FOR all of my adult life, the politics of energy has never been far from the centre of Scottish political debate. I joined the SNP in the 1970s during the “It’s Scotland’s Oil campaign” when the party rightly spoke of the bounty that was to flow into Westminster’s coffers.

The excellent series run by The National this week on the McCrone Report is a very timely reminder of that long legacy and the damaging effect of Westminster control. However, if energy, its use and its ownership are part and parcel of the politics of the past, it is now all the more relevant to the campaigns of today and tomorrow.

For households and businesses in Scotland, that has – very obviously and very painfully – come into focus as a direct result of the Tory cost of living crisis. It is nothing short of shameful that a country with the wealth of energy we possess is suffering from cold homes and businesses struggling to pay their energy bills – suffering because of a UK energy market that is totally and utterly broken.

The current crisis is exactly the reason why the politics of energy is now so inextricably linked to the constitutional conversation – and why Scotland’s energy finally needs to serve the needs of Scotland’s people.

READ MORE: Aberdeen's ambitious plan to become a net zero city

The conversation about the future of energy can be one that is purely about opportunity. Because it is no exaggeration to say Scotland’s future will be now built on a new, green energy revolution and we have only touched the surface of that opportunity.

Last year, I commissioned a report by the eminent economist Dr David Skilling. The Skilling Report demonstrates that Scotland has the potential to boost our green energy output by more than five times, rocketing from 12 gigawatts of installed renewable capacity to over 80GW by 2050. That would come from a mix of wind, pump storage, solar, tidal and of course hydrogen.

By expanding Scotland’s renewable capacity and by becoming a green hydrogen exporter we have the chance to pump £34 billion into Scotland’s economy every single year – an investment that could sustain 385,000 jobs. That would dwarf the number of jobs we have in oil and gas today.

This is a real plan for growth – green, sustainable growth for the long term. Driving better productivity, driving an industrial green strategy, and driving our economy into the future.

How that green energy opportunity feeds into the wider economy is now an equally vital question, particularly in terms of the supply chain that flows from the actual production of that green energy.

READ MORE: McCrone: Can Scotland ditch oil and gas and still be 'energy rich'?

In recent weeks, as the SNP’s business ambassador, I have commissioned two independent experts, Sir Martin Donnelly and Professor Dominic Houlder, to look at just that. Martin is a former permanent secretary at the Department for Business Innovation and Skills and the Department for International Trade and Dominic is a professor at the London Business School. I can think of few better people so well-equipped to carry out this specific piece of work.

They will identify key opportunities to boost Scotland’s economic productivity and develop a roadmap for policymakers that can change the landscape for green industrial development in Scotland.

That roadmap will be informed by the understanding that to maximise the benefits of that unrivalled potential, we need the right infrastructure in place, and we need to create the right environment for investment.

As part of that process, these two eminent figures have already undertaken a series of interviews and engagements in Edinburgh and Glasgow with key stakeholders in the business and academic communities. Having listened and learned, they will present their conclusions in an independent report later this year.

The rationale for producing these two reports is very simple – there is very little time to lose, and from Scotland’s point of view, we can’t afford to be held back any longer. And that sense of urgency is made all the worse by a UK Government that is putting barriers in the way of Scotland’s potential.

Scotland is currently stuck with a UK energy market that is completely unfit for purpose – linked to the price of gas rather than renewables – which ends up painfully punishing consumers during this cost of living crisis. We are stuck with a disastrous Westminster transmission pricing system.

Those barriers are impacting on the future as well as right now. Tony Danker from the CBI, not exactly the stereotypical critic of Westminster governments, recently warned that he is “genuinely worried the current government is losing the race on green growth”.

So when it comes to green energy, Scotland has a massive opportunity but we also have a massive choice.

The campaign and the choice that will define the politics of energy in the months ahead is crystal clear.

We can continue to be stuck at Westminster or we can grab the opportunity of a green energy revolution by winning energy independence.