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An Independent Scotland Would Be a Setback for Tackling Climate Change

17/09/2014 11:14 BST | Updated 16/11/2014 10:59 GMT

In the UK, much has been argued for and against Scotland gaining independence. In fact not only within the British isles, the issue has been discussed as far as down under, when Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, following intense lobbying by his UK counterpart David Cameron, said indepence would be bad.

The yes and no campaigns have seen the independence debate turn ugly at several fronts and have led Scots confused about how to vote, as the real truth lies somewhere in between.

But what about climate change and renewables, will an independent Scotland be good or bad and will oil revenues really make Scotland rich?

The main focus of the independence debate has revolved around the economy focusing on currency and energy. Scotland's First Minister Alex Salmond has said if Scotland were to gain independence, they would set up an oil fund similar to that of Norway's which would contribute to a greater welfare state that the state enjoyed under the UK.

But Alex Salmond has refused to listen to oil industry experts about how much oil is actually left of the North Sea reserves and has overestimated it. He has also failed to take into consideration the future cost in decommissioning old oil wells.

And whether or not Mr. Salmond is right about available oil reserves, they would not last forever. Making oil reserves the cornerstone of the Scottish economy, were they to gain independence, would be the wrong kind of economy and a very unstable one. Looking at income from oil reserves and actual barrels of oil extracted, that number varies greatly from year to year. Any economy based on oil revenues, is an economy doomed to fail.

Scotland has been a leader in setting ambitious climate targets and deploying renewable energy. They are indeed at an advanced stage in pioneering emerging renewable technologies like tidal and wave power - funded by the UK government.

Opposition to renewables, particularly wind power, is unlike the rest of the UK, very low in Scotland. That's why one of the cheapest forms of energy sources we have in onshore wind power is thriving in Scotland, while facing major opposition in the rest of the UK.

I believe the reason Scotland are faring so well on adapting climate change goals and deployment of renewable energy is progressive politics, not just from the Scottish Nationalist Party (SNP) but also Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Scotland just have a single Conservative MP and we know they are the ones leading the charge against climate change and renewable energy goals in the rest of the UK.

I strongly believe that with Scotland in the UK, strong ambition levels on renewable energy and climate change would be transmitted to the rest of the UK, as Scottish politicians could and should demand that the UK leads on setting ambitious climate change policies as well as renewable energy deployment and innovation.

Furthermore, I believe that it would be more difficult to develop renewable energy in Scotland at current level without the help of the UK government. To keep up with pace and make sure Scotland stays ahead of the game, both in deployment of renewable energy technologies but also research and innovation, Scotland depends on collaborating with the rest of the UK and needs the finance backing of Westminster. It's hard to see Scotland being able to fund these projects on their own. Yesterday research by Bloomberg New Energy Finance (BNEF) found that Scottish independence could damage clean energy investment in Scotland and would create investor uncertainty.

Scotland has been cited as the Saudi Arabia of renewable energy, to harvest that potential to the full, Scotland will need to remain a part of the United Kingdom. Furthermore whether independent or not, the Scottish economy must transition itself further away from fossil fuels rather than developing closer bonds with a dirty energy system.

I urge the Scots to vote no to Independence on Thursday.