The Scottish Government has confirmed that it will block any moves to build new nuclear plants in Scotland.
The news comes in response to Gordon Brown’s announcement that ten new nuclear power stations would be built to guarantee Britain’s energy needs beyond 2020. John Hutton, the UK government’s Secretary of State for Business, Enterprise and Regulatory Reform, has reacted angrily to the Scottish government’s refusal to build new nuclear stations, branding it a ‘political stunt’ and ‘irresponsible.’
Nuclear policy is a reserved power at Westminster; however Holyrood is the planning authority in Scotland and would have to approve any plans for new nuclear stations. The SNP government can therefore block any of the new stations being built in Scotland.
The friction between the two parliaments is a recent development, as this is the first time that a UK Labour government has had to contend with a parliament led by a hostile nationalist government. It also presents a paradoxical situation where the UK government is led by a Scottish MP, representing a Scottish constituency, will be unable to implement a policy in Scotland.
The SNP government have committed themselves to moving away from using nuclear power as a source of energy, focusing instead on renewable sources. In response to the UK government’s consultation, the Scottish government gave five reasons why they would not allow new nuclear stations to be built in Scotland.
1 - Scotland already produces more energy than it consumes and new technologies are far more secure than relying on the finite resources of imported uranium.
2 - Renewable energy generation produces less carbon emissions than nuclear power.
3 - No new nuclear power removes the need for transportation and disposal of nuclear waste - and potential terrorist threats.
4 - The costs of new nuclear power stations are likely to be significantly higher than the UK Government estimates - which will inevitably be passed on to consumers and taxpayers.
5 - Investing in renewables, energy efficiency and carbon capture would give the UK and Scotland a world lead in these technologies.
Jim Mather, the SNP Energy Minister, stated that “spending billions of pounds to develop nuclear power station could have a huge impact on the research and development of long-term clean energy alternatives. Instead, I want to see investment directed towards the development of green energy technologies in Scotland to give Scotland - and the UK - a world lead.”
At present, the renewable capacity in Scotland is approximately 2.5 Gigawatts of electricity. The Scottish government is currently considering planning applications that would double this capacity.