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Nuclear Waste (Storage)

First Minister's Question Time – in the Scottish Parliament at 12:00 pm on 15th April 2010.

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Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat 12:00 pm, 15th April 2010

To ask the First Minister what the Scottish Government's policy is regarding the storage of nuclear waste. (S3F-2335)

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government is consulting on its policy for the storage of higher activity radioactive waste. We are against the deep geological storage of that waste and want to ensure that the need for transporting it over long distances is kept to a minimum.

The waste is the result of Scotland's nuclear legacy. The Scottish Government—with others in this chamber, I hope—is committed to enhancing Scotland's generation advantage in the future of electricity based on renewables, fossil fuel with carbon capture and storage, as well as energy efficiency, as the best solution to Scotland's energy security.

Photo of Liam McArthur Liam McArthur Liberal Democrat

I thank the First Minister for his answer, much of which I agreed with. However, in 2007, the SNP promised to

"say no to new nuclear-power stations or dumps."

The Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment described burying nuclear waste as an

"out of sight, out of mind policy".

Will the First Minister therefore explain why his Government and its advisers appear to be advocating to the Dounreay stakeholder group and others that disposal of some nuclear waste will now take place to depths of up to 100m?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

I saw the report in one of the Sunday newspapers. Given that we are consulting on that very aspect and seeking people's views on it from a clear Government position that we

"support long-term near surface, near site storage facilities so that the waste is monitorable and retrievable", would it not be best to base views on the Government's clearly stated policy and objective and respond to the consultation rather than quote a newspaper report of what an official might have said to an individual meeting somewhere in Scotland?

I am responsible for Government policy along with the rest of the ministerial team. That is the Government policy and I am glad that Liam McArthur is prepared to back it.

Photo of Elaine Smith Elaine Smith Labour

On a point of order, Presiding Officer.

The issue of volcanic ash is extremely important, so much so that surely the First Minister should have requested under the standing orders to make an emergency statement to Parliament this afternoon so that all members would have the opportunity to question him about the matter, rather than spending nearly five minutes of First Minister's questions making what he called a statement and eating into the only time during the week that members have to question him. For example, the lack of time meant that I could not question the First Minister on a current constituency issue that relates to the National Union of Rail, Maritime and Transport Workers dispute. I hope that you will consider that and whether a request for a statement would have been more in order, Presiding Officer.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

I say with respect, Ms Smith, that you could not ask your question because I did not call it and not because we ran out of time. It is now five minutes past the normal finishing time; I allowed time because the First Minister gave an update on the situation. It is entirely open to him to request a statement if he wishes to do so. The update did not affect the time that was available for First Minister's question time.

Photo of Alex Fergusson Alex Fergusson None

Is this a point of order, First Minister?

Photo of Alex Salmond Alex Salmond First Minister of Scotland, Leader, Scottish National Party

Further to that point of order, Presiding Officer. I make it clear that we have offered a briefing to Opposition party spokespeople. If members would prefer a statement to be made in the chamber—perhaps before the close of business—the Government would be perfectly prepared to do that.

I tried to be as helpful as possible to Parliament during First Minister's question time. If some party leaders chose not to ask questions about this most serious issue, that is their responsibility and not mine. I acknowledge that at least one party leader asked about the matter.

Meeting suspended until 14:15.

On resuming—