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Warning over wind turbine factory withdrawl

Citigroup managing director has warned of a fall-out following the withdrawl of a wind turbine factory in Dundee

Citigroup managing director Peter Atherton sounded the warning on Wednesday, just days after it emerged Spanish wind turbine manufacturer Gamesa has decided not to build a multi-million-pound factory in Dundee.

Citigroup sparked controversy last month by advising major companies to be ”extremely cautious” in investment decisions, even suggesting avoiding renewable investment until the constitutional question had been settled.

Questioned on that report by MSPs on the Scottish Parliament’s economy, energy and tourism committee, Mr Atherton maintained that the looming referendum is damaging confidence.

He said: ”The idea that you can have a referendum on secession and not believe that it creates some uncertainty for investors in certain sectors, like utilities, which is a regulated energy sector, is preposterous.

”The suggestion that Scotland having a referendum on whether to stay in the UK or not carries no uncertainty and no risk for particular sectors is preposterous.”

UK ministers cited the report as evidence of the need to hold the referendum soon.

First Minister Alex Salmond has said he will not bring forward the vote until the second half of the five-year parliamentary term.

However, the SNP challenged opponents to name companies who have expressed concerns over the planned referendum.

Despite the Gamesa setback in Dundee, Perth firm SSE has expressed interest in setting up a renewables base in the city. At Holyrood, SNP MSP Stuart McMillan Stuart McMillan challenged Mr Atherton to name companies put off by the referendum.

Mr Atherton said: ”We didn’t say that they had. And we didn’t say that no one should invest in Scotland. We said people should show caution because independence, the chance that Scotland could secede from the UK, creates an asset risk, which it clearly does.”

Another SNP MSP, Chic Brodie, said: ”Why, against that backdrop, would you have large companies like Gamesa, Doosan, Babcock, Mitsubishi, knowing that there is going to be a referendum, in your words, causing uncertainty, why would they be investing?”

Mr Atherton said: ”Most of the companies that you mentioned there are plant manufacturers, or equipment manufacturers. So they will be manufacturing equipment all over the UK and into Europe. So it’s not really relying on the subsidy.

”They’re relying on somebody eventually paying the subsidies to the person who builds the windfarm but they are not directly reliant on the subsidy.”

A Scottish Government spokesman insisted Scotland is attracting ”massive” renewables investment.

He said: ”Scotland currently produces some 40% of the UK’s renewable electricity. And the ISLES study on links between Ireland, Scotland and the rest of the UK clearly shows that energy from Scotland will have a vital part to play across these islands and the rest of Europe in all constitutional circumstances, including independence.”

Labour leader Iain Gray said: ”This is further evidence of growing disquiet in the financial and energy sectors about the negative impact of separation and the SNP delaying tactics on a referendum.”