New nuclear power for Scotland?

Posted by bex — 24 November 2006 at 9:00am - Comments

Dounreay nuclear power plant at sunrise

As the Scottish Labour Party gathered in Oban for the first day of their party conference, green groups were there to urge First Minister Jack McConnell to come clean on his plans for nuclear power.

With Tony Blair's decision to build a new generation of nuclear power stations, Scotland almost certainly faces the threat of new nuclear power stations and a new nuclear waste dump site being built on Scottish soil. But the vast majority of Scots - and the three main Scottish political parties other than Labour - oppose nuclear power.

The Scottish Labour party though, doesn't seem to have a clear position at all on nuclear. Under pressure from English Labour and Tony Blair, the First Minister and Scottish Labour leader Jack McConnell has desperately tried to avoid making any commitment one way or the other. We think it's time for him to come clean.

So we joined WWF Scotland and Friends of the Earth Scotland and sent a ad van to the conference, carrying a billboard reading:

New Nuclear Power for Scotland?

  • Greens say no
  • Lib Dems say no
  • SNP says no
  • Scottish Labour says ?


What the Scottish Labour Party says is not only important for the future of Scottish energy policy, but also for that of the UK as a whole. Since devolution, Scotland has power over some aspects of its energy policy, including planning and renewable energy development. This means that the Scottish Executive could veto a plan to build a new nuclear power station in Scotland.

Scotland has huge wind, wave and tidal power resources. It's not only the epicentre of the UK's renewable energy growth, it's also on track to supply well over 40% of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020. Moreover a recent study has shown that, in order for Edinburgh to meet its CO2 reduction targets, it needs to develop a decentralised energy system based on renewables and efficiency; the new nuclear power stations won't do it.

"I personally don't think the case has been made for new nuclear power stations in Scotland," said Malcolm Chisholm, who is one of the Scottish Labour politicians most willing to speak his mind on nuclear. "I think the majority of people in Scotland would like to see a mix of non carbon-based energy production, without nuclear, if it can be done."

Dr Doug Parr, Greenpeace's Chief Scientist, said: "Tony Blair is trying to foist dangerous and expensive new nuclear plants on Scotland with all the risks of accidents and the deadly waste they produce - even though Scotland has abundant clean energy sources such as wind and wave power. Scottish Labour should stand up to the pressure from Tony Blair and make a clear commitment to veto any plans for new reactors in Scotland."

With elections coming up in May and the three major Scottish opposition parties (The Green Party, The Liberal Democrats and The SNP) all decidedly anti-nuclear, can Jack McConnell afford to keep fudging the issue any longer?

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