Highlands and Islands Scottish Conservative MSP Donald Cameron has urged the Scottish Government to strenuously back calls for the interconnector for the Western Isles to have enough capacity to benefit local community groups.
During questions in the Scottish Parliament yesterday (Thursday 2nd May), he asked the Minister for Energy, Connectivity and the Islands, Paul Wheelhouse, to call on OFGEM to strongly reconsider the case for a 600mw interconnector.
Speaking outside the chamber later, Mr Cameron said: “400Mw of the capacity available is already committed, so it does not seem to be much of a risk to OFGEM to put in 600Mw of capacity.
“I am very confident that communities in the Western Isles will seize the opportunity to bring forward renewable energy projects if they know the capacity will be available.
“I should say that given the cross-party support for this, it was rather a shame that the SNP’s Alasdair Allan chose to intervene after my constructive exchange with Paul Wheelhouse, to attack the UK Government on this matter.
“Even the SNP benches seemed a bit embarrassed by this.
“As it happens there was a commitment to supporting remote island wind in the UK Conservative 2017 manifesto, so my own party's support for wind development in the Western Isles has never been in question.
“We all wish to see progress and that can best be achieved by uniting on behalf of our communities rather than by politicising the issue.”
Earlier in the week, Mr Cameron said news that the new CalMac ferry which is required for the Skye to Western Isles service is to be further delayed was “simply unacceptable.”
The boat, one of two delayed (the other is planned to serve Arran), was already running late by 13 months, before Minister Paul Wheelhouse, revealed the latest bad news in a letter to the Convener of the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee.
Mr Cameron said: “There will be widespread dismay and anger in the Western Isles that this ferry contract is in so much trouble.
“Ministers in Holyrood must understand that a reliable service is absolutely fundamental to the economic wellbeing of our island communities.
“With many CalMac vessels beyond their 25-year life expectancy, the operator does not have any back-up ferries, meaning that if a ferry needs emergency repairs, which is increasingly likely as the fleet ages, we could see significant disruption.
“Nicola Sturgeon’s government needs to get its eye on the ball, and start prioritising the things which really matter to people in our rural communities, instead of devoting its energies on unwanted independence referendums.
“This latest news is simply unacceptable.”