One of Nicola Sturgeon’s senior ministers used bogus figures to boast of Scotland’s wind energy potential to foreign politicians, even after being warned they were inaccurate, it has emerged.
Angus Robertson, the Scottish Secretary of the Constitution, is accused of breaching the ministerial code after ignoring officials’ warnings and repeating a debunked claim that Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind energy potential.
Scottish National Party (SNP) politicians have repeatedly repeated the statistic over several years in an attempt to bolster the case for independence.
However, officials privately raised concerns about the veracity of the claim more than two years ago, and it has since been conclusively proven to be inaccurate.
Responses to requests for freedom of information show that Mr Robertson was urged to stop using it on September 28 last year.
Just six days later, however, he mentioned the 25 percent claim in a meeting with French politicians, as part of an overseas charm offensive.
‘He ignored that advice’
Sam Taylor, chief executive of the pro-British think tank These Islands, who obtained the information via Freedom of Information responses, said: “The cabinet secretary was advised by officials to stop using the 25 per cent claim.
“He ignored that advice and just six days later pushed the bogus statistics to a French minister. That is a serious breach of the ministerial code, and Angus Robertson has serious questions to answer.”
Officials had told Mr Robertson that “the claim about 25 per cent of Europe’s offshore wind resources is poorly proven”, adding that they “recommend against using this statement”.
Ministerial diaries show that Mr Robertson, the Scottish Government’s unofficial Foreign Secretary, met Laurence Boone, the French Minister for Europe, and Rima Abdul-Malak, the French Minister for Culture, on 4 October.
Mr Robertson has mentioned the 25 percent statistic to foreign politicians four times, documents show, most recently on the date he met with French ministers.
He has previously claimed that he was not aware that the wind figure was incorrect until November 8. However, the freedom of information replies show that he was actually told at least six weeks earlier.
After the 28 September briefing urging him to stop using the wind figure, he quoted it in two newspaper columns and in a speech at the SNP conference.
‘Many peddler of this fake fact’
Liam Kerr, energy spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said: “It is clear that Angus Robertson has been a prolific peddler of this fake fact and even had the guts to do it just days after being told not to.
“This revelation suggests that the cabinet secretary has deliberately repeated misleading information to further his own political goals.
“Last year’s revelations show that the SNP has a long track record of using unreliable data to misinform the public with figures that are completely false.
“Mr. Robertson must relent, issue a public apology and learn not to ignore evidence and accuracy in the future.”
In December, the UK Statistics Authority revealed it was “in talks” with the SNP over its “continued use” of the debunked claim that Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind potential. The actual figure is believed to be between four and six percent.
It was based on weak research that excluded green power plants such as Sweden, Norway and Finland. However, the SNP continues to use the 25 percent claim on its website.
A spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “Ministers were informed of the These Islands report on 8 November. We are now working on an updated figure for Scotland’s offshore wind potential, which will be published in due course.”