Brexit is undermining efforts to switch to renewable energy in the fight against climate change, a senior SNP government minister warned.
Michael Matheson claimed getting access to the labour needed for Scotland to transition to green energy after Brexit is “increasingly challenging” and “stands out in flashing red lights”.
He made the comments to MSPs at Holyrood where he also warned a huge change in people’s behaviour was needed if Scotland is to meet its “net zero” climate targets.
Mr Matheson said: “In the renewables sector, access to labour is becoming increasingly challenging, principally because we are no longer members of the European Union.
“Potentially that can act as a constraint in the scale and pace of the transition that is necessary.
“If there is one area that stands out in flashing red lights it is access to labour over the next couple of years.
If there is one area that stands out in flashing red lights it is access to labour over the next couple of years.
– Michael Matheson
“It is concerning me it could constrain our ability to drive forward this agenda at the pace that we need.”
‘Impressed’ with commitment
Mr Matheson, responsible for energy and transport, said the issue was raised with him by people in energy industry “on a regular basis”.
He added: “The government can do something about skills, and we are working with oil and gas and renewables through the ‘green skills academy’.
“Oil and gas needs to sustain their own skills going forward because not everyone can flip over to renewables, but we need to make sure we help those who want to transition to renewables to get the support that is necessary.”
£500m for the north-east
“There is a clear commitment to the investment we will make to the energy transition in the north east of Scotland and are working with the sector to support that transition.”
He added £500 million will be spent in the north-east and Moray to support the transition to net zero over the next 10 years.
However, the cabinet secretary also said he was “impressed” with how committed the oil and gas industry is to transitioning to renewables and low carbon alternatives.
He added: “Optimistically I am struck over the course of the last few months in the scale of ambition within the private sector to take on the challenge of net zero.
“In oil and gas the opportunities that can come from the renewables and low carbon sectors is something I am impressed with.
“The commitment and the level of investment companies are prepared to make for that transition going forward, I am impressed with.
“Pessimistically the most challenging thing will be 60% of our measures needed to achieve our net zero ambition involve a behavioural change, and we know that trying to change people’s behaviour can be challenging.
“We need to be open and honest about what behaviour change will look like and we need to reach a consensus on the support for achieving those targets.”