One of Nicola Sturgeon’s senior ministers used fake figures to boast about Scotland’s wind-energy potential to foreign politicians even after he was warned they were inaccurate, it has emerged.
Angus Robertson, Scottish Constitution Secretary, is facing accusations that he has broken the ministerial code after he ignored warnings from officials and repeated a debunked claim that Scotland has a quarter of Europe’s offshore wind energy potential.
Scottish National Party (SNP) politicians have repeatedly recycled the statistic over several years in a bid to boost the case for independence.
However, civil servants privately raised concerns about the accuracy of the claim more than two years ago and it has since been conclusively proven inaccurate.
Responses to Freedom of Information requests show that Mr Robertson was urged to stop using it on Sept 28 last year.
However, just six days later, he mentioned the 25 per cent 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-UK think tank These Islands, who obtained the information through 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 statistic to a French government minister. That’s 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 evidenced” adding they “would advise against using this statement”.
Ministerial diaries show that Mr Robertson, the Scottish Government’s unofficial foreign secretary, met with Laurence Boone, France’s Europe minister, and Rima Abdul-Malak, French culture minister, on Oct 4.
Mr Robertson has mentioned the 25 per cent statistic to foreign politicians on four occasions, records show, most recently on the date he met with the French ministers.
He has previously claimed he only became aware the wind figure was untrue on Nov 8. However, the Freedom of Information responses show he was actually told at least six weeks earlier.
After the Sept 28 briefing, in which he was urged to stop using the wind figure, he cited it in two newspaper columns and in a speech at the SNP conference.
‘Prolific peddler of this fake fact’
Liam Kerr, energy spokesman for the Scottish Tories, said: “It’s clear Angus Robertson has been a prolific peddler of this fake fact and even had the nerve to do it just days after being told not to.
“This revelation suggests the cabinet secretary has deliberately repeated misleading information to further his own political causes.
“Revelations last year show the SNP have a long track record of using dodgy data to misinform the public with figures that are completely false.
“Mr Robertson must own up, issue a public apology and learn not to ignore evidence and accuracy going forward.”
In December, the UK Statistics Authority, revealed that it was “engaging” with the SNP over its “ongoing use” of the debunked claim that Scotland has a quarter of offshore wind resource potential in Europe. The true figure is believed to be between four and six per cent.
It was based on flimsy research that excluded green energy powerhouses such as Sweden, Norway and Finland. However, the SNP continues to use the 25 per cent claim on its website.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “Ministers became aware of the report by These Islands on Nov 8. We are now working to produce an updated figure for Scotland’s offshore wind potential, which will be published in due course.”