SNP ministers slam 'bitterly disappointing' UK energy strategy amid climate fears

SNP ministers have branded the UK Government’s energy strategy “bitterly disappointing”, insisting it fails to tackle spiralling household bills and the ongoing climate emergency.

The long-awaited proposals seek to boost new nuclear power, offshore wind and hydrogen, with ministers aiming to make 95 per cent of electricity low carbon by 2030.

However, it also include plans for a new oil and gas licensing round in the autumn to cover the shorter term.

SNP Energy Secretary Michael Matheson said the strategy had “completely failed” to take into account agreements made at the COP26 climate summit.

SNP Energy Secretary Michael Matheson

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He previously said the Scottish Government would block any new nuclear power stations north of the border.

However, UK Business Secretary Kwasi Kwarteng made clear there were “no plans to impose nuclear reactors in Scotland”.

Mr Kwarteng told the BBC: “It is a devolved affair, that is up to people in Edinburgh to decide what their nuclear policy is.”

The UK Government said the North Sea plans recognise “the importance of these fuels to the transition and to our energy security”.

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It said producing gas in the UK has a lower carbon footprint than importing from abroad.

Its strategy insists: “There is no contradiction between our commitment to net zero and our commitment to a strong and evolving North Sea industry. Indeed, one depends on the other.”

Environmental campaigners have previously called for a halt to new oil and gas projects, citing climate targets.

Mr Matheson said: “We are in the midst of a very real and unsettling energy bills crisis which demands bold, urgent and decisive action from the UK Government.

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"They hold many of the powers required to support households – both in the short and long term.

“This crisis comes against the backdrop of the climate emergency, which has not gone away. The most recent reports from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) make it very clear that business as usual is simply not an option.

“In this context, it is bitterly disappointing that the UK Government’s energy security strategy fails to adequately address either of these pressing issues.

“We will take time to carefully consider how the strategy affects our own, clear objectives – to deliver a just transition to net zero for our energy sector, and for households, businesses and consumers across Scotland.

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"It is illogical that the strategy has been published without any meaningful engagement with the Scottish Government – despite the vital role that Scotland plays in exporting electricity to the rest of the UK.

“The Scottish Government’s position is clear that unlimited extraction of fossil fuels is not consistent with our climate obligations and we have consistently called on the UK Government, to urgently re-assess all approved oil licenses where drilling has not yet commenced against, our climate commitments.

"By refusing to recognise this, whilst demonstrating a failure of leadership to support an acceleration of low carbon heating and home energy efficiency measures, the strategy has completely failed to take into account the agreements made at COP26, advice from its own statutory advisors, and the most recent reports from the IPCC.

“It is also an approach which will do nothing to improve our energy security in the coming years."

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Mr Matheson said new oil and gas fields “do not present a timely solution, and even once operational, the extracted fossil fuels will still be affected by the same global market forces which have contributed to the current energy price crisis”.

He added: “Similarly, in addition to the cost and environmental concern the commitment to new nuclear power stations, which will take years if not decades to become operational, will provide no additional energy security in the immediate term.

“Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine only serves to highlight the importance of accelerating the transition to renewable energy sources and addressing the affordability of energy."

He said the Scottish Government’s plans include more than doubling the country’s onshore wind capacity and supporting the world’s largest floating offshore wind leasing round.

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Mr Matheson also expressed disappointment that the UK Government had failed to “sufficiently back carbon capture and storage in Scotland”.

The UK strategy includes plans for eight nuclear reactors – the equivalent of one a year – to be delivered by the end of this decade.

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

Mr Kwarteng said UK ministers believe “the only way you can get decarbonised baseloads – continuous power that is decarbonised – is nuclear”.

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He added: “I don’t know what the answer is the Scottish Government has to that question, but we are very clear that nuclear power has to be an important part of a decarbonised energy mix in the future.”

Speaking to the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland programme, Mr Kwarteng said there had been “quite a lot of engagement with Scottish colleagues”.

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