Stormy weather, heavy swell, that's the norm off the coast of the Scottish region of Angus.

And it is the prerequisite for one of the major investments in the country.

Seagreen, the largest wind farm in Scotland, is currently being built on the high seas, more than 27 kilometers east of the mainland.

The operators, the energy companies SSE and Total, will be installing 114 turbines from the second half of the year.

The plant promises clean electricity for 1.6 million households when it goes into operation a year later, and the avoidance of more than two million tons of carbon dioxide.

This is by no means the only wind project in the country.

A project of a similar size, with a capacity of around 1000 megawatts, is under construction off the coast of Moray near Inverness.

Source: WORLD infographic


With Berwick Bank and Marr Bank, SSE is preparing two further wind farms in the Firth of Forth, just south of Seagreen.

And so it goes on: a total of offshore plants for a further 4.4 gigawatts are being planned in Scottish waters, additional projects are in preparation.

Scotland's politicians love to rave about “Saudi Arabia for renewables”.

The conditions are perfect.

The country in the north of the United Kingdom is considered to be one of the windiest regions in Europe.

Thousands of kilometers of coastline on the mainland and offshore islands offer plenty of space for offshore systems.

Scotland narrowly missed its goal of generating all of the electricity it needs in its own country from renewable sources in 2020.

In the end, it was 97.4 percent.

When the stipulation was adopted in 2011, it was 37 percent.

Oil and gas: ten percent of Scottish value added


Despite the ambitious target, oil and gas still played the main role in Scotland's economy at the time.

Since the first barrels from North Sea deposits were landed in the port of Aberdeen almost 50 years ago, they have brought Scotland considerable prosperity.

With all the political focus on renewables, the days of oil are not over yet.

Around ten percent of Scottish gross domestic product is accounted for by oil and gas exploration and related services.

But the industry itself is not looking to the future with confidence.

The deposits are becoming scarcer and more difficult to reach, and mining is correspondingly more expensive.

Funding reached its peak 20 years ago.

In addition, the demand becomes uncertain.

Source: WORLD infographic


But for the region with its 5.5 million inhabitants, the planned shift from fossil fuel to sustainable energy is about much more than classic structural change. "Scotland's competitive advantage in green energy should be an important aspect of the economic rationale for independence when there is a second referendum," argues Kenny Crossan, lecturer in economics at Napier University in Edinburgh. Wind farms like Seagreen weigh heavily on the ever-simmering question of whether Scotland can make it as an economy on its own.

The referendum seven years ago, which the supporters of staying in the UK won with 55 percent, clarified the question for at least a generation, argues Prime Minister Boris Johnson time and again.

Since the majority of the Scots voted against Brexit, the situation has now fundamentally changed, is the counter-argument by Nicola Sturgeon, head of the Scottish regional government.

Preparatory work for possible independence from London

Accordingly, independence was discussed prominently in the run-up to the Scottish regional parliament elections on Thursday.

The result of the vote should be known on Saturday.

Should their Scottish National Party (SNP) achieve a clear victory as expected, Sturgeon has promised another vote on a national solo effort for the first half of the legislative period.

So far there has been no official program for the economic consequences of going it alone.

"When we present the Scottish people with a decision on independence, we will produce a paper and do the analysis," Sturgeon said in a recent interview.

For the basic orientation, she referred to the report of the Commission on Sustainable Growth, which it presented in 2018.

"The numbers are of course totally out of date," she admitted with a view to the pandemic.

This would of course be revised before a vote.

Andrew Wilson, former SNP politician and chairman of the growth commission, has long seen the great emphasis placed on oil and gas in 2014 as a mistake.

The time had already run out.

Instead, the Commission set six priorities in 2018: Food and beverages play an important role here; after all, Scottish whiskey and seafood are real export hits.

There are also creative and digital professions, sustainable tourism, energy, finance and life sciences.


"Much too long," says Tim Lyne from the analysis company Oxford Economics, which, on behalf of a Scottish foundation, has presented a study on how Scottish economic growth can be increased.

"A strategy aimed at radical change needs to be more focused."

CO2 emissions should be reduced to zero by 2045

Lyne and his co-author Richard Holt see the fight against climate change as a suitable candidate.

With the importance of renewable energy for the region, the COP26 climate summit in Glasgow in November and the government's ambitious goal of reducing carbon dioxide emissions to zero net by 2045, this is a convincing approach.

A radical change in the Scottish economy seems essential to stand on your own two feet.

The gross domestic product per inhabitant was eight percent below the total for the United Kingdom in 2019.

After all, if the economic and financial center of London is excluded, the Scots are four percent better than the rest of the country.

A comparison with economies of similar size is even more revealing.

Norway is an example, also shaped by an important energy industry in transition.

Even the pretty rough weather fits.

But Scotland only manages two thirds of Norway's per capita income.

Lyne and Holt make it clear what this means with a comparison: "Scotland would need a company that is comparable to the entire global performance of Google in order to raise its per capita income to the level of Norway."

Strengthening the climate-friendly economy alone will not be enough to close this gap.

The fiscal framework, regulation, infrastructure and education must also support the change.

Scotland: Self-employment is expensive

Scotland will not become Singapore on the North Sea beach, the economists conclude that the gap to the Southeast Asian city-state is too big.

But in order to catch up with Norway or Denmark by 2035, also a country with a strong focus on green energy, an annual productivity growth of 3.5 percent would be necessary according to the analysts' calculations.

“That is very demanding, but not impossible for a developed economy,” say the analysts.

And underline once again that an ambitious political strategy is required for this.


When it comes to Scotland in its own right, there is another factor to consider when considering the growth spurt and strategy discussed, warned Thomas Sampson, Professor of Economics at the London School of Economics.

"One of the things voters need to keep in mind when considering an independence referendum is the future impact of the border (with England ed.)," He told Channel 4.

Source: WORLD infographic

Infrastructure, the possibility for controls, customs and goods checks would all be necessary.

That will be expensive, according to Sampson's calculations, because the costs of foreign trade inevitably rise, in an optimistic scenario by 15 percent, in the worst case by double.

"My research shows that independence for the Scottish economy is likely to be two to three times as expensive as Brexit." Per capita income would accordingly shrink by six to nine percent.

He did not expect any fundamental difference in costs from a return to the European Union, as favored by the SNP.

The border to England would then have to be controlled as the EU's external border, making contact with the continent easier.

Today, however, Scotland does around four times as much trade with the southern part of the British Isles than with the EU.

In the medium to long term, however, a shift in trade flows could well result in benefits for the Scottish economy, Sampson admitted.

It is clear to Sturgeon that these potential additional benefits to the Scottish economy are well worth investigating.

The growth commission commissioned by it had finally introduced its report three years ago with a quote from the Scottish mountaineer and writer William Hutchison Murray: "In boldness there is genius, power and magic."

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