George Foulkes: Let's praise GB for G20 outcome

DO YOU remember where and when the last G20 meeting was held? I bet the answer for most readers would be "no", because Gordon Brown, almost single-handedly, has converted the G20 into the world's economic forum.

Previously, all the attention was on the G8, which included only the old rich nations, with the recent addition of Russia, but the Prime Minister – rightly – wanted Brazil, China, India, Saudi Arabia and the other G20 counties to participate in major economic debates, representing as they do the growth areas of the world.

So, with the UK due to host the G20 he seized the opportunity and built it into the major world economic forum.

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He literally toured the globe pushing his agenda of fiscal stimulus, increased money for the IMF, greater global regulation and a clamp down on tax havens.

He succeeded first in getting Barack Obama on side and then neutralising the French and German reservations.

The final declaration is pure Gordon Brown, but he won't stop there. He is now intent on ensuring that the agreements are implemented.

Despite some of our cynical newspapers trying to play it down, TV images of the PM as a world statesman were projected into every living room. While the Obamas were undoubtedly the superstars of the occasion, Gordon Brown was clearly seen as the architect of the success.

The G20 is now going to be a fixed occasion to rival, or even surpass , the G8 and bring the new economic powers into the room at last.

Even more important than that it provides a route map out of the global recession, and we should be proud it is Britain which has taken the lead.

Why are some critics prepared to quote leaders of France or Germany, rather than our own leadership? Why should others abandon their patriotism because we have a Labour government? After all, it was Clement Atlee's Labour government that led us out of post-war stringency.

It is not a fourth term Labour should be seeking but the first term of a post-crisis government, under the only man with the experience to lead us back to prosperity.

We must go nuclear

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I USED to be what is described as a "nuclear sceptic". The problem of disposal of radioactive waste, the accidents at Chernobyl and Three Mile Island and leaks from Sellafield all caused me concern. They still do.

However, when I was Minister of State for Scotland I was also a member of the Energy Task Force, chaired by Brian Wilson, then Energy Minister. We looked at the future demand for electricity and the forecast installed generating capacity and saw a growing gap. It was clear, also, that the gas we were increasingly relying on came less and less from the North Sea and increasingly from less stable areas of Asia and North Africa.

Our remit was to recommend what should be done to ensure the security and diversity of energy supply – to keep the lights in our homes on and the fuel for our economy flowing.

We needed to ensure that more electricity could be generated from reliable fuels and from a variety of sources. But we also had a responsibility to ensure we achieved our promised reductions in carbon dioxide emissions.

Coal-fired power stations are not as clean as others, even with new technology, but will still be essential with a reduced capacity – existing nuclear power stations will reach the end of their planned lives over the next few decades.

Certainly, we agreed our first priority should be to reduce projected demand by increased efficiency with insulation etc, and this is being done. It also has the advantage of reducing our domestic electricity and gas bills.

We also recommended a huge increase in all forms of renewables. But these have two major disadvantages the SNP will not face up to.

When the wind stops, the electricity supply stops too, so it can never be relied on for baseload. Also, it is produced far away from the major cities and the bulk of the demand so many more transmission lines will be needed to criss-cross the countryside.

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That is why we came to the inescapable conclusion that the only way of closing the energy gap is to build new nuclear power stations on existing nuclear power sites.

"But what about safety and waste?", I hear you shout. Well, the good news is the new generation of power stations are ultra safe and produce a tiny amount of waste compared with the present ones.

Indeed, I am told that over 90 per cent of waste that we will ever produce is with us already and has to be stored and dealt with regardless.

So, if you don't want the lights to go out, along with the TVs, washing machines and computers that are part of everyday life, we will have to bite the bullet of new nuclear.

Sir Neil MacCormick

I was really saddened to hear of the death of Edinburgh academic Sir Neil MacCormick after a long battle against cancer. He was a brilliant academic and one of the most intelligent nationalists I've met. He will be sorely missed – not just by the SNP, but by Scotland at large.