As we all know, currently Scotland is part of the United Kingdom. Responsibility for energy was not a power devolved to the Scottish Government. Under the Scotland Act 1998, the powers in relation to energy were reserved to the UK Parliament. These included matters relating to electricity, coal, oil, gas and nuclear energy and the reserved powers could not be exercised by the Scottish Government. However, successive Scottish Administrations have been able to utilise devolved powers through the exercise of, in particular, the planning, marine, and climate change agendas along with the responsibilities for economic development and regeneration in order to pursue a particular Scottish Energy Policy.
On the face of it, a vote for independence could bring about a significant change in respect of Scotland's Energy Policy, energy clearly would no longer be reserved to the UK Parliament. During the transitional period, during which Scotland moved to full independence, matters reserved to Westminster would shift across to the Scottish Administration. However it is questionable whether or not we would see a wholesale shift in the Scottish Energy Policy. There is no doubt that an Energy Policy will be central to the Scottish Administration but the direction of that Policy has already been set out by successive Scottish Administrations which sees the adoption of aggressive targets in respect of climate change and an increasing dependency upon renewable generation technologies. A stable direction in respect of policy is important to investor confidence. However it is going to be interesting to see whether or not there is going to be a change of tack in respect of nuclear. There appears to be a change in emphasis from Friends of the Earth which whilst maintaining its objection to nuclear power, does not now appear to object in the principle presumably recognising that there could be significant benefits in respect of the climate change, but maintains an objection on the basis of expense and the time during which nuclear power plants can be brought on stream. Currently nuclear power is a major source of electricity generation in Scotland accounting for 34% and is a significant employer. It will be very interesting to see whether the current direction towards no new nuclear power in Scotland and therefore a systematic decommissioning of the existing sites will continue or, the adoption of a different approach.
Even if we are to see a Yes vote, I suspect that as there will be a need to work through an integrated grid system to utilise the inter connectors which link the UK with its neighbours in Europe, Scandinavia and Ireland that Scotland would look to maintain these arrangements with a Scottish regulator operating in the context of a unified GB electricity market.
No doubt this picture will become much clearer following the vote next week.