Electricity Generation (East Lothian)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 1:30 pm on 4th December 1996.

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Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson , East Lothian 1:30 pm, 4th December 1996

I am aware of that. We have so much excellent generating capacity in Scotland, and it should be used. Any artificial blocks, whether in Yorkshire or through planning constraints in South Ayrshire, should be reconsidered urgently.

But that issue is not the only one threatening the future of Cockenzie power station. I urge the Minister to look hard at PowerGen's mischievous threat to construct a gas-fired power station at Gartcosh in Lanarkshire. There is manifestly no need for any more generating capacity in Scotland. We have more than enough already. The idea would create only 35 jobs in north Lanarkshire, so it would be a woefully inadequate use of the site at Gartcosh. As the Minister knows, all the Members of Parliament and local authorities in Lanarkshire have expressed their opposition to the plan.

I say that the ploy is mischievous because it seems to be a device contrived by PowerGen to destabilise Scottish Power in its home market. My concern is that the reporter at the inquiry is supposed only to consider purely local planning issues for the Gartcosh neighbourhood.

I have a copy of the paper that has been put to the reporter, including a statement of matters that seem to the Secretary of State to be likely to be relevant to the reporter's consideration of the application, and it lists 12 criteria, all specifically local to the Gartcosh neighbourhood. I fear that those strict criteria for the inquiry could prevent him from taking into account effects elsewhere in Scotland, such as the threat to the economy of East Lothian and the likelihood that a loss-lead gas-fired station at Gartcosh could cause the premature closure of Cockenzie power station, with the loss of 240 jobs in my constituency, not to mention many more in the mining industry and in other parts of Scotland.

The Scottish Office is taking serious risks with my constituents' employment. I am grateful to the Minister for listening to my concerns today; I strongly urge him to give positive and unequivocal support to the principle of the Irish interconnector and to remove any unreasonable conditions that have been considered by the Secretary of State. I urge him also to resist the threat of an unwanted and entirely inappropriate gas-fired power station at Gartcosh.