Cabled Up – 19 May 2022


Scotland’s seen its oil and gas revenues go south and its maritime boundaries changed in England’s favour. Now as the renewable revolution kicks in she’s being ripped off yet again and this time cabled up. For cables are being laid that will take the newfound bounty south and with neither revenue nor work benefitting either the country or communities.

Anyone walking in East Lothian’s beaches may have seen ships out on the Forth, not container vessels heading to Grangemouth but other craft often nearer the shore and checking the sea floor. Indeed, I’ve hosted meetings between fishermen and operators as arguments have ensued. Similar work will be ongoing further north.

For the Eastern High Voltage Direct Current (EVHDC) link’s the rather clunky name for what’s one of, if not the biggest, infrastructure project in the UK. One cable will run from Peterhead to Drax in North Yorkshire and another from Thortonloch, near Torness to Redcar, slightly further up the coast in Northeast England. It’s a big project costing billions and won’t be completed for several years yet.

The sites make sense in many ways as they’re located where existing energy infrastructure lies, as indeed does the logic for the project. Scotland has a surfeit of energy and the Berwick Bank development alone, which will come ashore in East Lothian, will provide sufficient power for every home in Scotland and then some. So, providing the cable south, as opposed to simply adding it to the existing national grid isn’t the problem.

The issue’s simply this, where’s the benefit to Scotland or communities such as East Lothian where it’s coming ashore. Will it pass us by as happened with oil and gas or will the land and people benefit. Oil and gas saw revenues go south and whilst Norway now possesses an oil fund worth billions Scotland can only look and lament. The resource stated at the time of the referendum to be virtually worthless and finished’ s now vital for the UK for decades to come.

This project should see revenue ticking up as energy flows south England or even on through the European network to the continent. Instead, a modest sum will be gained by Crown Estate Scotland for the use of the foreshore. But beyond that as the Gigawatts ratch up it’s going to go the same way as oil and gas.

As for jobs on shore where’s the work. Turbine manufacture is largely going south or abroad and onshore there’s hardly any. The sites being built onshore in East Lothian are mainly being done by contracted labour brought in from the west of Scotland or south of the border. Maybe a security guard or two lives locally and some hotels and guest houses no doubt get added custom. But additional jobs there are none. It’ll be the same in Scotland’s north-east.

At least Shetland managed to negotiate a deal for a modest revenue from Sullom Voe but requests to Treasury to address a legislative gap on offshore wind allowing local community benefit have so far been ignored. It’s perverse that energy rich Scotland is seeing so many Scots fuel poor. But sold out by London and let down by Holyrood, we’re being ripped off and cabled up.