The green recovery was front and centre at The Press and Journal and The Courier’s virtual business breakfast.
Title sponsor, Scottish energy firm SSE Renewables, focused heavily on the key role of renewable energy as we emerge from the coronavirus pandemic.
SSE Renewables – part of FTSE 100 company SSE – is a leading developer, owner and operator of renewable energy across the UK and Ireland, with a portfolio of around four gigawatts (GW) of onshore and offshore wind, plus hydro-electricity.
It aims to drive the transition to a net-zero carbon future, helped by the largest offshore wind development pipeline in the UK and Ireland.
The firm has started work on three major Scottish wind farms, worth about £4 billion in direct investment into Scotland, during the past year alone.
The developments – the 1.1GW Seagreen offshore wind farm near Angus, the 443 megawatt (MW) Viking onshore project in Shetland and the 38MW Gordonbush extension in Sutherland – are expected to generate enough electricity for about 1.5 million UK homes and support more than 1,000 direct, contractor and supply chain jobs, many of which have already started.
Jamie Maxton, head of external relations at the firm opened the morning’s presentations yesterday.
He was followed by Malcolm Gunnyeon, a partner in the Aberdeen office of law firm Dentons, and John Carroll, head of international and transactional banking, Santander UK, who also presented during the last breakfast in a series of events around what recovery from the pandemic will look like.
When asked whether Brexit or coronavirus posed bigger threats to Scottish businesses, the panel was divided slightly.
Mr Gunnyeon said: “I think it’s Brexit and I say that only because there is some predictability around Covid now, with a vaccine.
“Business has adapted to working under Covid conditions, with the exception of hospitality, which is going to have exceptional challenges until the spring I think.
“But people know how to deal with Covid now, Brexit brings with it much more uncertainty and it’s not a global issue – that in itself makes it more of a challenge for UK business rather than something being faced by the whole globe.”
Mr Carroll added: “I am optimistic around Covid in the long term, but I think we have to be clear that the short term is going to continue to have a real impact.
“For me, really short-term Covid is the biggest concern because there are lots of companies hurting out there.
“If there is a Brexit deal, the crucial point is if companies know what is required, then they can actually do that.”
A “lack of clarity” is getting in the way but the scale of the Brexit challenge varies between sectors, he said.
Mr Maxton said: “For us as a sector, I always feel slightly guilty in that we have been quite lucky in that neither of them are causing us a great deal of concern at the moment.”
The breakfast was a great opportunity to share experiences of navigating the coronavirus pandemic, Mr Maxton said, adding: “It was a chance to connect with people from across Scotland’s business community, to hear their experiences and to share how we can all work together in 2021 on the country’s recovery.”