Terry Murden: Why Salmond refuses to go nuclear over British Energy acquisition

THE odds on nuclear provider British Energy falling under French or German control have shortened considerably but it has thus far failed to exercise Scottish opinion.

While First Minister Alex Salmond is opposed to ScottishPower being switched from Spanish to French ownership should Electricit de France acquire its owner Iberdrola, there has not been a word on the prospect of EDF acquiring Livingston-based British Energy.

When I asked the SNP yesterday morning if it had an opinion on the subject, a spokeswoman said she didn't know, which was quite surprising as the SNP seems to have an opinion on everything from fashion to fresh air.

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Like ScottishPower, British Energy is a headquartered Scottish company and a player in a key industry at a particularly important time for energy supply. But it is the UK's nuclear provider, a sensitive issue for the Scottish Government, and therein lies the problem for Salmond and the reason for the radio silence. How can he stand shoulder to shoulder with a company operating in a sector he wants to expel from Scotland?

BE, in truth, is a bit of a contrived Scottish business, being headquartered north of the border after the merger of Scottish Nuclear and Nuclear Electric in the mid-1990s. A concession given to the Scottish political lobby for the loss of independence of Scottish Nuclear – which had lobbied hard to be privatised as a separate company – was that British Energy's headquarters should be based in Scotland.

Whether or not its bosses feel any loyalty to Scotland is open to question, but in any case, its presence on the list of Scottish HQs is under threat and nobody in the Scottish political lobby seems to care that much anymore.

There were reports in the French press last week that the board of state-owned EDF had approved a bid and with the shares up 7.32% on Friday the market was sufficiently persuaded to believe a move may be imminent. Its passing into foreign control seems more of an issue for Westminster and, in particular, Gordon Brown and his new French pal Nicolas Sarkozy, who are examining the implications for a new nuclear alliance.

As for the Scottish political – and business – lobby, it is as if the proposed shake-up of the nuclear industry on our doorstep is not really taking place at all.

BoS stake opens new chapter in Miller tale

THE ground-breaking deal that gives Bank of Scotland Corporate a minority interest in Miller Group shows that the bank is true to its word about being an investor "through the cycle".

It also marks a historic change in the share register at Miller Group, a family company that likes to abide by the corporate codes of a listed firm but has been shown, through the recent squabble over share sales, that it sometimes falls short.

The introduction of the bank should instil greater discipline and will provide the means to make the next big step forward. Chief executive Keith Miller is clearly excited by the transaction and wants to move on from the family fall-out.

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This week he'll probably be forgiven the first fall in taxable profits for 13 years as attention switches to acquisitions. Miller shares the market's appetite, although Redrow looks to be off the agenda. But the search is definitely on.