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20 January 2015

New Energy, New Opportunities for Scotland

2015 has blown in a massive boost for wind and solar power with new statistics revealing that last year was huge for the renewable energy industry in Scotland.

Figures have been published by Weather Energy with analysis by WWF Scotland showing that wind turbines provided enough energy to supply the electrical needs of 98 per cent of Scottish households – the equivalent of 2.36 million homes.

The data also highlights that December was a record breaking month for the industry as wind turbines generated enough power to supply over 100 per cent of Scottish households on 25 out of the 31 days in the month.

The findings are very encouraging for the future and well worth consideration as our country looks at all the options available for best harvesting our energy in the future.

The Scottish Government is committed to investing in renewables and it is fantastic to see that this is making such a difference. Not only will this bolster our energy supply for future generations, but this will also help keep energy bills down – a welcome result for everyone at this time of year.

We hope that as this industry develops over time, buoyed and spurred on by statistics like these, more jobs and investment will be created and our carbon emissions will be significantly reduced.

However, good results are never an excuse to be complacent. Ideally the full powers of energy policy would be transferred to Scotland from Westminster, and the SNP will continue to fight for this so that the energy industry in our country meets our needs in the best possible way.

Breaking the renewable figures down even further with the help of WWF, the maximum output of wind turbines was on December 10, when generation was an estimated 65,970MWh – enough to supply 6.34 million homes for the whole day – which is the equivalent of 262 per cent of all Scottish households.

Wind generated enough power to supply over 100 per cent of Scottish households during six out of the 12 months – January, February, March, October, November, and December.

In 2014 as a whole, on average, wind power generated enough to supply the electrical needs of 98 per cent of Scottish households, with six months where the amount was greater than 100 per cent. And, in the tens of thousands of Scottish households that have installed solar panels, this met two-thirds or more of their electricity or hot water needs from the sun during several months of the year, helping those homes reduce their reliance on coal, gas, or oil.

Without wanting to overdose on figures, it’s vital to note that these results signal that millions of tonnes of climate-wreaking carbon emissions were avoided over the course of 2014. It is so important that Scotland continues to steam ahead this year with plans to create even greater amounts of clean energy.

Scotland is leading the way on wind power within the UK and in Europe, and is generating excellent results on sun-loving renewables also. The data has shown that there is plenty of sunshine to meet a large proportion of an average family’s electricity needs for most months of the year.

2015 looks set to be a year when Scotland will once again punch above its weight – let’s do everything we can to get results that will make every new year one that is marked by cleaner energy, and better for the people of Scotland.

6 January 2015

Year of Food & Drink Scotland 2015

2014 has been a fantastic year for Scotland and the benefits are being witnessed by our tourism industry.

Not only did the Commonwealth Games, the year of Homecoming and the Ryder Cup provide a spectacle on the international stage, it also brought billions of pounds of revenue in for the Scottish economy, and as a consequence – the North East.

The latest figures show that tourism spending increased sharply between July 2013 and June 2014 – with the Commonwealth Games providing a massive boost over the summer. The increase amounts to £4.6bn, equating to six per cent, and tourism from the Commonwealth Games was worth £282m.

The 2014 Games are considered to be the most successful ever, and the exposure that Scotland received as a tourist destination cannot be underestimated, and hopefully be felt for many years to come.

The Commonwealth Games Visitor Impact Study’s interim report states that day visitors to the Games spent a total of £66 million, and overnight visitors parted with a total of £216 million.

The economic impact of the 2014 Ryder Cup at Gleneagles is currently being evaluated post-event by independent researchers at the Sport Industry Research Centre’s at Sheffield Hallam University. The economic impact study will estimate the event’s overall economic impact and capture the impacts on tourism, among other things, on what is considered to be the “home of golf”.

While the tourism of our small country punches well above its weight, even more jobs could be created and the economy boosted even further with the right kind of support. One way of doing this would be to have the power to set the rate of Air Passenger Duty devolved to Scotland as a matter of urgency. As this is one of the proposals set out by the Smith Commission it is hoped that this will now be granted sooner rather than later.

In 2013, visitor expenditure was around £9 billion – made up of overnight visitors of £4.6 billion and by day visitors of £4.6 billion – and is of vital importance to the Scottish economy.

The Year of Homecoming 2014 highlighted Scotland’s greatest assets and built on Homecoming 2009 which delivered more than £53.7m to the economy, and it is still to be assessed how much of an impact this latest tourism drive has had.

Next year Scotland celebrates the Year of Food and Drink 2015. Celebrating the produce of the country is something that we can all appreciate and enjoy from top class seafood from the North East such as Cullen Skink, and Aberdeen Angus beef to Stornoway Black Pudding and Arbroath Smokies - an unparalleled availability of top quality seafood, and meat, as well as high quality fresh fruit and vegetables. If the world outside Scotland doesn’t know about the fantastic mouth-watering dishes that are distinctive to this country, it is hoped they will find out as part of next year’s celebrations and organised events.

Spending by tourists in Scotland generates £10 billion of economic activity in the Scottish supply chain and contributes £5 billion to Scottish GDP, representing just under five per cent of total Scottish GDP.

This financial boost equates to jobs also. Employment in the tourism-related industries sector (as measured by the Scottish Government’s Tourism Growth Sector) in Scotland was 211,200 in 2013 – which amounted to around 8.5 per cent of employment in Scotland.

Scotland offers a world-class tourism experience and this is now being recognised around the world to the benefit of those at home and abroad.

Stewart Stevenson
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