TOM Johnston was one the great Scots of the 20th century. Such is his stature that his portrait in Bute House has even survived the transition from the Salmond to the Sturgeon administration.

A Labour secretary of state, he was renowned for his leadership during the Second World War when Churchill ran the conflict and Johnston ran Scotland. As a member of the Independent Labour Party, he was probably the most left wing of the entire Scottish parliamentary group and was an inspired choice by Churchill, who was desperate to avoid industrial unrest on the Clyde.

Johnston set about his task with gusto, taking the powers of a benign dictator – “King of Scotland” was Churchill’s nickname for Johnston – and he quickly injected some common sense into the wartime regime. He ordered the release of trade unionists and Scottish nationalists who had been unjustly rounded up and interned, and did his best to control the anti-Italian mobs who disfigured wartime Scotland.

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However, undoubtedly the greatest of his many achievements was the creation of the Hydro Electric Board to bring, as Johnston put it, “power to the glens”. Indeed, after the war Johnston effectively appointed himself as chairman to steer the new organisation forward. He, quite literally, bulldozed his way through all opposition. And so he succeeded, bringing not just electricity to all the people but ensuring a “hydro benefit” to allow the sharing of Scotland’s natural wealth. It was the single-greatest government industrial initiative of the 20th century and we reap the benefits of his vision still.

But how have the mighty fallen, as his Hydro Board has been privatised and merged into a shadow of its former mighty public purpose. SSE is a travesty of Johnston’s creation.

Johnston would be birlin’ in his grave this week to see Scottish and Southern’s advice to its customers when they can’t afford their heating bills to “cuddle their pets and open the curtains when it is sunny”. Of course SSE are no worse than the other energy companies, but frankly that is not saying much.

Politicians of various stripes are proposing some practical relief from the soaring bills which will shortly come thudding through every letterbox in the land. No doubt something will be done, but it will not be enough or anything like it. It may provide some temporary amelioration, but sooner rather than later, more hard-pressed households will be forced to choose between heating and eating.

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What is needed is a root and branch reform of the energy market. Scotland does not have the powers to regulate but there is nothing to stop an important start being made. Unfortunately the Scottish Government have shelved their plans for a public power company with no explanation as to why this should be the case. It seems passing strange that Johnston, a life-long home-ruler, but operating with no Scottish Parliament, could enact something which is seemingly beyond the wit of our modern legislature.

This is what should be done.

One of the great benefits of renewable energy is that the costs of production are stable, indeed declining. Johnston knew that once the initial capital investment was made, hydro was the cheapest form of electricity with the turbines turned by Scotland substantial, near infinite, supply of water. So it is now with wind energy. New wind investment is now cheaper than the fossil fuel alternatives and vastly more economic than the bottomless pit of nuclear technology.

The Scottish Government is about to license vast acreage of the waters round Scotland and now controls the operation of the Crown Estates which has title to the foreshore. Therefore, let each license carry the obligation to surrender a 5% stake in every field development to a new Scottish Renewables Corporation, a Wind Board to become the modern equivalent of Johnston’s Hydro Board. That Corporation will achieve two things. Firstly, for the first time since Johnston’s day, the Scottish people will see the direct and real benefit from our own vast natural resources. Secondly, the SRC could act as a benign force in an energy marketplace still filled with cowboy companies.

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The SNP/Green coalition have already caused consternation in the energy market by renouncing support for future oil and gas development. This is a bizarre decision when the marketplace is dependent on international gas prices and when forcing investment in carbon capture as a requirement for new fields would have been a far more ambitious and environmentally more positive policy to support. However right or wrong, that was mere virtue signalling over something which our Parliament has no control.

Renewables are different. If you control the licensing then you control the power. A Scottish Renewables Corporation would take Johnston from being a portrait on the wall to an inspiration for the future. And if Westminster tries to stop it, then let them try. There will be no quicker way to recruit for the independence army.

Power to the glens was a rallying cry some 80 years ago. Power to the people will be a clarion call for our new age. Let right be done.