CBI Scotland calls for secure energy supply rethink


Scotland needs a new approach to ensuring a secure energy supply, according to CBI Scotland.

The employers' organisation made that one of its top priorities as it set out radical recommendations for political parties preparing for next year's Holyrood elections.

It also called for the economy to be given top priority.

And it said the Scottish government should set out a growth forecast.

In one of the earliest such manifestos, CBI Scotland said it wants a shrinking of the public sector, with more commissioning of private companies to provide public services.

It said it is no longer sustainable to say compulsory redundancies can be avoided, and that a "robust but flexible approach is required in reducing public sector payroll and pension costs, and absence rates".

CBI Scotland also wants parties to promise that new tax powers would not be used to make business costs higher in Scotland than elsewhere.

There was a stress placed on improving skills in science, technology, engineering and maths, and business bosses want a more ambitious target for exports.

The lobby group argued for selling off Scottish Water, Highlands and Islands Airports, and Forest Enterprise, with competition on ferry routes.

It also argued for a reduction in the number of councils, with some larger councils "embracing metropolitan areas around our main cities".

The manifesto's call for a new energy strategy is to ensure more effective decision-making, more clarity of policy direction and to help commercial users and suppliers of power to plan investment strategies and make business decisions with more confidence.

This would include a new generation of nuclear power as "a fundamental part of the energy mix in Scotland", although that is opposed by the Scottish National Party and Scottish Liberal Democrat MSPs.

CBI Scotland wants the Scottish government to address the problem of variability of supply from wind farms.

"In Scotland, electricity generation will reach a cliff-edge in the next 10 to 20 years, when all major power stations are set to close", said the manifesto.

The organisation supports ministers in arguing for a review to the transmission charging regime, which has higher costs in more remote areas, and is seen as a brake on renewable energy development.

It also said that measures to encourage flexible working could reduce Scotland's use of fuel.

'Economic forecast'

On transport, the CBI wants extensive improvements to Scotland's trunk roads and rail services, as well as a return to funding new air links with export markets.

According to the manifesto: "Leaner times for devolved public finances present opportunities to do things differently, to challenge sacred cows and ingrained habits, to rethink how and when money is spent and to make taxpayers' pounds work harder than ever before".

Linda Urquhart, chairwoman of CBI Scotland, said: "Economic growth has been the stated top priority of the last two devolved Scottish administrations, but their policies have not always aligned with that objective.

"Economic growth should remain the over-riding priority, and to underline its conviction, the next administration should be prepared to publish its own economic forecast for Scotland".

She went on: "It's only right that Scotland should shoulder its fair share of lower public spending. The state occupies too large a proportion of Scotland's economy, so now there is an opportunity to improve the balance of public-private economic activity.

"This must be done by dealing vigorously with public sector costs that add little or no value to our economy, by thinking differently about how services can be delivered, and by using the resulting savings to keep intact and develop the elements of spending that in the longer run will improve the country's competitiveness and help grow our economy".

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