Following on from my post Why the SNP can no longer count on my vote I’ve been looking at the Manifestos from the main parties. All I got from the MSPs I emailed was auto-reply messages stating Parliament had been dissolved. So in the absence of answers from the MSPs I thought I’d see what the party line is on protection of the Scottish landscape and renewables. In particular, wind.

SNP

SNP set out their stall on page 2, with Alex Salmond pictured gazing majestically off into the distance, with a couple of windmills behind, the word ‘Progress’ in large lettering across the page.

Here’s a few quotes from the ‘Climate Change and Environment’ [p35] page:

‘We will continue efforts to protect Scotland’s natural habitats and native species. And, we will work with communities to explore the creation of new National Parks, and seek views on Scottish participation in the UNESCO Biosphere initiative’

‘We will make use of our natural carbon sinks, including the development of those in the marine environment. We will take action to protect and restore peatlands and will significantly expand our forest estate with the planting of 100 million trees by 2015.’

Quite how they’re reconcile those pledges with those from p34 ‘Low Carbon Ambition and Opportunity’ remains to be seen:

‘When we took office we raised the renewable electricity target for 2020 from 40% to 50%, and have recently raised it further to 80%. However, given the scale of Scotland’s offshore renewable potential we believe our nation can achieve even more and so we propose increasing our 2020 target to 100%.’ -I don’t believe this is achievable or practical.

‘We have also set a target of 2 GW renewable energy production by 2020 from the land managed on behalf of Ministers by Forestry Commission Scotland, including delivery of market-leading community benefits. We also wish to see a rapid expansion of renewable energy production by Scottish Water.’ -So they’ll be damming glens too?

‘We are streamlining the hydro consent process by recently consulting on raising the threshold for consent, which would release further renewable energy capacity by encouraging schemes of over 1 MW.’

The only concession to the unpopularity of onshore wind schemes is:
‘We will work with communities and developers to agree ways of ensuring an enhanced role for local people in agreeing sites for wind turbines when these are to be located within close proximity of the communities themselves.’

Their figure of 130,000 new job from the ‘low-carbon economy’ seems highly unrealistic.

Labour
Anyway, onto the Labour Manifesto. The reckon on 60,000 ‘green jobs’ by 2015. Their target is to ‘aim for at least 80 per cent of our electricity to come from renewables by 2020…To achieve this, we will seek to expedite applications for new renewable energy developments within nine months of them being lodged.’ -I’m not entirely clear what this means. Expedite the application process? or expedite approval of applications?

However, they will ‘explore the possibilities for restoring Scotland’s peat lands and will continue to support new tree planting as part of our climate change strategy, looking particularly at tackling the obstacles to increasing tree and woodland cover.’

Still, I’m entirely unconvinced by their monotone, political non-entity -the aptly-named Iain Gray. He’s like a character from ‘The Thick of It’, a feckless waste of space. I refuse to vote for him, or any party which would elect him leader.

Conservative
That brings us to the Tories. I’ve never voted for this lot – being the grandson of a miner and a steelworker, such a thing would be unthinkable, so I was shocked and appalled to discover something I agree with in their manifesto: ‘To safeguard Scotland’s landscape, we will introduce national strategic planning guidance for onshore wind to prevent inappropriately sited or sized windfarms.’

However, beyond that, there nothing of substance really in there about the environment, a wee bit about carbon capture and reducing consumption.

Liberal Democrats
As for the Liberal Democrats, I saw Tavish Scott with his arm deep inside a sheep on the news yesterday. It’s not clear why.

They reckon ‘estimates suggest that green energy could create up to 30,000 jobs by 2020’ which certainly seems more likely than the SNPs claim. Although they still seem to think Scotland can ‘generate the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s electricity consumption from renewable sources by 2025.’ The use of the word equivalent here is intriguing…

However, it’s heartening to see ‘Scotland’s land and seas are perhaps our most valuable national assets. They are the mainstay of many businesses, they support our communities and they provide some of the world’s most celebrated and important natural environments.’

‘Strengthen the Land Use Strategy with clear objectives and actions to fight climate change and help manage the competing demands on Scotland’s natural environment. This will include action to restore and protect Scotland’s valuable peatlands and woodlands and a sensible siting strategy for new renewable energy developments.’

Current Thoughts

So I’m still none the wiser.

Realistically, the Conservatives stand no chance in Dunfermline. Labour and the Liberal Democrats were neck and neck in 2007, with SNP in third, but could possibly make up that 8%, especially if there is a collapse in support for the Liberals, given their unpopularity following the Westminster coalition.

Liberal Democrat 33.2%
Labour 32.9%
SNP 24.1%
Conservative 8.4%

I’m not voting Labour, based on the intellectual vacuum at the top of the party. I’ve said before I don’t really believe in tactical voting, but given there is so little difference between these manifestos and a lack of specifics about the wind issue, it seems to make more sense. So if I discount the Tories, that leaves either the LibDems or SNP. I suspect the LibDems will take a kicking. On the whole, I’m quite pleased with the SNPs performance over the past few years, they’ve delivered some real benefits to the electorate, I won’t base my decision on a single issue.

I was a bit pissed off they abandoned their proposed write-off of student loan debt. Unlike the other parties, they’re not beholden to the Westminster party offices [despite what they claim]. As a politician, love him or loathe him, Alex Salmond will wipe the floor with the other leaders in any debate, he’s a confident and skilled orator. You can tell he relishes confrontation with his opponents.

Still, I’ve a few weeks to make up my mind. I’m not a party member of any of the political party, I might vote for none of the above. I’ll keep making my donations to John Muir Trust and support their campaign for Protection of Wild Land. Maybe that’s the best way forward.