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Scottish Parliament Speech: Low-carbon Economy (September 2010)

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It is certainly the case that we need to look at what is going on in Europe and, in particular, our partners in these industries. Voith, for example, is very keen to establish here because of the quality of our research in this area. We can bridge the gap with Open University-style tuition - indeed, we are in advance in those areas of technology - and overcome Thatcher's economic use of the oil boom.

In a book that I wrote 17 years ago called "Fool's Gold" - unfortunately, another book with the same title has been published since then, which shows that we have not learned very much in the interim - I quote Sir Alastair Morton, the former head of the British National Oil Corporation and a Labour appointee, but certainly no socialist, who, when asked what Mrs Thatcher had done with North Sea oil, memorably responded: "She blew it on the dole".

We can do this only with European partners, who, it has to be said, are much more reliable than a London coalition whose dramas already make "Fear and Loathing in the Labour Party" look like the proverbial vicarage tea party.

What of markets, then? They are predominantly in Europe, not in the backward-looking nuclear-oriented UK. The ministers mention tide, current and the great swells of the Atlantic but all that has to be backed up with efficient infrastructure not a railway system that seems to break down every weekend; a Zeebrugge ferry route that, alas, is closing down in December; or a road-based freight system that - God knows how - has to face peak oil in possibly less than 10 years.

Voith, Europe's largest turbine producer, is fascinated by the fact that many Scottish lochs and hydro stations can be used as pump storage schemes; in other words, they could be turned into a sort of huge battery that would regularise wind and wave power.

 
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