Ministers have been accused of making misleading claims about Scotland’s capacity for offshore wind power by repeatedly using a “completely fictious statistic”.
Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Alex Cole-Hamilton criticised ministers over their claims that Scotland has 25% of Europe’s potential offshore wind resources.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said the statistic “has now been proven to be false” following research by the think tank These Islands.
At the end of First Minister’s Questions on Thursday, he asked if any ministers plan to make a statement to MSPs to correct use of the claim.
Mr Cole-Hamilton said: “Over the years this has been referenced countless times, both inside and outside this Parliament, by SNP ministers and MSPs.
“In this chamber they include successive environment secretaries, first minister Alex Salmond and Deputy First Minister John Swinney.
“The current First Minister, Constitution Secretary, Net Zero Secretary have all made the claim to other audiences.”
He said the figure had been derived from “bogus analysis and a mixture of reports dating all the way back to 1993”, and that it used a definition of Europe that excluded “renewable powerhouses” such as Sweden, Norway and Finland.
Civil servants have been “privately warning” against citing the figure for at least two years, Mr Cole-Hamilton added, as it has “never been properly source”.
He told MSPs: “The true figure for Scotland’s share of offshore wind potential is thought to be around 5% yet still the 25% appeared in the Finance Secretary’s national strategy for economic transformation this March.
“I can’t recall a comparable situation where a completely fictious statistic has been relied on so often and so widely.
“This matters because the Scottish Government has put this claim at the heart of the debate around Scotland’s energy security, on independence, and on meeting our climate targets.”
Repeating that use of the figure has now left the Scottish Government “open to a charge of misleading and misrepresenting”, Mr Cole-Hamilton asked Presiding Officer Alison Johnstone how Parliament should deal with a “pattern of misinformation dating back over a decade”.
Ms Johnstone told him that as a “matter of courtesy and respect”, MSPs should ensure any comments they make in Holyrood’s chamber are accurate – adding there are ways for any errors to be corrected.
She continued: “The corrections procedure does allow members to seek to make a statement to the Parliament if they realise a significant error has been made.”
While it is up to MSPs to decide if this is necessary, Ms Johnstone said “no request has been made to me on this point”.
A spokesman for First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said he had not read the report from These Islands, which he claimed contains “guesstimates”.
He added: “At the time that the 25% figure has been used, we’ve been working on the basis that the maximum capacity of offshore wind generation was around 25 gigawatts.
“We’re now in a position where the reality is, in terms of what’s coming on stream in terms of the supply line, of up to 40 gigawatts.
“The actual renewables generation potential from offshore wind in Scotland is significantly more than we had assumed previously at a time when that 25% figure has been used.”