SNP conference

Swinney says no as UK and Europe go nuclear

John Swinney
Defiant: John Swinney

Deputy First Minister John Swinney has told SNP supporters that the party remains opposed to building new nuclear power capacity in Scotland despite moves by the UK government to secure future energy supplies.

His message to the party conference follows the Prime Minister’s announcement that the UK government will ramp up investment in the sector and has formed a new collaboration with the French government.

Mr Swinney told delegates in Aberdeen on Sunday that the SNP is fully committed to green energy sources and will not comply with the UK government’s call for a new generation of nuclear facilities.

“Not only is Scotland self-sufficient in natural gas, we are a huge exporter,” he said. “Scotland is a nation rich in energy resources. We have a plentiful supply of clean, green, affordable renewable energy.

“The equivalent of almost 100% of our electricity demand is from renewable sources.”

The Prime minister Liz Truss has pledged more nuclear and renewable energy generation with the aim of tackling the current energy crisis and ensuring the UK is a net energy exporter by 2040.

She told the House of Commons last month that “energy policy has not focused enough on securing supply”, adding that there is “no better example of this than nuclear”.

As such, she said the government will “end the short-term approach to energy security and supply” and “make sure we are never in this situation again”.

Mr Swinney insists that Scotland goes its own way.

“Scotland is secure in energy. So, we need no lectures from Liz Truss about security of energy supply,” he told the party faithful in Aberdeen.

“It is the UK that has failed to achieve energy security, with the National Grid warning of possible power cuts this winter.

“And Scotland is not going to put up with a new round of nuclear power stations to make up for the failure of energy policy in the United Kingdom.

“Despite our huge strength in energy, 150,000 more people in Scotland will be forced into extreme fuel poverty as a result of the UK Government’s increase to the energy price cap in September.

“We are an energy rich nation, but 35% of our citizens live in fuel poverty. Why is that? Because, while Scotland has the energy, Westminster has the power. And how Westminster chooses to use its reserved power has consistently, and deliberately, disadvantaged Scotland.”

In Ms Truss’s Energy Security Strategy the UK Government has launched Great British Nuclear and has included small modular reactors as an “important part of the energy mix”. Rolls-Royce is among the companies developing the technology.

Rolls-Royce small modular reactor
Proposed modular reactors would be quicker to build

Great British Nuclear will bring forward new nuclear projects at a rate of about one a year this decade. This will support the Energy Security Strategy which sees a significant acceleration of nuclear, with an ambition of up to 24GW by 2050 to come from this source of power. In total, this would represent up to around 25% of the country’s projected electricity demand.

Companies such as Howden in Renfrewshire intend to seek more work in the nuclear sector.

The nuclear industry has been boosted by the government’s decision to commit £700 million to the Sizewell C nuclear power plant in Suffolk.

Former Prime Minister Boris Johnson confirmed funding plans during a speech on energy security at Sizewell C and planning permission for the project was granted in July.

Critics have argued Sizewell C will be hugely expensive and take years to build. It is not expected to begin generating electricity until the 2030s.

However, last week Ms Truss and France’s president Emmanuel Macron agreed joint support for the plant which will be developed by French state-owned energy company EDF.

Hinkley nuclear power station
A nuclear power plant creates the same carbon footprint as wind power, says EDF

The company says that over its lifetime a nuclear power station’s carbon footprint is the same as wind power and a smaller lifetime greenhouse gas footprint than that created by solar power. Sizewell C will be an almost identical replica of Hinkley Point C and could save nine million tonnes of CO2 a year, it said.

In July the European Parliament backed rules labelling investments in gas and nuclear power plants as climate-friendly.

The new rules will add gas and nuclear power plants to the EU “taxonomy” rulebook from 2023, enabling investors to label and market investments in them as green.

Despite the EU’s decision to embrace nuclear under its green agenda and new UK-France cooperation on energy expansion.

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