We’ve analysed all of yesterday’s press communications, from each of the five parties, to pick out the main topics of discussion and generate today’s CalMerc Cloud. The larger the word, the more often it was used across all of the press releases. The topic of the day was renewable energy targets and policies, with renewable, energy, electricity, power and renewables all dominating our cloud and appearing in releases from every main party with the exception of the Scottish Conservatives.
First minister Alex Salmond welcomed support for the party’s green energy targets from leading industry figures, and said that the goal of generating the equivalent of 100 per cent of Scotland’s own electricity needs from renewable sources by 2020 would give confidence to companies ensuring further investment and jobs in the sector, which in turn will power the re-industrialisation of Scotland.
Seven of the green energy sector’s most influential leaders have backed the SNP’s manifesto pledge in an open letter, in which they say it is a “vital step” in the creation of a sustainable low-carbon economy. The endorsement comes as the SNP publishes a paper giving a detailed breakdown of how the 100 per cent renewables target can be achieved.
Welcoming the industry backing for the policy, Mr Salmond said:
“This is very welcome backing for the SNP’s renewable energy target from some of the leading figures in the industry.
“Our goal of generating 100 per cent of Scotland’s own electricity demand from renewable sources by 2020 is ambitious but achievable. It will mean that by that date Scotland will be producing around double the electricity we need, with just over half of that coming from renewable power and the rest from other sources.”
Contradicting the SNP, Scottish Labour challenged them to answer 20 questions on how they plan to produce 100 per cent of the electricity from renewables by 2020, citing other industry figures who derided SNP claims as “unrealistic”, “undesirable”, “utter nonsense” and “cloud cuckoo land”.
Scottish Labour’s energy spokesperson and candidate for Aberdeen Central, Lewis Macdonald, said:
“We must set ambitious renewable energy targets, but Alex Salmond’s pledge has been debunked by industry leaders as a lot of hot air and comes from a party that failed in government to process many applications for new wind and hydro power projects.”
The Liberal Democrats also had the environment at the forefront of their campaign yesterday. Commenting on Environment LINK’s calls for prospective MSPs to declare their commitment to helping reverse the declining health and biological diversity of our seas, Liberal Democrat environment spokesman Liam McArthur said:
“The Marine (Scotland) Act provides a framework which will help balance competing demands on Scotland’s seas. It introduces a duty to protect and where appropriate enhance the marine environment and includes measures to help boost investment and growth in areas such as marine renewables.
“We are committed to ensuring that the Act fulfils its promise.”
Included in the mini-manifesto is the Greens’ plan to support Scotland’s rural economy by establishing a new £80 million a year fund to support small farmers, crofters and new entrants.
Patrick Harvie said:
“Hundreds of millions of pounds is handed out to Scotland’s big landowners and industrial agribusiness each year, yet organic and sustainable food production for strong local food networks remains the best future for this country’s agricultural sector. That’s why we want to work with the NFUS and others to agree the best way to support small farmers, crofters and new entrants through a new fund worth £80 million for each year of the next session of the Scottish parliament.”
Council tax was the other hot topic of the day, with the SNP, Labour and Conservatives contributing local, freeze, council and tax to the word cloud in response to a poll in yesterday’s Scotsman.
The Scottish National Party welcomed the results of the YouGov poll which finds that 75 per cent of people support “the continuation of the council tax freeze”, with only 19 per cent opposed.
Finance secretary and SNP candidate for Perthshire North, John Swinney, said:
“This is an excellent poll, showing that re-electing the SNP government reflects the priorities of the people of Scotland.”
Labour, however, hailed the poll as proof that the SNP’s policy of creating a local income tax to replace council tax is ill-fated and should be scrapped.
Scottish Labour leader, Iain Gray, said:
“This is a damning indictment of the SNP’s plans to make Scotland the highest taxed part of the UK. Almost 90 per cent oppose the level at which local income tax would have to be set, so it is no wonder the SNP resorted to the courts in a desperate bit to hide the true cost of their tax.”
Scottish Labour’s finance spokesman, Andy Kerr, said:
“Labour understands that times are tough, bills are rising and families are feeling the squeeze, that’s why Labour has pledged to freeze the council tax. But unlike the Nationalists, Labour will fund the council tax freeze properly so we don’t see council’s cutting services, higher charges for services people depend on, public sector workers losing their jobs and a five year pay freeze for the public sector.”
Derek Brownlee, Scottish Conservative finance spokesperson, said only the Scottish Conservatives had a fully costed plan for a further freeze :
“This poll confirms what we already know – a council tax freeze is hugely popular. That is why Labour, despite having voted against the freeze in the last parliament, panicked a few weeks ago and cobbled together a new council tax policy – one that had been written on the back of an envelope and just hadn’t been costed.”
“Likewise, the SNP has promised a five-year council tax freeze without demonstrating how they would pay for it. Both parties are indulging in fantasy economics.
“By contrast, all Scottish Conservative proposals – including a council tax freeze until at least 2013 and an annual £200 council tax discount for all pensioner households – are fully costed as part of our comprehensive spending plans for the next four years.”
Finally, the last of the largest words come from clashes over knife-crime policy between SNP and Labour. Knife and crime appear as Iain Gray highlighted his pledge to take tough action on knife crime as Labour unveiled a new a new poster promoting Labour’s “Carry A Knife – Go To Jail” – knife-crime pledge.
Mr Gray joined knife crime campaigner John Muir and South of Scotland Labour candidate Graeme Pearson to unveil a campaign poster in Greenock.
Mr Gray said:
“Over 30,000 Scots have signed our anti-knife crime petition and many, many more have signed petitions by campaigners like John Muir. Knife murders increased by 56 per cent in Strathclyde in the last year and knives remain the most common cause of homicide across Scotland.
“Alex Salmond’s attitude to knife crime has been complacent, the Tories have flip-flopped and only Labour will take the tough action necessary to get knives off our streets.”
In response, Kenny MacAskill, Justice Secretary and SNP candidate for Edinburgh Eastern, said Labour’s proposals had collapsed as soon as they had been subjected to any detailed scrutiny or expert analysis.
Mr MacAskill said:
“Labour’s flagship policy on knife crime has collapsed as soon as it has been exposed to any scrutiny – it is unworkable, uncosted and contradictory, and has been left totally discredited by the experts. The police say it won’t work, the prison officers say it is not credible and dangerous – and even Labour themselves have been forced to admit it wouldn’t actually involve mandatory jail terms.”