Blair concedes Scotland has nuclear power veto

Liberal Democrats will resist new nuclear power stations in Scotland

Responding to a question today from Jo Swinson MP, Liberal Democrat Shadow Secretary of State for Scotland, the Prime Minister conceded that Holyrood will have the power to decide whether new nuclear power stations are built in Scotland.

The Scottish Executive has control of planning policy and it has been thought that the final say over building new nuclear power stations would rest with Holyrood, where the Liberal Democrats strongly oppose proposals for new nuclear sites.

However, in a speech to the Confederation of British Industry last month, the Prime Minister pre-empted the Department for Trade and Industry’s Energy Review by spelling out his intention to press ahead with new nuclear build.

Speaking at Prime Minister’s Questions today, Ms Swinson said:

“Does the Prime Minister agree that whatever his Government’s views on nuclear power, it is the Scottish Executive who will decide whether to allow the building of new nuclear power stations in Scotland?”

The Prime Minister said:

“Of course, as a result of devolution those decisions will be taken in accordance with the legislation that outlines the respective powers of the Scottish Executive, the UK Parliament and the UK Executive. I point out to the hon. Lady that Scotland has nuclear power stations now and a large part of the whole country’s electricity depends on them.”

Ms Swinson commented:

“I was certainly pleased to hear the Prime Minister say that as a result of devolution the final decision over building new nuclear power stations in Scotland will be taken by the Scottish Executive. However, I am concerned that he appears to assume that because two of the UK’s nine operating nuclear plants are situated in Scotland new build nuclear would be welcome.

“As these sites approach decommissioning the Prime Minister must be concerned at the prospect of his nuclear project being derailed by opposition in the Scottish Parliament.

“The majority of people in Scotland are opposed to new nuclear power stations, and rightly so. Aside from the huge cost – estimated at over £70bn to clean up Britain’s existing nuclear sites – nuclear brings with it the unsolved problem of toxic waste, as well as the missed opportunity to invest in renewables and decentralised energy generation.

“Fortunately there is no prospect of the Scottish Executive agreeing new nuclear power stations while the Liberal Democrats are part of it.”

“Scotland has some of the best renewable potential in Europe, and this, along with microgeneration, drives to promote energy efficiency and investment in ‘clean coal’ technology, is where our focus should be.”

At a press conference yesterday, Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell highlighted the cost of cleaning up a new generation of nuclear power stations, and called nuclear power “the ultimate stealth tax”.

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