LESS than a fifth of Scots are in favour of building new nuclear power stations north of the border, a new survey reveals.
• Energy minister Jim Mather
In a poll of 1,000 people commissioned by The Scotsman, more than a quarter said they were totally opposed to the building of nuclear power stations in Scotland, while only 18 per cent said they would like to see new power stations created.
The results suggest the electorate are in agreement with the Scottish Government over nuclear power.
First Minister Alex Salmond has said he will not allow the creation of any new nuclear power stations once the existing sites at Torness and Hunterston are decommissioned in 2023 and 2016 respectively.
However, only 22 per cent of respondents to the survey, carried out by George Street Research as part of the quarterly Scottish Nature Omnibus, believe that Scotland's power needs can be met over the next 20 years without nuclear energy sources.
Economics professor Nick Hanley, of Stirling University, said: "It doesn't surprise me that there is a discrepancy in opinion between whether renewables meet our power needs and whether we need new nuclear power stations. People are perhaps not fully aware of how important nuclear is to the energy supply.
"It is not obvious to me that there is a sustainable future outcome for Scotland's energy mix that doesn't involve nuclear."
David Primrose, director of George Street Research, said the survey suggested that people were unclear about how Scotland could meet its energy needs.
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"I don't know what, from a government point of view, you can make of it," he said. "I think it's the classic dilemma thrown up when people say, 'We don't want new nuclear power stations', but then they haven't got an alternative. It just doesn't match up. There is strong support for wind farms in general, but then people acknowledge that they have fears that renewable technology might not meet our energy needs."
The Scottish Government welcomed the survey. "These figures demonstrate the majority of Scots support parliament's view that we don't need unnecessary new nuclear power stations, with their soaring decommissioning costs and the unresolved problem of storage of radio- active waste that will burden future generations for thousands of years," said energy minister Jim Mather.
But opposition politicians claimed the survey proved the public's uncertainty over ruling out nuclear power plants.
"We recognise that nuclear power is a contentious issue, but this survey shows that there is a realisation among most members of the public that we cannot rule out nuclear if we are to meet the nation's power needs," said Lewis Macdonald, Scottish Labour's energy spokesman.
Tory energy spokesman Gavin Brown said: "Nuclear power is a reliable source of low-carbon electricity.I believe it should play an important role in a balanced energy mix in the future."
A spokesman for the Nuclear Industry Association said: "We are lobbying hard to ensure that nuclear is part of a low carbon future for Britain."