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FERGUS EWING: Scotland must be able to provide food and energy

By Fergus Ewing

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Do oil and gas exploration need to remain part of Scotland's energy strategy for decades to come? .
Do oil and gas exploration need to remain part of Scotland's energy strategy for decades to come? .

Arthur Balfour, the last grandee to be Prime Minister in the UK, once said of what matters in politics: “Most things do not matter at all, only a very few matter much.”

The conflict in Gaza reminds us of what is really important – witnessing the loss of life – and then comparing the fate of people there with our own diurnal concerns, which may seem trifling by comparison.

It was the famous “Balfour Letter” of 1917 in which he, as Foreign Secretary, then proposed the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish People” but added that nothing must be done which would prejudice the “civil and religious rights of the existing non-Jewish communities in Palestine”.

This week I was reminded of two things I believe “ do matter much.” One was a meeting I had in Strathspey with local farmers who expressed their concern that we do not place enough value on providing our own food in this country. The forthcoming new farming support system must recognise that as centrepiece.

Second, a poll showed a clear majority support the development of the Rosebank Oil field – over half with only a fifth opposed and many don’t yet knows.

My view is that self-sufficiency in food and energy in an uncertain world, where wars are readily begun but not so easily stopped, should be much higher on our list of priorities than it appears.

We will need to produce our own oil and gas till 2050 and are leading the way in decarbonising production, with imports having a much greater carbon footprint. The jobs sustained here will be significant. If no Rosebank we export these jobs to the USA or Middle East. How that does help climate change or anything else?

This week I also visited the Haventus site at Ardersier and was mightily impressed with what they seek to achieve there, and the major commitment of investment in Scotland.

Alongside Global Energy and Port of Cromarty Firth, Haventus will see the Highlands become the renewables capital of the UK, and create the chance for many more of our young people to find work here and no longer have to take the well-trodden path south to make their way in life.

But it will take time – much longer than 2030 – for this potential to be realised and for the supply chain to be built up. Meantime, let us be mindful of the words of Arthur Balfour and his message, and recognise that self-sufficiency does “matter much” and will continue so to do.

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