Salmond throws down gauntlet to Labour over nuclear

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By G.A.Ponsonby

SNP leader Alex Salmond has attacked what he describes as the Labour party’s “obsession” with building new nuclear power plants in Scotland after Iain Gray’s party published an 80 point plan that paved the way for new nuclear facilities.

Mr Salmond described Labour’s position as “absurd” given Scotland’s huge “comparative and competitive” advantage in technologies like renewables and carbon capture.

Speaking yesterday the SNP leader highlighted what he described as Labour’s obsession with both nuclear power and nuclear weapons saying: “Labour neglected Scotland’s renewables potential when in office, they attack it in opposition, and can never be trusted with our energy policy in future.”

Earlier this week the Labour Party in Scotland published an 80 point economic plan that contained a pledge from the party to “remove the presumption against new nuclear for the future.”  Since 2007 the SNP government has resisted moves by the UK government to build new nuclear plants north of the border.

The SNP have called Labour’s pro-nuclear election policy ‘entirely the wrong one for Scotland’ and have argued that no country with Scotland’s energy mix should be contemplating a new nuclear power programme.  Mr Salmond said: “Labour’s very judgement is called into question.” and his party has claimed every pound spent on nuclear is a pound less for renewables.

Energy is certain to be a central theme of the Scottish election campaign with both the SNP and Labour claiming their own plans will lead to jobs.  However Labour may struggle to convince the electorate that nuclear is the answer after concerns over the safety of the technology resurfaced when disaster struck Japan’s nuclear power plant in Fukushima following flooding caused by a tsunami.

Workers are struggling to contain the radiation leaking from the damaged reactors and homes have been evacuated within a 20km radius of the stricken plant.

The attack on nuclear by the SNP follows a jobs pledge by Mr Salmond who has insisted the green sector can provide over 130,000 low carbon jobs by 2020.  The focus on green energy follows a recent announcement confirming the world’s largest tidal array in the Sound of Islay.

In the last few weeks, three of the biggest energy combines – Mitsubishi, Gamesa, and Iberdrola/Scottish Power – have announced major investments in Scotland as the green energy revolution gathers pace.  It is believed that further announcements will be made in the near future.