Coal-fired Power
First Minister's Question Time
12:00 pm

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Lewis Macdonald (Labour)

To ask the First Minister to what extent new coal-fired power generation will support the Scottish Government's plans for a low-carbon economy. (S3F-2721)

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Rt Hon Alex Salmond (Scottish National Party)

Just this week, we issued a draft electricity generation policy statement that demonstrates that Scotland can generate 80 per cent of its electricity demand from renewables, supported by thermal generation with carbon capture and storage.

By progressively fitting full CCS to existing and new thermal plants, maintaining a minimum thermal capacity of above 2.5GW and making grid improvements over the next decade, we can secure electricity supply and ensure decarbonisation by 2030. As a result, we will be able to export large amounts of electricity from Scotland.

"A Low Carbon Economic Strategy For Scotland", which was published on Monday, shows that between 52,000 and 95,000 new job opportunities can be created in the energy sector by 2020, with 10,000 of those jobs coming from CCS development.

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Lewis Macdonald (Labour)

Carbon capture does, indeed, have significant potential, but does the First Minister recall that, in the national planning framework, his Government offered support for new base-load electricity generating capacity at Hunterston, but only if it was fuelled by coal, and without requiring that technology to capture all its carbon emissions should be in place first? In the context of the plans and proposals for a low-carbon economy that he has described, will he reconsider his insistence that new generating capacity at Hunterston should be fuelled by coal?

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Rt Hon Alex Salmond (Scottish National Party)

I point out that, as the member well knows, I cannot comment on a live planning application.

I am somewhat surprised by the member's comments, because the framework that we put forward for carbon capture in Scotland was identical to the framework that was put forward by one Ed Miliband when he was the secretary of state at the Department of Energy and Climate Change. I do not want to see the future career of the member damaged in any way, but it is a bit rich of him to condemn the Scottish Government for putting forward a framework for carbon capture that is identical to the one pursued by the new leader of the Labour Party.

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Kenneth Gibson (Scottish National Party)

The First Minister will be aware that the Labour-Tory coalition that runs Inverclyde Council, which borders North Ayrshire, has recently decided not to object to the Hunterston coal-fired power station application; indeed, it is in favour of it. Does he agree that that shows the hollowness and blatant opportunism of Labour's position in claiming to oppose an unwanted and unnecessary development while its elected representatives actively support it?

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Rt Hon Alex Salmond (Scottish National Party)

I must be careful not to express any view on a planning application, so, therefore, I will not. However, until Kenny Gibson asked his question, I thought that Lewis Macdonald was at variance only with the leader of the Labour Party. Now, however, I realise that he is also at variance with Labour's local representatives. That is a remarkable balancing act that, I am sure, only Lewis Macdonald can achieve.

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Gavin Brown (Conservative)

Last week, in this chamber, the Scottish Government's energy policy was torn apart by an industry expert, Rupert Soames, in a thoughtful speech. [ Laughter .]

Scottish National Party members may laugh, but Mr Swinney, who was there, looks rather sheepish and uncomfortable right now—

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Gavin Brown (Conservative)

—and the Minister for Enterprise, Energy and Tourism is sitting right at the back of the chamber, out of the way.

Does the Scottish Government intend to reflect on that speech and take action, or will it ignore the warnings of a highly respected industry expert?

Photo of Rt Hon Alex Salmond

Rt Hon Alex Salmond (Scottish National Party)

I would never ignore the warnings of highly respected industry experts, but I have taken the precaution of reading Rupert Soames's speech, a copy of which I have before me. I can see why I found some of its contents surprising, because, basically, it is all about United Kingdom energy policy. It is only in the second last paragraph that he refers to Scotland, when he says that we have to take account of what is happening in England and Wales.

The speech surprised me for a few reasons. First, Rupert Soames seemed to suggest that it is impossible to generate more than 10 per cent of a country's electricity from wind generation, but we in Scotland already do that—we are doing that right now, not in 10 years' time. He warned of the retirement of oil-fired power generation. We do not have any of that in Scotland, so we can probably relax in that regard.

Rupert Soames also warned that people were setting long-term targets that were meaningless. If I remember correctly—in fact, I do remember correctly—our first target for renewable generation is to achieve a situation in which 31 per cent of Scotland's demand is supplied by renewable generation by next year. We are going to go through that quite substantially. How do I know that? Because reaching that target depends only on the facilities that are already in production, the ones that have been licensed and the ones that are under construction.

Having read Mr Soames's remarks, I think that there is some evidence to back up his criticisms of policy in London. The member would be foolish not to take account of the different perspective and policies of the Scottish Government, which has licensed and approved 36 major renewables applications in the past three years.