Scottish Tories under attack for “dustbin fire” support for new nuclear plants

Nathanael Williams

Scots Tory party is challenged over its support for nuclear as renewables go begging

THE SCOTTISH CONSERVATIVES have been criticised for announcing that they would build two new nuclear power plants as part of their energy strategy released yesterday (Wednesday 22 February).

Opposing parties have expressed grave concerns over the affect the plans for new stations at Hunterston and Torness will have on the environment and the safety of Scotland’s energy supply.

Hunterston and Torness are already the site of two plants which are seeing out their extended operational lives until around 2024.The two new facilities would be bulit near the existing nuclear sites in Ayrshire and East Lothian.

The policy proposals come at a time when the UK Conservative Government has received heavy criticism for its consistent withdrawl of financial support for Scottish renewable energy through cuts to subsidies.

“As soon as they got a majority on their own, the Tories made sweeping cuts in renewables.” Liam McArthur

Commenting on the proposals, Hamilton, Larkhall and Stonehouse MSP, Christina McKelvie told CommonSpace: “The proposals from the Tories to build two new nuclear stations, without any costed proposals or even a single mention of Scotland’s other energy and wind power capabilities, is actually a very fitting tribute to their party – out of touch, archaic and regressive.

“Unlike the Tories, the Scottish Government takes seriously their commitment to the environment. The SNP has already met its 2020 target of 42 per cent emissions reductions – 6 years early – in addition to the new Climate Change, aiming to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 66 per cent by 2032.

“Whilst her party continues their relentless austerity drive, it’s beggar’s belief that Ruth Davidson runs the risk of going nuclear, without a single proposal on how much this would cost to the people of Scotland, or the subsequent environmental impact.”

Liam McArthur MSP and energy spokesperson for the Scottish Liberal Democrats backed up this criticism by saying: “The Tories are about as eco-friendly as a dustbin fire.

“Under the coalition government, Britain’s renewable power capacity trebled, with over £40bn invested into onshore and offshore wind farms, solar and biomass. Yet, as soon as they got a majority on their own, the Tories made sweeping cuts in renewables. They are doing massive damage to our ability to build a greener, more sustainable future.”

In April last year, the UK Tory Government cut subsidies for windfarms, tidal projects and other renewable projects to expose them to market ‘efficiency’. Scotland, which has 25 per cent of Europe’s entire offshore wind resources, has been described by industry leaders as a renewables powerhouse. However, the Scottish Tories, along with their UK mother party, have deemed fracking and nuclear more reliable ways of gaining sustainable energy, urging the Scottish government to look to both as alternatives.

The Scottish Government has placed a moratorium on fracking and has organised a consultation on the practice of unconventional gas extraction from the earth. The results of the consultation are due in the summer of this year.

Opponents of the policy of new nuclear stations such as Greenpeace call the move “shortsighted” given that nuclear power leaves radioactive waste, is too costly to be sustainable and prone to accidents which endanger the public. The recent debacle over the Hinkley Point C plant, where the government ended up with a prospective bill for £350bn to private contractors, is cited as an example of the inefficiencies of nuclear energy.

When contacted the Scottish Tories presented the policy as greener than current fossil fuel imports.

“We must decrease our reliance on products manufactured abroad in order to reduce our carbon emissions but also increase jobs here in Scotland.” Maurice Golden

The Scottish Conservative shadow environment secretary Maurice Golden, said: “We must decrease our reliance on products manufactured abroad in order to reduce our carbon emissions but also increase jobs here in Scotland. To successfully transition to a circular economy, we need to refocus current Scottish Government intervention.

“Leadership on technological advancement, education and behaviour change, and the creation of a Centre for Circular Economy Excellence will together help to achieve an estimated £3bn economic boost. The bottom line is that a circular economy will be a win for businesses, a win for consumers and a win for the environment.”

However, this circular economy theory is challenged as “meaningless” by McArthur who stated that by failing to support Scotland against renewable subsidy cuts by its parent party in Westminister, the Scottish Tories had failed to live up to their rhetoric.

The Scottish Government has no intention of further extending the operational life of the two existing plants at Hunterston and Torness at present.

Picture courtesy of nz_willowherb

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