Johann Lamont side-lined as Labour commit to new nuclear


  By a Newsnet reporter
Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont has come under pressure to clarify her stance on nuclear energy after the party’s Westminster Energy spokesman called for new nuclear power stations in Scotland.
Scottish Labour MP Tom Greatrex attacked the SNP’s decision to rule out building new nuclear plants and claimed it could cost skilled workers their jobs.

The MP for Hamilton and Rutherglen West has said: “While we should not simply accept nuclear power no matter the cost, the opportunities from new nuclear energy should not be ignored.

“The chance to create thousands of jobs is too important to dismiss.  And the potential for economic growth should not be passed over.”

Mr Greatrex’s comments echo today’s speech by Shadow Chancellor Ed Balls who also called for nuclear to be part of a renewable (sic) energy mix.

The SNP responded to the pro-nuclear statements by calling for Mr Greatrex’s leader, Johann Lamont to speak out and clarify her stance on nuclear.

In a statement, the nationalists claimed the pressure on Johann Lamont had been raised another notch with Labour’s Westminster Energy spokesperson Tom Greatrex again challenging her leadership by calling for new nuclear energy in Scotland.

Ms Lamont has faced criticism for repeatedly refusing to address a number of key issues during what the SNP described as a “summer of silence”.

In 2007 Scottish Labour confirmed their opposition to new nuclear energy while waste disposal problems remained unresolved.  In 2011 Richard Baker MSP stated that “Our party’s position has not been to rule in new nuclear power for the future of Scotland’s energy production and consumption, but neither have we ruled it out.”

However, doubts over the Scottish party’s position on nuclear energy appears to have been brought to an end by reports in today’s Herald (Monday 01 October), in which Mr Greatrex gives his support to the industry.

Commenting SNP MSP Marco Biagi who sits on the Economy, Energy and Tourism Committee, said:

“While Johann Lamont’s sole focus may be on Labour’s Cuts Commission, the silence she has maintained on other issues is coming back to bite her as others make policy where she will not.

“Last week Johann Lamont danced to the tune called by Ed Balls and announced a Cuts Commission that wants to unpick the social contract that binds Scotland together.

“This week it seems another Westminster politician is directing her to change her party’s position and back a new generation of hideously expensive nuclear power stations.

“Is Tom Greatrex speaking on behalf of Johann Lamont or circumventing her troubled leadership? The situation is even more tangled by the fact that Johann Lamont is supposed to be the leader of the Labour MPs at Westminster as well – but they don’t seem to pay any attention to what she says, or consult her about what they say.”

Mr Greatrex, who accused the SNP of “confused and ideological objection” to nuclear had previously claimed that the nationalists were preparing to perform a U-turn over the issue of nuclear power.

Mr Biagi added:

“The fact of the matter is that new nuclear energy can only be built with vast subsidies, money that would only appear by gutting Scotland’s essential renewables sector.  Why anyone would want to throw away the thousands of jobs and hundreds of millions of pounds of investment that renewables are delivering is beyond me.

“The view of the Scottish Government and indeed Scotland’s Parliament as a whole on nuclear is absolutely clear.  Scotland simply doesn’t want or need dangerous and unnecessary new nuclear power stations, with soaring decommissioning costs and the unresolved problem of storage of radioactive waste that burdens future generations for thousands of years.”