Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton today challenged the First Minister about the £700m sale of Scotland’s seabed for the building of windfarms after new analysis exposed the gulf in price compared to earlier sales in England and Wales – after the Scottish Government forbid companies bidding any higher.
Figures compiled by the Scottish Liberal Democrats raise questions about why a £100,000 per km2 cap was placed on bids for the 7,000km of seabed.
The one-off payments are a fraction of the average £361,138 per km2 companies had already freely offered in deposits alone in an open market auction for sites off the coast of England and Wales.
In England and Wales extra option fees are also paid on a yearly basis until a lease is entered into – potentially further multiplying the total funding received by the Treasury. Meanwhile, companies bidding for Scotland’s seabed weren’t asked for additional annual payments.
Speaking at FMQs, Alex Cole-Hamilton said:
“In January, the Scottish Government announced it had sold the lion’s share of Scotland’s seabed for £700m. On it will be built huge windfarms.
“What ministers didn’t tell Parliament that day, was that the Scottish Government and Crown Estate Scotland explicitly stopped companies paying a vast amount more.
“There was a cap on bids of £100,000 per square kilometre.
“That’s despite a sale in England and Wales - where there isn’t a cap - achieving four times that in initial deposits alone.
“We know windfarm jobs are going overseas. It happened again in Moray last week, so the First Minister can’t tell Parliament this is about employment.
“Scotland’s seabed can only be sold once. The sale price matters because it is cash that flows straight to the Scottish Government’s budget for schools and hospitals.
“The Scottish Government has sold these national assets on the cheap. They have thrown away a fortune.
“So can I ask the First Minister, when the auctions south of the border netted four times more, why was she still determined to limit how much companies in Scotland should pay?”