SNP will use planning powers to block new nuclear developments, says minister

Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said nuclear power has an environmental impact, raises safety concerns and will drive up household bills.

The UK Government has promised to take back control of energy prices through boosts to nuclear, wind, solar and hydrogen in its long-awaited energy strategy.

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Ministers are promising “cleaner and more affordable energy” to be made in this country, aiming to make 95 per cent of electricity low carbon by 2030.

Torness nuclear power station near Dunbar. Picture: Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

A licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects is planned for the autumn to cover the “nearer term”.

Boris Johnson said the strategy, including new nuclear and offshore wind plans, would reduce the UK’s dependence on foreign sources of energy.

There has been particular worldwide concern about the reliance on Russian oil and gas since the Kremlin’s invasion of Ukraine.

Under the UK Government’s plans a new body, Great British Nuclear, will be launched to bolster the UK’s nuclear capacity with the hope of up to 24 gigawatts (GW) of electricity by 2050 coming from the source of power, 25 per cent of the projected electricity demand.

It is hoped the focus on nuclear will deliver up to eight reactors, equivalent to one reactor a year instead of one a decade.

But Mr Matheson said UK ministers had not provided a copy of the energy strategy to the Scottish Government and had not engaged with it, which he said was “completely unacceptable”.

He told the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme: “My concern is if the UK Government are so wedded to developing further nuclear sites, not only is there environmental risk associated with that, but there is also the issue that it is likely to drive up the cost of people’s household bills.”

He added: “I think the UK Government may have actually just allowed themselves to be wrapped up in the nuclear lobby here, not recognizing or acknowledging the fact this is likely to push up energy costs in the future, whereas renewables are actually much, much cheaper, and dropping in price, and will help to lower people’s bills instead.”

Pushed on whether the Scottish Government will use its planning powers to block any move by UK ministers to set up a nuclear plant in Scotland, Mr Matheson said: “Yeah. The Scottish Government is not in favor of nuclear power and we don’t see it being part of our future energy mix.

“And I don’t see any likelihood of that changing in the future.”

He said the new North Sea licensing round was “not much of a surprise”, adding: “There is an expectation there would be a further leasing round on oil and gas.

“Keep in mind any new licensing round for oil and gas will mean that it’s probably five, six, plus years before any oil or gas will be produced.

“And oil and gas will continue to be an important part of our energy mix as we go forward.”

However, Mr Matheson said the “backbone” of the future energy sector was likely to be offshore renewables, particularly wind.

He said: “If we continue our dependence on oil and gas and fossil fuels, then we’ll find ourselves experiencing the same problem we have just now, with volatility in the market and sky-high domestic energy prices.”

He added: “The Scottish Government’s position is very clear on oil and gas.

“Any new oil and gas reserves that are being opened up need to be compatible with meeting our net zero objectives.

“It’s not just the Scottish Government’s view, actually, it’s also the view of the Committee on Climate Change that’s the independent adviser to both the Scottish and UK governments on these matters.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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