D-day looms for current affairs

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Last week, The Scotsman and, to a lesser degree, the rest of our national media carefully reported the goings on at the SNP’s spring get-together up there in Aberdeen.

Unsurprisingly, there were few, if any, pictures of the upper echelons of the SNP taking bracing walks along the sea front – but that’s the Aberdeen climate for you.

The speeches seemed to go on a bit and were careful to avoid much mention of the great mainstay of the SNP administration policy book – renewable sources of energy. I wonder why?

McPuddock and his people have gone big on renewable energy, with an emphasis on wind power to an extent that it is possible to claim they have rather nailed their colours to the mast of a wind generator, which is now losing them a lot of friends.

At this point I should ‘fess up and restate that I really like wind generators, as any form of windmill immediately takes me back to my younger days (oh dear, he’s off again about when he was a kid!). I’ll move on and tell you there is no other real reason for liking them other than they will help to keep the lights on a few years from now.

Make no doubt about it – the day when the UK energy need is greater than the supply is there on the horizon and, so far, measures to prepare for the big switch- off are pathetic. Too much squabbling and posturing, not enough planning and, as for some action, just forget it.

So, setting aside my liking for windmills, I can understand the reasons why so many other folk do not.

They intrude on the visual effect of the Scottish landscape and, thanks to the influences of money-hungry investors keen to get their trotters into the troughs filled with taxpayers’ money subsidies and huge rental handouts, the location of wind farms is now a free-for-all. All the previous planning restrictions on their effect on the Scottish landscape are more or less out of the window, unless a big protest is made.

We all know there is, however, more to renewables than wind power – but harvesting electricity from the sea is still in its infancy, with little or no power currently (oh!) fed into the national grid, unless some bright spark can put me right on that idea. Getting power from the sea is worthy of progression, but like so many British inventions, the research and development needed to get it all on stream appears under funded and not the favoured child of energy policy.

Obviously, even though my more-informed pals tell me bright sunlight is not an essential factor in solar power generation, I can assure you the photovoltaic panel that adorned the roof of my late and sorely-missed campervan would sulk on cloudy days, giving only a third of the output seen on sunny days.

Now, here’s the big number for the day. The latest energy kid on the block is fracking.

For those just back from Mars, fracking is the process of boring a very deep hole in the ground at a carefully-selected location until layers of gas/oil-bearing shale are found. The drill then goes sideways and after sufficient penetration is gained, fluid is pumped in at high pressure to fracture the shale, releasing the magic substances, of which we are told there are almost incalculable quantities.

Thanks to a wide variety of hairy-scary stories, the anti-everything mob vigorously opposes fracking. It’s not hard to figure out why the politicians are handling this one with asbestos gloves – they have discovered that their windmill plans have not inspired the high levels of public approval they had hoped for, so they tread carefully.

As a nation we can squabble and fight for as long as we like about the environmental, social and financial issues associated with the supply of renewable energy – but sooner or later, whatever passes for government in the UK, or what is left of it, will have to make some hard decisions, or we will be in deep trouble.

The world demands it and we will have to conform, unless someone comes up with a credible formula to regulate our output of greenhouse gases. The whole planet must sign up for fossil-fuel regulation. If we fail to do so, any measures taken by the responsible nations will be a complete waste of time and money.

It is a time for governments to get down to some hard graft on our behalf – but I’m not holding my breath on that one.

This all sounds very negative – in part it is just that – but to complete the picture as far as is possible in this short space, there is an element so far unexamined.

If we could only get a more representative indication of public opinion in this country we could see a big change in public practice.

At any election (or referendum) the voter turnout is lamentably poor. The selection of our councillors and other politicians is fast falling to the faithful of political parties or the cult of personalities – the latter a very fickle grouping. When did you last hear anyone claim to have voted for Tony Blair?

As far as the imminent referendum is concerned, the facts suggest that a Yes vote for independence will also be a Yes vote for more windmills, no matter what the spinners claim – and that will leave many with their own big decision to make.

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