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UTILITY Week 23rd October

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UTILITY WEEK | 23RD - 29TH OCTOBER 2015 | 11 Utility Week Lobby produced in partnership with: Strong SNP has a party at conference With its power growing in Scotland and at Westminster, the SNP had much to celebrate at its annual conference, says Mathew Beech. Lobby Election / Party conferences "I believe with all my heart that Scotland should be an independent country." Nicola Sturgeon, SNP leader "The Scottish Parliament must have full powers over the licensing of underground coal gasification – and the sooner the better." Callum McCaig MP, SNP energy spokesperson "On investment – particularly in infrastructure – the UK govern- ment is going backwards." Stewart Hosie MP, deputy leader of the SNP and economy spokesperson What they said ● "This is certainly different to the others – everyone is so switched on and engaged." Sacha Deshmukh, chief executive Smart Energy GB ● "Everywhere it's really busy; standing room only; a real buzz – there are many other cliches to describe it. It's fantastic." Mike Weir MP ● "We don't want underground coal gasification.  We don't want anyone blowing up parts of our country." A party member in the fracking moratorium debate OVERHEARD AT THE CONFERENCE… Policy & Regulation Dislike: unconventional oil and gas. In a city inextricably linked to the fossil fuel economy, the SNP gave unconventional oil and gas an unequivocal thumbs down. While MPs backed a moratorium against exploration, party members wanted a full ban, partly to protect the environment and partly to protect vital North Sea industries. F or the SNP, its annual autumn confer- ence was something of a celebration. Party members were revelling in the fact that they saw their number of Westmin- ster MPs shoot up from six to 56 in May's general election, deposing the Lib Dems as the UK's third largest party. However, the elephant in the conference hall was independence. While Nicola Stur- geon did rule out calls for an immediate sec- ond referendum, she le the door open "if there is strong and consistent evidence that people have changed their minds". On the energy front, greater autonomy – if not full independence – remains the goal. With the Scottish government having issued a moratorium on fracking, the SNP debated whether to back it or take a firmer stance should be taken calling for a com- plete ban north of the border. Support for a moratorium narrowly won, although calls for a ban are likely to resurface at the SNP's spring conference. Then there is the issue of underground coal gasification. The SNP wants to have the authority to halt its development in Scotland – something it currently does not have – and wants to gain it in the devolution process. Part of this debate is based on the poten- tial environmental impacts of these tech- nologies, such as whether they could pollute water sources, but there are also concerns within the party that pursuing onshore oil and gas reserves could "undermine" the black gold mine that is the North Sea. This puts them into direct conflict with the Conservatives, who are eager to press ahead with the development of onshore gas. Conflict with the Tories is also fierce when it comes to renewable subsidies. The SNP is still keen to reach its 100 per cent renewables target by 2020 and there is anger that subsidies have been cut so severely. While the party's top brass has – for the time being – shelved plans for another independence referendum, many within the party are convinced it is the solution to allow Scotland to hit this goal, and to keep the North Sea benefits coming into Aberdeen, and their nation.

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