Large numbers of Scottish National Party supporters are at odds with the party on one of its defining policies – opposition to nuclear power.
The SNP have been staunchly against nuclear power since the 1970s, but new polling for pro-growth campaign group Britain Remade has revealed that 44% of the party’s supporters now think nuclear power should be included in Scotland’s energy mix in order to hit the Scottish Government’s 2045 net zero target, while 39% oppose.
A majority (54%) of all Scottish adults who took part in the survey said they backed nuclear power in order to get to net zero.
The polling was carried out ahead of the launch of the group’s Powerbook for Scotland report which will set out a roadmap for Britain to be energy secure by 2030.
The report, to be published later this week, will outline a series of reforms to cut Britain’s dependence on volatile international gas markets, deliver clean domestic energy supplies and bring down bills.
Key to this will be a call on the SNP led Government in Holyrood to drop the effective ban on the construction of new nuclear power plants.
Safe, reliable, and low-carbon nuclear energy will be essential to providing baseload energy for a majority renewable grid.
The polling, carried out by Opinium on behalf of Britain Remade, also revealed that an overwhelming majority of Scots (84%) are concerned about Britain’s reliance on importing energy from other countries.
To support the rollout of Small Modular Reactors (SMRs) a new planning system should be developed.
SMRs are a new form of nuclear power station. With 90% of the power station constructed off-site then shipped and assembled a significant reduction in cost, compared to a full-size reactor, can be achieved.
But any economies of scale from this process will be lost if SMRs are required to navigate the same planning process as full-scale nuclear power stations.
In April last year Michael Matheson MSP, the Scottish energy secretary, said the Scottish Government would use its planning powers to block any applications to build new nuclear power stations, including Small Modular Reactors.
Despite the Scottish Government’s opposition to new sources of nuclear power, over a third (38%) of Scottish National Party voters now oppose the party’s current policy of not building of new nuclear power stations.
New planning rules would pave the way for a fleet of SMRs being rolled out in Scotland, which, along with providing low carbon power, could play a major role in decarbonising Scotland’s industry.
As SMRs are a fraction of the size of a full-scale nuclear power plant, they can be sited in more areas, meaning many former coal or industrial sites could be repurposed.
The technology could secure a long-term future for sites such as the Grangemouth Refinery, protecting jobs as Scotland moves to Net Zero emissions.
Sam Richards, Founder and Campaign Director for Britain Remade, said:
“The message from our polling is clear- when it comes to safe and reliable nuclear power, the SNP is not just at odds with a majority of Scots, they’re at odds with a huge number of their own supporters.
“With energy bills still painfully high for millions of people, the Scottish Government should be doing all they can to generate as much clean domestic energy as possible. Instead, they’re standing in the way of new nuclear technologies, like Small Modular Reactors. Now is the time for the Scottish Government to drop its ban on new nuclear.
“By speeding up the delivery of clean energy projects, and dropping the ban on new nuclear, we can end our reliance on expensive foreign gas, households will see cheaper bills and we can create thousands of good quality jobs in Scotland”.