By a Newsnet reporter
The decision by the Liberal Democrats to back new nuclear power plants has damaged the party’s green credentials environmentalists have claimed.
The party conference in Glasgow saw the Lib Dems ditch their decades old opposition to new nuclear power energy to support a new generation of nuclear plants.
The vote followed a plea by Lib Dem MP Ed Davey for delegates to back the coalition policy, which he insisted his party had an obligation to do.
Mr Davey said: “It’s my concern about energy bills that’s led me to be so tough on nuclear power . . . I have to deliver the coalition agreement. That says ‘no public subsidy’. And on behalf of consumers, that’s what I’ll deliver.”
Commenting on the Liberal Democrat backing for nuclear power at its annual conference, Friends of the Earth’s Policy and Campaigns Director Craig Bennett said:
“Backing for nuclear power punches a huge hole in the Liberal Democrats fast-sinking green credibility.
“Nuclear power comes with massive costs attached. Ed Davey is deluded if he thinks new reactors can go ahead without public subsidy – building them will result in the Liberal Democrats, yet again, breaking their promises.
“Championing a plastic bag charge is a drop in the ocean. With its support for new reactors and gas-fired power stations and refusal to back power sector decarbonisation the Liberal Democrats are fast becoming Tory-lite when it comes to the environment.”
In another controversial move, the conference also saw the Lib Dems vote to allow fracking for shale gas. The motion included compensation for communities which suffer environmental damage as a result.
Although the coalition agreement promised there would be no public funds for new nuclear, public money has been channelled by the Westminster Government towards companies involved in the nuclear industry and Westminster’s Energy Bill is set to provide nuclear subsidies through customer energy bills.
Commenting, SNP MSP Bill Kidd said:
“Nuclear energy is not wanted nor needed in Scotland, so with this vote the Lib Dems have reinforced the fact that they could scarcely be more out of step with the priorities of people in Scotland if they tried.
“During their time in office the Lib Dems have become the party of U-turns and broken promises, and true to form they’ve scrapped another pledge at their conference today.
“Having consistently set out their stall opposing new nuclear energy, they now back plans for a new generation of the horrendously expensive white elephants.
“Backing new nuclear energy can only be done at appalling cost and at the expense of renewable energy – the last thing that Scotland needs if we are to fully harness our enormous renewables potential.
“It is no wonder that a recent opinion poll found that people in Scotland gave Nick Clegg an approval rating of -53% – compared to Alex Salmond’s rating of +11%.
“After previous betrayals on issues like tuition fees south of the border, the Lib Dems only have themselves to blame for becoming a party that people simply cannot trust.”