Environment

– in the Scottish Parliament at 3:40 pm on 21st February 2007.

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Photo of Trish Godman Trish Godman Labour 3:40 pm, 21st February 2007

The next item of business is a debate on motion S2M-5607, in the name of Richard Lochhead, on the environment.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party 3:48 pm, 21st February 2007

Last week, the High Court in London delivered the devastating judgment that the United Kingdom Government's decision to pursue a programme of new nuclear power stations was unlawful. I know that all members will want to congratulate Greenpeace on pursuing that action in the UK High Court and doing us all—not just in Scotland, but in the UK—a tremendous favour.

The High Court judge deemed the decision illegal because there was no proper consultation process, as was promised in the UK Government's 2003 energy white paper. The judge humiliated the Government when he said that the consultation was "seriously flawed", "manifestly inadequate" and "unfair", and that the Government had provided no information on the real costs and risks associated with the building of nuclear power stations in the UK. The case is, of course, reminiscent of the case of the dodgy dossier that Tony Blair produced before the Iraq war, when he decided on the outcome before he had justified the policy.

The judgment vindicates what the Scottish National Party and many others in Scotland have said: the consultation that the Government undertook—if we can call it a consultation—was a complete and utter sham. It was simply an excuse for Tony Blair to back his cronies in the nuclear power industry in the UK.

The judgment is another humiliating blow to the Government's nuclear policy. The Government's adviser the Sustainable Development Commission said last year that nuclear has no role in meeting the UK's or Scotland's energy needs and no role whatever in tackling climate change.

The Government's amendment is disappointing, as it avoids the big issue. The Scottish people expect the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish ministers to take a stance on the issue of future nuclear power stations in Scotland. It is utterly cowardly of the minister not to mention nuclear power or express a view as to whether it is a good or bad thing for Scotland. The people of Scotland expect the Scottish Parliament to take a stance on the issue. They do not want new nuclear power stations to be built in Scotland and they feel that there is no need for them.

Our small country of 5 million people is a very lucky nation. We are blessed with an array of cleaner, safer and cheaper alternatives to meet our future energy needs and to fulfil our commitment to tackling climate change at the same time. We have hit the energy jackpot yet again, through having many of Europe's wind, wave and tidal resources, among others. We welcome yesterday's announcement from ministers—albeit it was eight years late and only 70 days before polling day—that they will back wave energy generation in Scotland. That is a step forward, but we have taken our time over it and we could have been much further forward in implementing renewables technology if ministers had got their act together. If they had put just some of the energy and enthusiasm into promoting renewables in Scotland as the UK Government has put into promoting nuclear power, we would be a lot further forward.

The Government's record in Scotland does not stand up and it represents a lukewarm response to the need to promote renewables in Scotland. We had yesterday's announcement of support for the wave energy industry only because of the wake-up call when the Portuguese got in before us. Technology that was developed in Scotland was deployed commercially in Portuguese waters before we could put it in ours.

There is a £50 million fund for renewable energy projects, but it has been held for years in London by the Office of Gas and Electricity Markets. Although the Labour-Lib Dem coalition Government in Scotland says that promoting renewables is a huge priority for Scotland, that pot of money has not been touched in the past few years. All our ministers have to do is draw down that £50 million and start investing it in promoting renewable energy technology in Scotland.

Energy efficiency has a crucial role in the debate but, as we speak, we are still waiting for the Government's promised energy efficiency strategy for Scotland, which is at least one and a half years late. We have been promised the strategy time and again in the past 18 months but now, 70 days before the election, we are still waiting for it.

During the transition period in which Scotland moves towards becoming a renewables nation in a few decades, we must harness the technologies that are available in Scotland today. We must harness the expertise that we have on our doorstep and play to Scotland's strengths. The offshore industry in Scotland, which is much maligned by members of some parties, has a crucial role in the transition from where we are today to a renewables economy. Talisman Energy Inc's massive offshore wind project in the Beatrice field, which will be the world's first deep-water offshore wind farm, is tremendously exciting for Scotland and we must support it as much as we can. BP and its partners propose to build the world's first hydrogen power plant with carbon capture in Peterhead in north-east Scotland, which would be another world first. We must ensure that we do not miss the boat and that the UK Government is on board.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

Mr Lochhead's latter point is interesting. I have noted his party leader's comments in the press about the subject. Does Mr Lochhead know how much BP demands in public subsidy for the Peterhead project to go ahead? How does he propose that we should foot that bill? Would the taxpayer or the consumer meet the bill?

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The key problem is that the UK Government has postponed a decision on the matter. We must decide now and get behind what is a massive opportunity for Scotland's energy future. That is the key, but the UK Government, and Gordon Brown in particular, have decided to postpone the decision and BP has put the project on hold. That is bad news for Scotland. We must get the go-ahead if we are to reduce Scotland's emissions and tackle global warming. Doosan Babcock Energy Ltd in Renfrew wants to develop world-leading clean coal technology in Scotland but, yet again, the Government in London is delaying decisions on support for the technology.

The key point is that global warming is a threat here and now. It is a real and present danger facing Scotland. The energy sector is Scotland's biggest contributor to the harmful emissions that cause global warming. We must clean up our energy industry in Scotland, but nuclear energy is not the answer. We must scotch the myths. Nuclear energy is not reliable. As we speak, Hunterston B is closed down and it is not producing energy but, of course, the lights have not gone out in Scotland, which shows that we do not need nuclear energy at present.

Nuclear energy is not carbon free: drilling for uranium causes lots of carbon emissions. Nuclear energy is certainly not a clean industry: for the past few decades, nuclear waste has been produced by the nuclear sector in Scotland. There is no safe solution to nuclear waste in Scotland. The minister should face that reality and dump any commitment to producing even more nuclear waste in Scotland. We should be supplying our communities from renewable energy sources, not sending nuclear waste convoys through their high streets.

We do not have time to wait for nuclear energy. If we supported its construction, the first nuclear power station would not be up and running until 2017-18 or even later.

I conclude my speech in this short debate on nuclear energy and its relation to our energy needs and our environment by saying that we have to take the right decisions now. Future generations will depend on this Parliament having taken the right decisions now. We can have a win-win situation in Scotland. We can make the most of clean energy technologies and of our renewables potential. That could create thousands of new jobs and could meet our energy needs for centuries to come. It would also make a disproportionate contribution towards tackling global warming and towards the global effort to tackle climate change. I commend the SNP's motion to the chamber.

I move,

That the Parliament welcomes the recent ruling by the High Court in London that declared the UK Government's decision to back new nuclear power stations illegal due to a failure to consult adequately; recognises that the judgement is a further blow to the UK Government's pro-nuclear policy, and rejects the case for new nuclear power stations in Scotland in favour of developing our nation's enormous renewables and clean energy potential which is the quickest, most effective, safest and less expensive energy option for tackling climate change.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour 3:56 pm, 21st February 2007

We have just heard the usual litany of misrepresentation of the Executive's approach to renewable energy and our position on nuclear power. After all the debates that we have had in this chamber, I would have thought that even Richard Lochhead would have a grasp of our position, even if he does not know how much his party's promises to Peterhead would actually cost.

At the moment, nuclear power is a significant part of our energy mix. Scotland will need a replacement for the generating capacity that is provided by our current stations—which, if she is to be taken at her word, Roseanna Cunningham would close tomorrow. We need a sensible debate on how we can achieve that replacement. The Executive's position is clear: we will not support the further development of new nuclear power stations while waste management issues remain unresolved. What could be clearer than that?

That is the position in Scotland. However, for the avoidance of doubt, let us be clear about the position in England. The SNP motion perhaps implies that the recent ruling by Mr Justice Sullivan condemns nuclear power. That is not the case. The ruling related to the adequacy of consultation by the UK Government on nuclear power. Our amendment reflects the true position.

Photo of Richard Lochhead Richard Lochhead Scottish National Party

The First Minister has repeatedly said that the report of the Committee on Radioactive Waste Management would indicate to him whether a solution had been found to dealing with nuclear waste. What is the position of the minister and the First Minister? Did the report provide them with a solution?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

I have already outlined the Executive's position. Our policy on new nuclear power stations was made clear in response to the Department of Trade and Industry's energy review, and it will be set out again in the UK Government's proposed white paper, which I am reliably informed will be produced shortly. The white paper will, I am sure, also recognise the huge potential of renewable energy in Scotland not only to meet our own needs but to contribute to the UK's climate change objectives. We cannot compartmentalise the fight against climate change by using national boundaries—that is an example of the futility of the nationalists' position.

Scotland has tremendous renewables potential—equal to 10 times our peak demand. We also have the skills and technology that are necessary for a successful renewables sector. Our own targets are way ahead of those of the rest of the UK and those proposed by the European Commission.

As has been referred to—and, indeed, welcomed—we announced this week that, in 2005, 18 per cent of Scotland's demand was met by renewable energy. We set that target for 2010. We are determined to meet our target of 40 per cent by 2020.

Hydro power and onshore wind are the principal sources of renewable energy today, and they have further potential. For larger cases, the Executive is taking action that could help to reduce the number of stages in the consent process. That is a key issue for staff attention. Only last week, I referred to the issue in response to a question from John Swinney.

However, onshore wind and hydro are by no means the only options. In Scotland, we have the scope to move into other areas. We are actively promoting energy from marine, biomass and hydrogen sources. We have invested in the European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, which is a world-class facility for testing wave and tidal devices, as well as in the offshore wind project in the Moray firth. The key driving factor behind that growth has been the renewables obligation, which is a world-leading market mechanism for promoting renewables technology.

I would say much more if more time were available. We continue to work towards ambitious targets for sourcing our energy from a balanced energy mix. Some have said that that should exclude nuclear power. I do not believe that to be the case. I say to those people that, unless they support Roseanna Cunningham's view that all nuclear power stations should close tomorrow—which they do not—they must recognise that energy supply is not a simple issue and that it does the Scottish people no favours to pretend that it is. Together with the UK Government, the Executive will continue to work to ensure that Scotland has a secure, affordable and low-carbon energy supply.

I move amendment S2M-5607.3, to leave out from "welcomes" to end and insert:

"notes the ruling by the High Court in London regarding the UK Government consultation on energy; notes that the DTI has accepted the judgement and will consult further; believes that the way ahead for energy in Scotland is to deliver on the Scottish Executive's energy policies; further welcomes the announcement by the Executive that it has already met its 2010 target of 18% of Scotland's electricity from renewable energy; welcomes the Executive's support for nine marine power projects, including one set to be the world's largest, and its commitment to the world-leading European Marine Energy Centre (EMEC) in Orkney; notes that the achievement of the Executive's renewable energy targets has been through a mix of renewable technologies, including the major Blacklaw windfarm constructed on a former open-cast coal site generating 140MW; notes that projects for the future include the substantial Glen Doe hydro power project, world-leading offshore wind development and significant biomass energy schemes, and believes that Scotland can achieve its future renewables targets if it is supported with determination and consistency by the Executive."

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative 4:01 pm, 21st February 2007

It is nice to get back to discussing the good old subjects: energy, and nuclear power's place in it, is one that we have discussed many times. However, I do not intend to dwell too much on nuclear power. I restate the Conservative party's position that we are not prepared to see the lights go out in Scotland. If that means taking tough decisions about replacing existing generating capacity in Scotland, we are prepared to do so.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

No thank you.

Where does that leave us in relation to the SNP motion? The SNP has lodged what can only be described as an opportunist motion—an attempt to raise a subject that is not within devolved control and to exploit it to the best of its ability. I suppose that it is entitled to do so if it sees fit. How do we address the issue in the Scottish Parliament? The right thing for us to do is to pose one or two questions to the SNP. What does it say about the general requirements that we have for anybody in this Parliament to be a responsible Government in the future and to deliver for the real needs of the Scottish people?

The one thing that we can be absolutely sure of is that a regular, reliable and affordable supply of electricity is absolutely essential to the well-being of Scotland's people in the long term. If we are to have high-quality public services, which we all think are important, we must be able to grow the economy and generate the resource that that requires. If we go to work on a Monday morning and there is no power when the switches are flicked, the economy will not generate the wealth that we require.

What is worse is that those who already suffer from fuel poverty in Scotland will suffer most if the power is switched off.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

No. It is all very well for those of us who have the wealth and resources to depend on renewable energy to assume that we will manage to deal with the odd day when the power is not on. The real problem is that those who live on the 20 th floor of a tower block in one of our major cities and have no alternative but to use electricity might find themselves in a very difficult position one March or February morning.

Photo of Alex Johnstone Alex Johnstone Conservative

No, thank you.

The SNP has brought this subject to us again. We want to hear more about what it would do to ensure that we do not require nuclear energy—if that is what it believes. At the moment, the SNP is more determined to talk about this, and is not prepared to address its primary priorities. We must address the issue of how we deal with the difference between what we can generate through the dependence on intermittent sources of power and what we cannot. That means that we need to look at our energy requirements in the context of a great deal of diversity, to which the Labour Party amendment refers, but also to account for how we will address the gap.

Clean coal technology is an option that we should pursue. The Conservative party is happy to make a long-term commitment to the idea that clean coal technology has a future. We also believe that carbon capture techniques are important and should be promoted. However, it is interesting that the Peterhead proposal is being raised yet again in this debate. I worry that the proposal to produce hydrogen at a plant in Peterhead uses technology that is a generation away. Even if we can produce hydrogen on a commercial scale, it is too valuable to burn to generate electricity once again. It must be part of a developed hydrogen economy that, at the moment, we are not in a position to support. We must consider the longer-term aims and objectives in that regard.

It is important that we consider Scotland's energy needs. We must take the issue seriously and take a balanced and broad approach. It is disgraceful that the SNP has sought to score political points by simply attacking the nuclear industry in Scotland once again.

I move amendment S2M-5607.1, to leave out from "welcomes" to end and insert:

"notes the conclusions of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that human beings are, with a 90% probability, responsible for accelerating climate change and believes that this report simply reinforces the need for urgent action; therefore welcomes the Conservatives' commitment to a climate change Bill to introduce annual targets and their call for carbon capture and storage to be put on an equal footing with other low-carbon energy sources; believes that we need a broad-based strategy of energy production for future energy provision in Scotland, and further welcomes the Scottish Conservatives' proposal for a Scottish eco-bonus scheme to incentivise households, communities and small businesses to install modern energy-creating and energy-saving technologies that will have the triple benefit of cutting their energy bills, reducing CO2 emissions and giving a boost to new small-scale renewable technologies."

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green 4:06 pm, 21st February 2007

Many environmental threats face Scotland, but few pose such a dire threat as climate change. We all know that it is happening, what causes it and what needs to be done. Emissions of carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gases must be cut by around 90 per cent over the next few decades if we are to have any chance of avoiding the worst consequences of a rapidly changing climate.

We agree with the bulk of the SNP motion. We agree that nuclear power is not the way forward. It is expensive, unsafe and leads to significant carbon emissions of its own. We, too, welcome the recent High Court ruling that upheld Greenpeace's legal challenge of the United Kingdom Government's sham energy review consultation.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

We have heard tributes to Greenpeace's pioneering campaigning on environmental protection. Does Shiona Baird agree with Patrick Moore, the former leader of Greenpeace, who, in today's Daily Express , argues that nuclear power is the only way forward in terms of combating climate change?

Photo of Shiona Baird Shiona Baird Green

We must recognise that there are quite a few supposed environmentalists who have changed their views. However, all their arguments can be undermined by the facts. There are myths and there are facts and it is the facts that we need to concentrate on.

The new Labour way of doing business seems to be to decide what it is going to do, carry out a figleaf consultation exercise to offer a veneer of respectability and then arrive, as if by magic, at the number that it first thought of. However, we now know that such an approach is not only profoundly unethical, it is also unlawful.

We also agree with the SNP that Scotland has an enormous potential for renewables. I urge Alex Johnstone to listen to my next statement. The Executive's figures show that Scotland could generate more than 200,000GW hours of electricity each year if we took full advantage of the renewables that are available to us. Given that we consume only around 35,000GW each year, it is clear that there need be no gap in the generation of electricity.

However, the SNP's assertion that developing our renewable resource is the quickest, most effective, safest and least expensive energy option ignores energy efficiency, which is disappointing. Just as with waste management, in relation to which there is a reduce, reuse and recycle hierarchy, there is an energy reduction hierarchy. First, we must eliminate as much waste as possible. Secondly, we must ensure that the conversion of energy is carried out as efficiently as possible. In parallel with that, we must generate a clean supply of renewable energy.

Scotland could reduce its overall energy demand—I am talking about total energy, not just electricity—by between one quarter and one third if we put our minds to it. However, energy efficiency continues to be the poor cousin of more glamorous energy issues, despite the fact that it offers so much at so little cost. Research from the UK Government's performance and innovation unit showed that most energy efficiency measures are available at a net negative cost. Energy efficiency does not cost money; it saves money. That is why we felt that we had to amend the SNP motion.

Renewable, decentralised energy and energy efficiency must go hand in hand. As we focus on renewables we must, equally, consider the enormous gains that energy efficiency can make. Only then will we achieve the kind of energy future that Scotland needs and deserves.

I move amendment S2M-5607.2, to leave out from "welcomes" to end and insert:

"recognises that developing a sustainable energy policy is one of the most serious environmental challenges currently facing Scotland, given the need to reduce our climate changing emissions; believes that Scotland's energy future is best served by a combination of energy conservation, energy efficiency and clean decentralised production of energy; notes that nuclear power remains an expensive, dangerous and fundamentally unsustainable power source that is by no means carbon-free and that the long-term storage of radioactive waste continues to pose an insurmountable challenge to the nuclear industry; welcomes therefore the success of Greenpeace's judicial review of the UK Government's flawed consultation on nuclear power and hopes that a properly conducted consultation exercise will arrive at a more sustainable outcome; calls on the Scottish Executive to prepare and submit a timely response to the new UK energy review consultation which highlights the environmental, social and economic benefits offered by energy conservation and efficiency and renewable energy in Scotland, and calls on all political parties that oppose nuclear power to publicly rule out coalition with any party that refuses to rule out new nuclear build in Scotland."

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat 4:10 pm, 21st February 2007

Apart from its welcoming the High Court judgment, of which I will say more later, the SNP motion is one that I could endorse. The difficulty that I have with the SNP is its somewhat erratic record on some environmental matters. It talks the talk on green energy but, with a few honourable exceptions, consistently opposes wind farms in its own backyards. The SNP supported the Edinburgh trams, then opposed them. It supported the Edinburgh airport rail link, then opposed it. It supported the Glasgow airport rail link, then opposed it. It supported the Borders railway, then criticised it. However, its motion ends with a sensible statement on energy and climate.

It is interesting that all that the recent High Court ruling delivers is more consultation. I am totally frustrated by the time that has been wasted on consultation on nuclear energy to try to get the answer that Tony Blair wants. More consultation will take more time, and it continues to divert Government from pressing ahead with renewable energy, cleaner technologies and energy efficiency. The Sustainable Development Commission's report on nuclear power, published in March 2006, states that

"there is no justification for bringing forward plans for a new nuclear power programme at this time."

Building state-subsidised nuclear power plants will produce vast quantities of waste that we do not know how to deal with, put a lot of our energy eggs in one terrorist-vulnerable basket and result in more expensive decommissioning 20 or 30 years hence. Nuclear decommissioning will cost at least £0.25 billion a year for at least the next three generations.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

On that point, on which I agree with the member, will she take an intervention?

Photo of Nora Radcliffe Nora Radcliffe Liberal Democrat

I am sorry, but I have got a lot to get through in four minutes.

Most important, building state-subsidised nuclear power plants will sap investment from the renewable energy industry.

Scotland has the resources, the marine energy expertise and the manufacturing capability to develop a world-beating marine energy industry. Microrenewables also offer huge potential to reduce household bills and the demand for centrally generated electricity. The Scottish Executive set itself the target of producing 40 per cent of electricity from renewable resources by 2020, and has met the 18 per cent interim target three years early. In the past three years, we have invested around £100 million in renewables and energy efficiency support—ahead of Ireland or any other part of Britain. Through the Scottish community and householder renewables initiative, we have provided support for more than 600 small and microrenewables projects. Nicol Stephen has announced £13 million of funding for marine energy projects in Scottish waters, mostly in Orkney, where the world's largest commercial wave power farm is being developed. We have developed a £20 million fund for public sector energy efficiency, delivering £70 million of savings and making significant cuts in emissions.

Renewable, decentralised energy and microgeneration are important. Demand is just as important as supply. In energy efficiency, Liberal Democrats believe that the public sector must lead by example by going carbon neutral. We propose to extend the energy efficiency fund to deliver even greater energy savings and to cut carbon emissions still further. Climate change does not give the nuclear industry a way back. Nuclear power is too expensive and unsafe, and no solution has been found for dealing permanently with radioactive waste. A decentralised energy system, working hand in hand with renewable energy sources and more efficient energy use, would tackle head on the problems of climate change, pollution, energy security and cost.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

This is a short debate and I ask for speeches of a maximum of four minutes. Even then, I am not sure that I can accommodate all members who wish to speak. I call Maureen Watt, to be followed by Maureen Macmillan.

Photo of Maureen Watt Maureen Watt Scottish National Party 4:14 pm, 21st February 2007

It is the two Maureens. Thank you, Presiding Officer.

As this Blair Government thankfully nears its end, it will be remembered in a negative and discredited way for a few things, not least taking Britain into an illegal war. It will also be surrounded by the suspicion of cash for peerages. The decision by Mr Justice Sullivan just last week must also rank among those scars on our democracy.

As others have said, Greenpeace is to be congratulated in pursuing its legal action and in highlighting the Government's failure to disclose key information on the new generation of nuclear power stations, mostly to do with the disposal of nuclear waste and the financial costs. Alex Johnstone should be reminded that nuclear power meets only 3.6 per cent of our total energy demand. Under any nuclear new-build programme, the first reactor would not come online until 2018 at the earliest, with the main delivery of the programme not happening until around 2025 to 2030. That is not in this generation.

If there was no further delay on the Peterhead carbon capture project, that could be up and running by 2009, at a projected cost of $1 billion. If the minister wants to know, the money for that could come from stopping sending our troops to Iraq, and perhaps also from the nuclear weapons programme.

A 4 per cent saving could also be achieved by insisting on energy conservation measures on the part of housebuilders and businesses, which should make it a priority for their workplaces. It is a relief that the Executive has at last managed to decide to support the wave and tidal industries and to take Scotland another step on the way to becoming a renewable energy powerhouse, confirming the huge potential for carbon-free energy generation that exists around Scotland, rather than allowing projects to go to Portugal.

Perhaps Scottish ministers could now turn their attention to chivvying Gordon Brown into supporting carbon capture technology and to getting behind the Peterhead project. The project will convert natural gas to hydrogen and carbon dioxide. The hydrogen will be used as clean fuel for a 350MW power station, and the carbon dioxide will be pumped into the North sea oil reservoirs for the purposes of increased oil recovery and, ultimately, storage.

It is disingenuous for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to say that he has to compare Peterhead with other projects, which are nowhere near as far down the road. Carbon capture and storage clearly have the potential to add to the growth strategy of Scotland and to reduce our CO2 footprint.

Aberdeen, the north and the north-east are clearly ready and willing to be the global energy hub, with the development of the Aberdeen science and energy park, an energy academy and an energy technologies institute all in the pipeline or ready to go. That is exciting news for Scotland, and we do not need nuclear power.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour 4:18 pm, 21st February 2007

The Scottish National Party seems to be committed to renewables only until the going gets tough and its members think that they might lose a vote or two. For example, the SNP has completely sold the pass on wind farm development. It initially called for an upgrade of the Beauly to Denny power line, but now, since the matter has become contentious, it has sold the pass on that, too. Richard Lochhead used the word "cowardly." That is a word to be applied to the Scottish National Party.

I want to make my commitment to renewable energy perfectly clear. I believe in the well tested technology of onshore wind power, which SNP members do not mention any more. Richard Lochhead did not mention it in his speech; he mentioned offshore wind power, but not onshore wind power. The 40-plus-turbine wind power station at Farr was opened a few months ago, but not one SNP Highland member attended, not even the constituency member. Does that show that the SNP is committed to renewable energy? I do not think so.

I believe in wind power, and I believe in large commercial wind farms that are appropriately sited. I also believe in community wind farms, both large and small, which will provide energy and an income for villages, townships, housing schemes or islands. The island of Gigha is a good example, and it is unfortunate that hysteria has prevented some other communities from following suit. I know that the wind does not always blow, but it blows in Scotland more than in most places, and we can invest in other renewables to fill the gap.

I do not think that we will need a new generation of nuclear power stations in Scotland. Yesterday, the Deputy First Minister made the most significant announcement on investment in marine energy research and the development of a commercial wave power farm west of Orkney. Richard Lochhead described that as "a step", but I am sure that it is the start of an enormous bonanza for Scotland, not just in producing energy but in manufacturing the devices that will harness the waves and tides and exporting those and our expertise worldwide.

Wind and wave power have particular application in the Highlands and Islands, but if we are to be the powerhouse of renewables, we must be able to deliver power to the grid. I would like to hear all SNP members who are in favour of producing renewable energy in the Highlands and Islands say loudly and clearly that they support the necessary upgrading of the grid that will carry that power from Beauly to Denny.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

No.

I agree that we can have subsea cables down the east and west coasts and underground land cables when necessary, but that will require a lot of visible engineering work. Members cannot demand that cables are run underground and then object to the building of a large converter station. Subsea and underground cables carry direct current, so they cannot link to further wind or marine turbines en route without appearing above ground and being converted to alternating current at a converter station. I contend that that would be much more destructive to the visual landscape than pylons.

We need to upgrade our grid connection now, whether or not we are producing renewables. The present line is no longer fit for purpose and is coming to the end of its life. We will have bigger pylons, but fewer of them. To me, that seems to be a good trade-off.

I challenge Opposition MSPs. They cannot be in favour of renewables but against wind power. They cannot be in favour of renewables but against the upgrading of the grid. Too many of them are condoning by their silence a movement which, like the lairds in the days of the establishment of the hydro board, wishes to preserve the Highlands in aspic. I refer to people who want to walk the hills but do not care to see the population of the Highlands and Islands grow and prosper. They do not wish to see the industry that would spring up, or the jobs for our young people in Kintyre, the Western Isles, Caithness and Easter Ross.

We desperately want the engineering and construction work that real investment in renewables will bring. Those areas of Scotland are already being affected by global warming through floods and storms. Global warming will affect other countries even more through drought and rising seas.

Photo of Maureen Macmillan Maureen Macmillan Labour

The member should stop shouting, for goodness' sake.

I urge members to speak up for wind turbines, for marine power and for the necessary upgrading of the grid to carry the power. I would sooner have a handful of pylons at Drumochter than see South Uist disappear under the sea.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party 4:22 pm, 21st February 2007

Maureen Macmillan told Richard Lochhead to stop shouting, but our ears are sore from her shout—it was certainly not a speech.

The Tory and Executive amendments do not mention nuclear power. I wonder whether it is because there is an election coming along that nuclear power has been airbrushed out of the amendments. It is well known that the majority of Scots oppose nuclear power. Where is the courage of the Executive's convictions? Does the Executive now implicitly support the building of new nuclear power stations? Is that the new reality? Are the Liberals now so beholden to Labour that that is their position too?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

Is the member proposing that Scotland's or the UK's energy needs should be determined by public opinion polls?

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

In that case, I wonder why Mr Blair put the road charging petition on the 10 Downing Street website and sought people's views. Why would he do that if he does not listen to what people say? The minister should get real.

The Executive's amendment is anodyne in the extreme. It "notes" this, that and the next thing, but it contains no ambition, no forward look and no commitment to the future.

Scotland does not want new nuclear power stations. We do not want to leave our children with a dangerous inheritance of nuclear waste.

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

In a moment.

Scotland's technology powered the world into the industrial revolution. Today, we must strive to lead the world again with the technological solutions for the green energy revolution.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative

Does the member agree that nuclear waste already exists and that we are unlikely to make it safer by, in effect, mothballing the industry?

Photo of Bruce Crawford Bruce Crawford Scottish National Party

I agree entirely that nuclear waste already exists. Alex Johnstone talked about nuclear power and the effect of energy prices on the fuel poor. We should remember for a minute that decommissioning has cost us between £56 billion and £70 billion and that a further £20 billion to £30 billion will be needed for long-term management of waste. That is £1,600 per person in the country. If that is not an impact on the fuel poor, I do not know what is.

Nuclear power is not a solution to global warming. Even with the most optimistic build rate, a programme of building 10 new nuclear power stations would deliver a cut of only 4 per cent in CO2 emissions by 2024. That would be too little, too late to stop global warming. We should stop the nonsense that nuclear power will somehow be the solution to global warming.

I congratulate the Executive on its announcement yesterday about wave power and tidal power. I wonder what Stephen Salter makes of that after all these years. The technology is basically exactly the same as that which he pioneered all that time ago. It is a pity that developing it has taken so long.

As for what Maureen Macmillan said, there is good practice and bad practice on wind farms. Three wind farms are in the Stirlingshire area. Anyone who goes up the A9 can see the impact of the Braes of Doune wind farm on the landscape. However, at Craigengelt, an embedded system that is not connected to the grid has been planned for the future. That is a good example of a wind farm. A wee bit further afield, a good example is in Fintry, where a community owns a wind turbine. There is good practice and bad practice and we will support the good practice.

Photo of Rosie Kane Rosie Kane SSP 4:27 pm, 21st February 2007

Today's debate is timely given that, on Monday this week, Frances Curran, Patrick Harvie and I joined the Greenpeace International ship the Arctic Sunrise to sail to Faslane to view the horror of the other side of the nuclear industry—weapons of mass destruction. Nuclear weapons cannot exist without nuclear power. The products of nuclear power are used to create such monsters. That must be kept at the front of the debate about nuclear power today and in the future.

I cannot even begin to guess the Westminster Government's motivation on nuclear power, but is it a coincidence that it plans to increase the number of nuclear power stations in line with an upgrade of our nuclear weapons systems?

Our Government is lining up in a sabre-rattling exercise with Iran on the same issue. It claims that Iran's move towards nuclear power is a cover-up for the introduction of nuclear weapons. That sounds like the pot calling the kettle black.

Like many members, we welcome Mr Justice Sullivan's decision at the High Court of Justice in London in response to Greenpeace's challenge. He states clearly in his decision that the so-called consultation exercise was seriously flawed. It is a disgrace, but not a surprise, that the Government deliberately held back important documents.

Most people throughout the country oppose the new wave of nuclear power stations. That opposition would be strengthened if the truth—the whole truth—was in the public domain. We must listen to the public and to polls on the matter, which is of huge interest and will be a huge expense to the public.

The question is whether the Scottish Executive will exhibit the same clandestine behaviour as the Westminster Government and whether it will keep the public in the dark. I reckon that it will. We see it in the Executive's amendment, in which, as several members have said, Allan Wilson does not even mention nuclear power. If that is not ignoring the elephant in the room, I do not know what is.

If forward planning and care for the environment and the planet's future had been a priority decades ago, the billions that have been spent on subsidising the nuclear industry could have been invested in clean energy and in initiatives to reduce energy use. We still have the opportunity to do that and we could begin today if every member in the chamber sided with the vast majority of the Scottish people and voted for an end to nuclear power—but I reckon that the foot of Westminster is placed firmly on Executive members' necks, and that they will not support the people of Scotland, the environment, the future of the country or the planet.

In the wake of Mr Justice Sullivan's decision in favour of Greenpeace, the Government must conduct a review, but it should take the opportunity to move away from the nuclear option. It should learn from the mistakes of the past, which are symbolised by the tonnes of nuclear waste that are littered around the country, which will poison the planet for the foreseeable future. The Conservatives mentioned that waste.

Many members subscribe to the views of Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament, and many have built careers on signing their petitions and wearing their badges. It is incumbent on those members to put their money where their mouth is, to vote to end the nuclear power project and to thank Greenpeace for taking the issue to court. If members do otherwise, they will let down the people of Scotland and the planet. The Parliament should fire a warning shot: it should say that we will not tolerate nuclear power of any scale in Scotland, in any circumstances.

Photo of John Home Robertson John Home Robertson Labour 4:30 pm, 21st February 2007

It is a pleasure to listen to Rosie Kane, Richard Lochhead and other members kowtowing to rulings by higher authorities in London. The English court passed a judgment on a narrow point relating to detailed procedures for consultation. The problem in question can, should and must be corrected, but the judgment has absolutely nothing to do with the big issues of global warming, carbon emissions and energy supply. The nationalists are on to an entertaining debating point that concerns the ingenuity of London lawyers, but tatties cannot be cooked on consultation documents and carbon emissions cannot be cut by ruling out proven sources of low-carbon base-load electricity. That is the matter that we should be addressing.

As an old lag who is about to leave the Parliament—at last, members might say—I urge colleagues who will stand for election again to focus on the big issues that require serious consideration. It is simply not good enough to express opposition to difficult and controversial proposals such as the building of wind turbines, pylons and nuclear power plants when we know that our people need secure electricity supplies for industry, their households and their day-to-day lives. People expect politicians to take the necessary decisions to ensure that there are safe and secure supplies of electricity. They would not forgive us if we drifted into a situation in which power supplies could fail.

Reducing carbon dioxide emissions and providing secure electricity supplies for the future are the key issues. Secure electricity supplies are essential to keep the lights on. We must have reliable, modern generators and minimise our dependence on unreliable and expensive imported oil and gas. CO2 emissions cause global warming. Therefore, we must scale down the burning of oil, gas and coal in power stations, which means that we must do more than pay lip service to our desire to achieve the objective of supplying 40 per cent of power from renewables in Scotland. Renewable energy cannot be increased if people continue to block renewable projects. In that context, I strongly endorse everything Maureen Macmillan said about upgrading the grid that will carry power from Beauly to Denny.

The plan is for 40 per cent of our power to come from renewables, but what about the remaining 60 per cent that will have to come from conventional sources? People in my constituency know quite a lot about electricity. We have a big wind farm in the Lammermuirs and 1,100MW of coal-fired generation at Cockenzie, where vast quantities of Russian coal are burned and a hell of a lot of CO2 is emitted. That plant is due to be decommissioned in the very near future. We also have 1,200MW of nuclear power at Torness. The immediate question is what to do when Cockenzie power station has to close—500 jobs and more than 1,000MW of electricity cannot be replaced by magic. Increasing generation from renewables and better energy efficiency are extremely important, but such things will not be enough to meet peak demand once our older stations at Cockenzie and Hunterston B are closed.

It is time to get real. We must start planning for a new base-load power station to provide the electricity that Scotland will need in the very near future. Supply, cost and CO2 considerations mean that it is unlikely that there will be a new fossil fuel station. The inescapable logic, now that there is scientific agreement about the safe permanent storage of nuclear waste, is that there should be a new nuclear station. The only serious question is whether a new nuclear plant and the associated jobs will be located in Scotland or whether we will export those jobs and make Scotland depend on nuclear energy imported from England.

The time has come for politicians to catch up with the common sense that has been shown by people in East Lothian, Caithness, Ayrshire and Dumfriesshire, who know the nuclear industry well and would welcome new nuclear investment. The days of knee-jerk opposition to nuclear power have passed. I strongly support the minister's amendment.

Photo of George Reid George Reid None

I apologise to Rosemary Byrne, who has not been called to speak.

Photo of Chris Ballance Chris Ballance Green 4:35 pm, 21st February 2007

I agree with John Home Robertson that the people of Caithness know only too well what the nuclear industry means, following the clean-up around the coast there and the abysmal behaviour of UKAEA at Dounreay.

The debate started with a welcome for the ruling Greenpeace obtained in the High Court of Justice on the Government's consultation on new nuclear power. I highlight what Tony Blair said when he was asked whether it would put his plans for new nuclear power stations on hold:

"No. This won't affect the policy at all. It'll affect the process of consultation, but not the policy."

Does that not say it all about the Labour Party's view on what makes a consultation? According to the Labour Party, a consultation is something the Government does once it has decided what policy it is going to put into effect. It is a complete sham. It is not just the Labour Party in London that is saying that: it has been echoed up here. The Labour Party, with its Lib Dem colleagues, conducted a consultation on planning rights. The vast majority of people, who called for a third-party right of appeal in planning, were simply turned into a footnote and disregarded. Consultation means nothing according to this Government. That is deeply disappointing—and it is the important thing that we got out of the recent judgment.

Shiona Baird mentioned the one thing that is badly missing from other parties' amendments—energy efficiency. The Government's own performance and innovation unit has estimated that 30 per cent of the energy we use could be saved through energy efficiency. That means that we could have the same living standards and production standards but use 30 per cent less fuel to get there. Is that not something that we really ought to put first?

In Lockerbie, in the region that I represent, E.ON is building a biomass plant. That is excellent news, but the plant will stand alone: there is no consideration of combined heat and power with it. Lockerbie academy could be heated free of charge for the next 30 years, but almost 60 per cent of the heat energy from the fuel will go straight up the waste stack. Where is the planning in that? Where is the intelligent energy policy in that? Where is the energy efficiency? It is simply not there.

We have heard—from Alex Johnstone, for example—about the so-called energy gap, but electricity from nuclear power plants meets only 8 per cent of Scotland's total energy needs. The amount of electricity that is produced in that way is trivial—it is very small. The fact that, for a large amount of time, both Hunterston B and Torness power stations have been offline without the lights going out shows that to be the case. We have also heard nuclear power referred to as a low-carbon option, but that completely disregards the processes of uranium mining and enrichment, the building and decommission of nuclear plants, and dealing with nuclear waste. In fact, we do not yet know how to deal with nuclear waste, but we know that dealing with nuclear waste will produce carbon emissions.

On the other side of the argument we have the renewables option. Scotland is the Saudi Arabia of wind and sea. We have the biggest resource of renewables, per head of population, in Europe.

Rosie Kane referred to the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. It is worth mentioning that it runs entirely on recycled chip fat—something that we tend to pour down the drain or throw away and lose completely.

One of the issues that the Green party's amendment addresses is whether the Lib Dems will oppose nuclear power and then join a pro-nuclear Labour Party, just as they supported TPRA in their manifesto but voted it down in the chamber.

If we embrace the massive savings that energy efficiency offers, we can save money, reduce carbon emissions and rid Scotland of the menace of nuclear power. It is not a difficult choice; it is just a question of political will.

Photo of Jim Wallace Jim Wallace Liberal Democrat 4:39 pm, 21st February 2007

First, I congratulate the Scottish National Party on bringing this motion before Parliament today and giving us such an early opportunity to welcome the announcement by Nicol Stephen and the Executive of the £13 million investment in marine renewables, much of the activity of which will be focused on my Orkney constituency.

Of course, the Executive's contribution to renewables does not stop there. I am sorry that Bruce Crawford does not think that the Executive's amendment is ambitious. It refers to the major Blacklaw wind farm; it notes future projects, including the substantial Glen Doe hydro power project; and it mentions off-shore wind developments and biomass energy schemes. It shows the diversity of renewables to which this Executive is committed.

I will say a bit more about marine renewables. With the Pelamis devices from Ocean Power Delivery, we have the opportunity to have the biggest wave power plant in the world. Scotrenewables, a small company in my constituency, is run by Barry Johnston, whom I saw at the weekend. It has exciting proposals for the use of tidal power, and now we have an opportunity for them to be taken forward. Of course, jobs can come from that project, as well as from further investment in the European Marine Energy Centre.

The nationalists can never see a silver lining without looking for a cloud. Richard Lochhead said that this ought to have been done eight years ago. If he looks at where the grants go, many of the activities and developments that are going to take place are linked up to the European Marine Energy Centre. That was not built eight years ago. The nationalists have a cavalier attitude to what they would do. They would just spend the money regardless of whether they were spending it properly. Time and time again they show why they are not a credible party that is fit for serious government.

Yesterday's announcement also pointed to the fact that we are five years ahead and have hit our target of 18 per cent of our energy being generated from renewable sources by 2010. I remember, when I was on the front bench, the targets that we set being laughed at. We were told we could not achieve them. We have achieved that target five years ahead of time. I believe that the next target, of 40 per cent by 2020, will be comfortably achieved—and I am pleased to say that my party, the Liberal Democrats, have set a target of 100 per cent of electricity being generated from renewable sources by 2050. I believe that, with the political will, that can be delivered as well.

Much of the focus of today's debate has been on nuclear power. Allan Wilson set out very clearly the Executive's position of no further investment in new nuclear power stations while the problem of nuclear waste has not been resolved. As he has done consistently in the past, John Home Robertson backed the case for nuclear power and, as ever, the Tories nailed their colours to the nuclear mast.

Several members, including Nora Radcliffe, referred to the Sustainable Development Commission and the fact that its report in March last year came out against nuclear power. It made several arguments about safety issues and decommissioning, and expressed concern about technology being locked into a centralised system of nuclear generation that would damage the investment we want to see being made in renewables.

I conclude by congratulating Maureen Macmillan on an inspired and passionate speech that highlighted, again, a lot of the inconsistencies that are coming from the nationalist benches, and that raised the very important point about transmission. It is all very well being in favour of—or strongly supporting—renewable developments in the Highlands and Islands, but we have to get the electricity from where it is generated to where it is needed. I would welcome any assurances that the minister can give about the steps that are being taken to ensure that the renewable electricity that we can generate can be delivered to the bulk of the population.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative 4:43 pm, 21st February 2007

It was not until late yesterday afternoon, or last night, that I discovered that I was to speak in this debate. Although I was not exactly thrilled at the amount of notice given to me by my esteemed friend and colleague, Bill Aitken, I was pleased to be asked to take part in a debate on the environment. I believe that we should take every opportunity to debate the environment—at that stage, I was very pleased that the Scottish National Party had lodged a motion on the issue. Members will understand that, at that stage, I had not seen the motion, which seems to be more about energy than about the environment. While I fully admit that the two are linked, they are not entirely the same.

The SNP has been somewhat duplicitous and opportunistic in the way it has brought this motion to the chamber. I was looking forward to debating whether we are going the right way about developing renewable energy. I was looking forward to debating whether Chancellor Gordon Brown's recently implemented £10 surcharge on flights is really a beneficial environmental measure or just another stealth tax—I think it is the latter. I was looking forward to debating the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report and some of its conclusions, such as the terrifying prospect of summer sea ice in the Arctic ocean disappearing by the end of this century, which is only 93 years away.

I was looking forward to a positive motion and debate, in which I would begin by declaring my entry in the register of members' interests that shows that I receive an income from a wind farm development, part of which is situated on land that I am fortunate enough to own. However, I do not think that I need to do so, because, in the context of a debate on the environment, the terms of the SNP motion that is before us today are something of a disappointment.

There are positives, but in my opinion they lie exclusively in the first two amendments that are printed in the Business Bulletin. I disagree with Bruce Crawford. I expected the Executive amendment to be a bit over the top on self-congratulatory rhetoric—I was not disappointed—but at least it is positive in tone. I am sorry that the Green amendment fell into the SNP nuclear trap, but I suppose that separatists should always stick together. I commend Alex Johnstone for the positive nature of his amendment. I hope, but doubt, that it will get the support it deserves. I ask Chris Ballance to note that the Conservative amendment mentions energy-saving technologies and, therefore, energy efficiency. I support it because it reinforces the Scottish and national Conservatives' absolute commitment to addressing the problems of climate change as a major priority.

Alex Johnstone made our position on nuclear power clear. I reiterate my view that it would be irresponsible to close the door on nuclear for ever. It must remain an option for the balanced production of energy that we all agree is needed, even if we have differences on how that balance should be achieved. I say to Jim Wallace that if that is nailing my colours to the mast, I am happy to bang in another nail.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson Conservative

I am sorry, but I do not have time to take an intervention. This is a desperately short debate.

I am delighted that Conservative members are being positive on this issue. I am delighted that David Cameron is calling for a climate change bill and that George Osborne has outlined a future Conservative policy that includes a shift towards taxation on behaviour and practices that damage the environment. He has stated:

"Not only can environmental protection go hand in hand with economic progress, but it must. To persuade the whole world that we should act against this threat, we must show them that they need not put their quality of life at risk."

I commend that type of positive political leadership, as I commend the amendment in Alex Johnstone's name. It is in marked contrast to the whingeing negativity of the SNP, which is encapsulated in its motion.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour 4:47 pm, 21st February 2007

I will deal, first, with a point that Jim Wallace and Maureen Macmillan made very effectively. It relates to the old problem of the SNP trying to face two ways at the same time. SNP members consistently talk green in the chamber but turn yellow outside it when a populist bandwagon passes by. We are all used to the SNP saying different things to different people in different parts of the country—that is its stock in trade—but one cannot disconnect the generation of electricity from its transmission and supply to the market. That means that one must have a position on grid upgrade. I will address Jim Wallace's point directly. Only yesterday I was in discussion with Ofgem in London about developing solutions to the problem, which is fundamental to the success of the renewables revolution in this country.

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

As a matter of fact, I did. I see no problem with that.

I asked the SNP shadow environment spokesperson about the cost of its policy. He could not answer my question, but Maureen Watt did so on his behalf, with a quotation of circa $1 billion for the cost of the Peterhead project. I asked simply whether that cost would be met by the consumer or by the taxpayer. Mr Lochhead may say that that is a ludicrous question, but it is fundamental and it is at the heart of the SNP policy of dismantling the single UK energy market.

If the SNP dismantles the single UK energy market, it will fall to the Scottish taxpayer or consumer to cover the cost of the cross-border subsidy for transmission loss or connections with the UK consumer or taxpayer base. The SNP has no comprehension of that and not a clue about what it would cost the Scottish taxpayer or consumer to foot that bill.

Chris Ballance suggested that the UK consultation on the energy review was a sham. Although there are lessons to be learned from the outcome of the judicial review, it is not true to suggest that the entire energy review was anything other than a genuine, evidence-based exercise to find solutions to the long-term challenges of climate change and security of supply. It is a sham to suggest that there is a single, easy answer to those questions. It is simplistic to pretend that there is.

It is also untrue that if existing nuclear capacity were shut down—that is what Roseanna Cunningham would do tomorrow—there would be no impact on carbon emissions. In fact, if our existing nuclear capacity were replaced with new nuclear power stations, carbon emissions from the electricity sector would be around 15 per cent lower than they would be if it were replaced with gas-fired power stations—and, obviously, even lower than they would be if it were replaced by coal-fired power stations. I ask Richard Lochhead whether he believes in all seriousness that extending the renewables obligation certificate mechanism to carbon capture would lead to a marketplace disincentive to investing in our renewable-energy industries.

Energy policy must be about meeting two major challenges: tackling climate change by reducing carbon dioxide emissions and delivering secure, clean energy at affordable prices as our dependence on imported energy increases. There is no single answer to the complex questions that we face—the debate is not whether to have nuclear power or no nuclear power. The Executive's policies are demonstrably delivering some of the necessary action already, by reducing fuel poverty, developing renewable energy and improving energy efficiency.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party 4:52 pm, 21st February 2007

The SNP motion, which calls for Scotland to go forward with an enormous renewables and clean energy programme rather than go down the nuclear route, is simply rooted in the fact that Scotland, like every other country, must set ambitious targets to reduce its CO 2 emissions. If we are to make a 2.5 to 3 per cent reduction per annum our target, as the SNP is committed to doing, we will have to ensure that we have in place the cleanest forms of power and that we undertake the least-polluting forms of activity.

Much of the debate is about the production of electricity, which represents 20 per cent of total energy use. That means that we are talking about a fairly narrow area in which to make changes. Energy efficiency can be carried out on a much wider scale. Nevertheless, we want to focus on the way in which we use the production of electricity as an example to the rest of the world.

If the cost of investing in a diversity of sources of electricity is in question, how can we say that the £13 million that has been invested in the Pelamis schemes in Orkney is anything other than a small step when the creation of a new nuclear power station is priced at about £2.5 billion? We have not been told how much it cost to create the nuclear industry. After all, in the past, when the state invested in nuclear power, the taxpayer paid for it; now, it is being put out to the market. In this day and age, Scotland should be investing the resources in the long term and putting more money into renewable enterprises than the current Government does.

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

I might let the minister in later. I want to develop my point about costs.

The Executive has simply not factored into its equation the fact that we will not know the total costs of the nuclear industry until the clean-up is complete. Under the model that the UK Government has put together, with the Scottish Executive's agreement, the decommissioning of Dounreay will be paid for by a programme that is quite simply flawed. For example, it relies partly on money from reprocessing at Sellafield. It is ridiculous to suggest that we can use the proceeds from producing waste to clean up other waste and, indeed, such a proposal jeopardises the proper decommissioning work at Dounreay. If the 500 jobs at Dounreay are lost—I stress that I am not scaremongering, because I do not think that that will happen—it will be a major blow not only to that economy but to a workforce that, after carrying out a smooth decommissioning, could use its skills to harness new energy sources.

That clean-up, which is at the very heart of the nuclear equation, could cost a heck of a lot more money. However, we do not know how much more. In fact, the Nuclear Decommissioning Agency does not even know the answer to that question. In a letter that we have received, the agency says:

"Although the individual plans are extremely detailed, there is still a significant degree of inherent uncertainty in the future cost estimates that underpin the nuclear provisions."

That suggests that the costs of decommissioning could be far beyond our current estimate of £70 million to £90 million. That enormous amount of money, which could be used to develop renewable energy, will be wasted.

Many negative remarks have been made in the debate. Members responded to our motion as if our targets were not ambitious and as if our proposals did not represent a sensible, safe and responsible approach for Scotland. Alex Johnstone even complained about the fact that we were having a nuclear debate. The Tories had a nuclear debate last year, so what is the problem with our having one?

In a typical example of negative Liberal campaigning, Nora Radcliffe said that the terms of our motion were quite right, but then told the chamber that she will not vote for it. As for the Labour Party, it cannot talk about facing both ways. The front bench says yes to nuclear energy, whereas Maureen Macmillan says no. Labour members are totally split on the way forward. In response to Maureen Macmillan's rant, there has been no attempt to take the Scottish people with us down the nuclear road—

Members:

Oh!

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

Well, there have been a lot of attempts to take them down the nuclear road, but no attempt to create a Scottish energy strategy that they can buy into. How many communities in the Highlands and Islands have switched off renewables because of the lack of such a strategy?

Photo of Allan Wilson Allan Wilson Labour

How much would it cost the Scottish consumer to dismantle the single market in UK electricity supply and transmission?

Photo of Rob Gibson Rob Gibson Scottish National Party

We will be able to answer that question only when we find out what the nuclear industry costs to set up and how many billions of pounds need to be spent on decommissioning. The Executive has not told us any of that. The point is that that money could be spent on renewables.

Any renewables strategy must focus on how we get such energy from where it is produced into the market. The SNP motion sets out our commitment in that respect. We will introduce a Scottish energy strategy, which will be based on renewables, and we reject completely the nuclear option.