FORMER rural economy secretary Fergus Ewing is urging the Scottish Government to show the “same kind of ambition” for solar power as for other forms of green electricity.

Ewing insisted there are a “broad range of benefits” that can be gained by expanding the solar power sector – including lower fuel bills and thousands of new jobs.

He will raise the issue in Holyrood today, which will be the first time MSPs have had a debate focused on solar power.

It comes after industry body Solar Energy Scotland said 8500 new jobs could be created if the target of creating six gigawatts (GW) of new solar power capacity can be achieved by 2030.

Meanwhile, the European Union has recently published a new solar energy strategy, with the aim of more than doubling solar capacity over the period 2020 to 2025, taking it to 320GW, with the target of having 600GW capacity by 2030.

Ewing, who also served as energy minister in the Scottish Government, said “substantial growth for Scotland’s solar industry by 2030 would bring a broad range of benefits”.

These, he added, could include “reducing fuel bills, boosting rural economies and bringing thousands of new high-quality jobs across the country”.

Ewing said: “Scottish ministers are currently working on their forthcoming energy strategy, and I believe that’s the time to set the same kind of ambition for solar as has already been done for other renewables.

“Reaching six GW of solar by 2030 will require proper coordination across ministerial remits, ideally through a focused working group that can draw on industry expertise.”

Josh King, vice-chair of Solar Energy Scotland, said the EU’s new targets for solar power “show what can be done when policy-makers act with real urgency and determination”.

He added: “The EU has recognised that legacy planning barriers, processes which are often slow and costly, are an unnecessary obstacle to solar development, and that very much applies here in Scotland too.”

Emily Rice, policy analyst at Solar Energy Scotland, said: “It is refreshing to see the European Union recognise that solar power must be at the heart of our response to many of the problems faced internationally, including spiralling domestic bills, fuel poverty, energy independence and escalating climate change.

“These same issues are just as urgent in Scotland and this debate is an opportunity to build consensus across Parliament for the measures required if Scotland’s solar industry is to achieve its potential.

“As one of the cheapest power sources available, we are not pressing for subsidies, merely removal of outdated barriers to decarbonisation.”