Environment

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament at 4:35 pm on 21st February 2007.

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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.