Scotland 'risks paying the price' of SNP's opposition to nuclear, warns Labour

Scotland risks "paying the price” of the SNP’s opposition to new nuclear plants in lost jobs and opportunities, Sir Keir Starmer and Anas Sarwar have warned

The UK Labour leader and his Scottish counterpart said millions of pounds of investment could be at stake.

Mr Sarwar criticised the SNP's "unscientific and economically backward opposition to nuclear energy".

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It comes after the UK Government's energy strategy included plans for eight new nuclear reactors at sites in England and Wales.

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

SNP ministers oppose new nuclear plants on environmental, safety and cost grounds, and can block projects using their planning powers.

Last week, UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng said there were "no plans to impose nuclear reactors in Scotland".

Scotland currently has only one nuclear power station, the Torness plant in East Lothian, after the Hunterston B site in North Ayrshire was closed in January.

Labour is calling for more investment in onshore wind and solar power, but also argues nuclear energy must be part of the mix.

Speaking ahead of a visit to Glasgow, Sir Keir said: "Both the SNP and the Tories need to get their act together when comes to dealing with the energy crisis.

"We need real investment in green and renewables jobs, not more broken promises.

"But we also need to seize the opportunities for investment and energy security that come with nuclear energy.

"Neither of Scotland's governments have a plan to cut bills, deliver energy independence, or tackle the climate crisis.

"Labour would deliver a green energy sprint, while the SNP and Tories dither and delay."

Mr Sarwar has now written to the Scottish and UK governments urging them to back proposals for a new state-of-the-art nuclear fusion plant in North Ayrshire.

Ardeer is one of five sites shortlisted for the prototype plant, which could be operational by the early 2040s.

It is understood that unlike traditional nuclear fission energy plants, the Scottish Government does not oppose these plans but is seeking more information.

Mr Sarwar said: "Bills are going up, petrol prices are up, and neither the SNP or the Tories are serious about the action that need to be taken to bring bills down long term.

"Scottish Labour have a plan that could give people over £1000 in support to deal with the short term crisis.

"But we need answers that focus on bringing bills down long term, as well as meeting our commitments to cut our reliance on fossil fuels and make our energy supply more secure in an unstable world.

"To do that nuclear, and the highly paid and skilled jobs it brings, must be part of Scotland's energy mix.

"But Scotland now risks paying the price in lost jobs and opportunities for the SNP's unscientific and economically backward opposition to nuclear energy."

Scottish Conservative MSP Liam Kerr said Labour would have no credibility on energy security, jobs and rising costs “as long as they continue to oppose further North Sea oil and gas production”.

He said: “Everyone who understands the sector knows nuclear power and renewables are an essential part of our energy mix but are not enough to meet demand.

"We need oil and gas, nuclear and renewables to all play a part in a fair and managed transition to net zero.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We are aware of the Ardeer project’s involvement in the UKAEA’s [UK Atomic Energy Authority’s] STEP [Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production] competition process and are engaging with its partners to understand more about the proposals.

“We believe that significant growth in renewables, storage, hydrogen and carbon capture provides the best pathway to net zero by 2045, and will deliver the decarbonisation we need to see across industry, heat and transport.

“The transition to net zero will offer many new opportunities for highly skilled, well paid jobs across the energy sector for industry experts, apprentices and graduates.

"Scotland has long been the centre of expertise in energy innovation and this expertise will prove crucial as we work to capture the opportunities the transition to a net zero economy presents.

“We recognise that planning will be crucial to ensure that economic and social opportunities from the transition are not missed. Our National Just Transition Planning framework sets out the consistent, ambitious approach we will take to developing transition plans.

"We have committed to delivering our first Just Transition Plan as part of the forthcoming refreshed Scottish Energy Strategy, and will work in partnership with businesses, workers and communities to ensure this provides the certainty needed for investment in our net zero journey.”

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