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Rishi Sunak is due to visit North East Scotland on Monday, with reports suggesting that he will be announcing funding for the Acorn carbon capture project, based at St Fergus near Peterhead.
If the announcement is made, it will come after “decades” of campaigning on the issue from the SNP. Even earlier this month, First Minister Humza Yousaf visited the area and called on the UK Government to end its “dithering and delay” and approve the Acorn project.
In March, former first minister Nicola Sturgeon said she had been given assurances by Sunak that an announcement on the project would come in the Spring Budget – but it did not.
Amid reports that the Tories could finally be on the cusp of funding the project – after snubbing it in 2021 – SNP Westminster leader Stephen Flynn urged caution.
“Any investment is of course welcome,” he said. “However, the UK Government has taken Scotland down this path before – and failed to deliver every single time, leaving Scotland’s green energy future in jeopardy. This cannot happen again.
Flynn went on: “There can be no more broken promises or delays. Now is the time to strike on Scotland’s green energy potential.
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“Having raked in more than £400 billion from Scotland’s natural resources, it’s high-time the Tories gave back as it is becoming abundantly clear that our energy rich country is being failed by Westminster governments far removed from the needs of the Scottish people.
“With the full powers of independence, Scotland could finally chart its own path and take full advantage of our ambitious, green future. We have the energy – we just need the power.”
The Scottish Greens, the SNP’s partners in government at Holyrood, also welcomed the expected announcement with caution, saying it should not be seen as a substitute for investing in renewable jobs.
The Acorn carbon capture project will see emissions from businesses in the North East and Central Belt pumped offshore and stored 1.5 miles below the sea.
Friends of the Earth Scotland have previously warned that the such “so-called negative emissions technologies are a dangerous distraction from the urgent and necessary working of cutting emissions at source”.
The group also questioned why, with firms like Shell and Harbour Energy – who have stakes in the scheme – making billions in profit, Acorn has to be reliant on public money.
Speaking on Sunday, Green MSP Mark Ruskell said: “There may well be a role for carbon capture and storage in the future, particularly when it comes to decarbonising industrial sites such as Grangemouth and Mossmorran which will be challenging.
“However, it is no substitute for investing in renewable jobs and industries and energy efficiency. It must not be used as a justification for more North Sea drilling, which will have a devastating impact on our environment and take us even closer to climate breakdown.
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“We cannot wholly rely on a delayed and still largely unproven technology to meet climate targets. So far CCS [carbon capture and storage] has overpromised and underperformed.
“Carbon capture technology can’t deal with emissions from vehicle engines or gas boilers, and it must not be used as an excuse to approve Rosebank or any other new oil and gas field which we cannot afford to burn.
“We don’t have time to wait. Irrespective of what is announced, it must not divert our attention from the urgent and immediate need to invest in cost effective renewable energy solutions.”
Sunak is expected to announce the funding on Monday, with the Tories privately hoping it will prove a “game-changer” for their electoral fortunes north of the Border.
A UK Government decision is also expected soon on whether to approve the development of Rosebank, 80 miles north-west of Shetland, which is believed to be the UK’s largest undeveloped oil and gas field.