Study says green sector costs more jobs than it creates
Government support for the renewable sector in Scotland is costing more jobs than it creates, a report has claimed.
A study by consultants Verso Economics found there was a negative impact from the policy to promote the industry.
It said 3.7 jobs were lost for every one created in the UK as a whole and that political leaders needed to engage in "honest debate" about the issue.
The Scottish government called the study "misleading" and said 60,000 jobs could be created by the sector by 2020.
The report, called Worth the Candle? The economic impact of renewable energy policy in Scotland and the UK, said the industry in Scotland benefited from an annual transfer of about £330m from taxpayers and consumers elsewhere in the UK.
It said politicians needed to recognise the economic and environmental costs of support for the sector and focus more on the scientific and technical issues that arose.
Richard Marsh, research director of Verso Economics and co-author of the report, said: "There's a big emphasis in Scotland on the economic opportunity of investing in renewable energy.
"Whatever the environmental merits, we have shown that the case for green jobs just doesn't stack up."
Co-author Tom Miers added: "The Scottish renewables sector is very reliant on subsidies from the rest of the UK.
"Without this UK-wide framework, it would be very difficult to sustain the main policy tools used to promote this industry."
A spokesman for the Scottish government said other studies had shown Scotland's natural resources and low carbon opportunities could bring "significant" economic benefits.
He said: "This report is misleading.
"Investment in energy by the private sector, which is ultimately paid for by consumers, has absolutely no impact on public services or public sector budgets - in fact, it is likely that investment leads to increased tax revenue.
"We are in no doubt about the positive impact that investment in low carbon technologies can have and nor are major international companies like Mitsubishi that are investing £100m in offshore wind in Scotland or domestic companies like Scottish and Southern Energy who are investing £100m in sustainable energy in Glasgow."
He denied the suggestion that UK consumers subsidised Scotland.
He added: "Our abundant renewable resources assist all UK suppliers with their obligation to source a percentage of their sales from renewable generation - without this, the costs to deliver renewable ambitions and obligations across the UK and Europe would be significantly higher."
Niall Stuart of Scottish Renewables, which represents the industry in Scotland, also criticised the report.
He said: "It is meaningless to look at renewable energy in isolation without looking at the complex interplay within the energy sector.
"The report completely overlooks the economic impact of climate change, the fact that wind and nuclear have almost identical costs and the ongoing spike in oil and gas prices as a result of the unrest in North Africa, all of which undermines the authors' conclusions."