At the moment, people across Scotland are likely to be thinking hard over which way they will be voting in the landmark referendum on independence, which is scheduled to be held on September 18th 2014.
However, one factor they might not yet have considered is the potential impact of a yes or no vote on heating oil prices. It’s a consideration that could come to the fore soon, following the publication of a new report on how independence might affect Scotland’s fuel market.
Carried out by the independent Expert Commission on Energy Regulation, the study has suggested that independence would give Scotland new powers to tackle fuel poverty, high energy costs and prices north of the border, benefiting its residents in numerous ways.
Of course, an independent Scotland would need its own energy regulator to keep tabs on the sector, but the report expressed confidence that the Scottish government’s combined regulatory model could deliver on this.
However, this is not to say Scots would be able to go it alone completely. Indeed, the commission was sure to highlight the fact that a single energy market for all of Great Britain remains the best option for consumers in Scotland and in England and Wales alike. Existing costs of renewable support mechanisms at the point of independence may also need to continue to be spread across Britain, as is the case at present.
Fortunately, the report pointed out that working models of combined energy markets – involving partnerships between separate countries and governments – exist across Europe, including those in Ireland, Scandinavia and Iberia. This would provide a newly-independent Scotland with a clear example to follow.
Naturally, Scotland’s pro-independence first minister Alex Salmond has responded positively to the findings, saying: “Scotland is a resource rich country and it offers safe and secure supplies of electricity and gas, and can continue to assist the rest of the UK in meeting its legally-binding renewable energy targets.”
His Scottish National Party have also welcomed the report, with MSP and Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee member Mike Mackenzie stating that a yes vote would give the party “the powers we need to take action against the scourge of fuel poverty and to tackle high energy costs for families across Scotland”.
Matters such as these are sure to give Scottish voters even more food for thought as they prepare to cast their votes in just two months’ time.