotland is possible,” the report said. “More and better jobs. A safer and more stable economy. Stronger communities. A long-term future as an energy exporter. Moving from energy colonialism to energy democracy. 

“This better future won’t come with tax cuts for oil corporations and trying to extract every last barrel. It means changing directions towards a rapid transition away from fossil fuels. Sustainable sectors in the new economy can employ significantly more people than currently work in fossil fuel industries.”

The report suggested it could employ 200,000 people by 2020 in contrast to the 156,000 currently employed in fossil fuel extraction.

“The alternative is allowing multinational companies and neoliberal forces to shape the transition,” Minio-Paluello added. “This means failing to hit the necessary climate targets and increasingly precarious workplaces.”

WWF Scotland director Lang Banks said: “As the report makes clear, Scotland will continue to be reliant on fossil fuels for many more years to come. However, the climate change science is also very clear that we urgently need to be weaning ourselves off those fossil fuels. We need to see a just transition that harnesses the people and skills currently employed in fossil fuel industries and create new opportunities in less-polluting alternatives.”