Environment

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 3:48 pm on 21st February 2007.

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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.