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BLOG: All change for UK Government

Posted on 25/07/2019 by Peter Speirs

The change of UK Government has resulted in dramatic changes to the Cabinet and ministerial roles.

Boris Johnson’s major reshuffle, in which almost every cabinet position was changed, has particular importance for the renewables sector in Scotland. 

Andrea Leadsom, the Energy Minister under David Cameron, has taken over from Greg Clark as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy.

Leadsom was the minister responsible for removing onshore wind from the CfD mechanism in 2015, and had been highly critical of the onshore industry prior to taking up that role.

She has, however, been highly supportive of offshore wind, and has recently called on the government to expand support for renewable energy, as well as saying that if she became Prime Minister she would declare a Climate Emergency and set up a sub-committee of the Cabinet to deliver Net Zero.

But Leadsom is not closed to changing her mind.

She has said that she arrived in the role as Energy Minister doubtful of the truth of climate change, but was rapidly convinced that her doubts were unfounded. The evidence-base for allowing onshore wind and solar PV back in to the CfD mechanism is unimpeachable, as is the extensive polling evidence that new onshore wind farms are popular amongst the general public at large, as well as current/potential Conservative voters.

The objective position should be that a Pot 1 auction is long overdue, and would be a major boost for Scotland’s rural economy. 

Claire Perry has moved from Minister for Energy and Clean Growth to the chair of COP26.

The replacement for her energy brief is Kwasi Kwarteng, known to be on the free-market right of the Conservative party, but with little track record on renewables issues.

We will work hard to ensure that Mr Kwarteng recognises the extensive benefits of a Pot 1 auction, continued support for early-stage technologies, and a continued focus on offshore wind.  

Many of the benefits of UK-level action on renewable energy would be felt in Scotland.

Alister Jack has been appointed Secretary of State for Scotland, replacing David Mundell.

Jack was elected for the first time in 2017. A former Assistant Government Whip and Lord Commissioner of the Treasury, he does not have a track record on renewables, although he has recognised that established technologies like onshore wind and solar PV are “reducing in cost … and may have the capacity to play a significant role in the UK’s generation mix going forward". He represents the Dumfries and Galloway constituency, which forms part of the Borderlands Inclusive Growth Deal, in which his local authority has taken a leading role. The Deal includes an Energy Investment Company which will take a whole-system approach to green energy to support the area’s zero-carbon ambitions. We are highly supportive of this endeavour and hope it can help unlock further investment in renewables in the South of Scotland.

A broader question continues to loom over this new Government, however: how long it will last.

The Prime Minister has committed himself, and required his new appointees to sign a pledge, to ensure that the UK leaves the EU on October 31, deal or no-deal.

There is strong feeling in the House of Commons against a no-deal Brexit, and thus far no emerging consensus on what sort of deal could be supported by Parliament.

The Government is already based on a razor-thin majority of two, and any No Confidence vote held whilst the threat of no-deal remains credible has a reasonable chance of success. Some even suggest that the Government intends on manufacturing a General Election by adopting an aggressive stance with Parliament.

This, combined with the febrile nature of contemporary politics, means that predicting the future is a difficult business.  

What is clear is that, despite the new Prime Minister’s hopes to the contrary, domestic politics will continue to play a secondary role until there is some resolution to the Brexit situation.

The Scottish Government remains implacably opposed to leaving the EU and continues to call for the power to hold an Independence Referendum, meaning that constitutional issues will continue to play a dominant role in Scottish politics for the foreseeable future.  

Scottish Renewables will engage closely with the new Government and look to put the case for renewable energy to each of these new post-holders in the coming weeks. 

We will have a podcast update on recent political changes and look at what may lie ahead for renewables in the coming weeks soon, too, so keep an eye on our news pages or sign up for our blog mailing list to keep informed on new blogs and podcasts (with no spam, ever).

Peter Speirs

Public Affairs Manager