For the last few weeks the media has been transfixed by a series of sensational easy headline stories – ‘partygate’, Douglas Ross being outed as a lightweight, Prince Andrew losing his titles and court battle – and it’s hard to blame them. However they have, for the most part, taken their eye off the ball when it comes to the Nuclear Energy Financing bill, which had its final Westminster reading last Monday. If passed, which is likely, it will shift billions of pounds of additional costs onto consumers and force millions more into fuel poverty.
Sixteen years ago the Scottish Labour administration in Holyrood spurned the oportunity to construct any new nuclear power stations not only because they take years to construct and cost the earth, but also because they are dangerous. There is no safe way to dispose of toxic nuclear waste. Sellafield is officially the “most hazardous industrial building in western Europe”. As a result, Scotland’s Government, then and now, put its efforts into renewables, which currently supply nearly all our electricity.
Labour has since changed its tune. Brian Wilson, former UK Energy Minister and chair of the Scottish Energy Transition Commission, is Scottish Labour’s nuclear cheerleader. He’s also non-executive director of AMEC Nuclear Holdings Ltd, the UK’s largest nuclear services business.
Nuclear construction costs far exceed those of renewables and electricity generation is twice as expensive. The price for nuclear energy is £106/MWh, double the wholesale market price, whereas offshore wind power is £36.95/MWh. The Westminster bill will force consumers to finance this risky, costly and dangerous industry by buying more expensive nuclear electricity, just as household energy bills are soaring and casting more families into fuel poverty.
Investment in renewables also creates more jobs. The UCL Institute for Sustainable Resources found that “renewable electricity can stimulate six times higher long-term employment impact than an equally sized increase in nuclear electricity.”
Scotland’s future lies in developing its vast renewable energy potential, not following Labour and the Tories down the nuclear rabbit hole. Energy policy is reserved to Westminster – another compelling reason to restore our independence.