SNP ministers urged to drop 'ideological opposition' to new nuclear power plants

Scottish ministers have been urged to drop their "ideological opposition" to new nuclear power plants.

UK energy minister Greg Hands said it was a "pity" that Scotland was not participating in the "nuclear renaissance".

It came as he insisted the UK Government would "continue to monitor" the impact of energy price hikes on the cost-of-living crisis.

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

The recent UK energy strategy included plans for eight new nuclear reactors at sites in England and Wales.

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

UK business secretary Kwasi Kwarteng previously said there were "no plans to impose nuclear reactors in Scotland".

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

Speaking to Holyrood's net zero, energy and transport committee, Mr Hands said the UK Government had set out plans to accelerate the move to renewables, "making sure that we are less dependent on gas".

He said: "We need to make that move, and that is also why we're moving decisively back into nuclear, to make sure that we've got the baseload when the wind isn't blowing, the sun isn't shining.

"Nuclear will also provide a big part of our energy mix."

He added: "It would be really helpful if the Scottish Government were to drop its ideological opposition to nuclear, because nuclear has got a fantastic track record in Scotland.

"When the Hunterston power plant closed just before Christmas, that was an incredible success story.

"It generated zero carbon, low-cost electricity for every Scottish home equivalent for 32 years, I think I'm right in saying.

"It's a pity, I think, to see Scotland not participate, thanks to the Scottish Government's approach to nuclear, in our nuclear renaissance."

Mr Hands said the best way to lessen the impact of rising gas prices was to reduce the use of gas.

Elsewhere, Labour MSP Monica Lennon referenced warnings by charities about a "catastrophic loss of life" this winter.

She said UK Government action had so far been "underwhelming", with no windfall tax on the profits of big companies or suspension of VAT on energy bills.

Mr Hands said a £22 billion package of measures had been announced, adding: "I think we will continue to monitor the situation very closely.

"It's too early to tell what the price cap will look like from October, but I think that will be a key consideration."

He said a windfall tax would "kill off investment, for example in the North Sea" and cost jobs, particularly in Scotland.

UK ministers are aiming to make 95 per cent of electricity low carbon by 2030.

However, a licensing round for new North Sea oil and gas projects is planned for the autumn to cover the “nearer term”.

Mr Hands said it would make "absolutely no sense" to be importing more oil and gas at this time.

He said: "For the present, the last thing we want to be doing is importing more oil and gas, in what has become a highly competitive and highly expensive market.

"Not least if we ended up importing more hydrocarbons from Russia, which is absolutely the worst choice."

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