18 May, 2023
The Times by Sam Richards
For 50 years there have been two constants for the SNP. Its faith in Scottish independence, and a devout commitment to opposing nuclear power. When the UK government published the Energy Security Strategy last year, the Scottish government was quick to say it would use devolved planning powers to block new nuclear. Even though none of the eight sites for new nuclear power stations was in Scotland. But despite the SNP’s opposition to nuclear power, Scotland is still heavily reliant on it to keep the lights on. In 2021, 30 per cent of electricity generation in Scotland was from nuclear, the highest share of all four UK nations.
New polling, first published by The Times, shows that voters get the importance of nuclear — and the SNP leadership is increasingly at odds with many of its supporters. The research shows 44 per cent of SNP voters back including nuclear as part of Scotland’s energy mix in order to hit the Scottish government’s 2045 net-zero target, while 38 per cent oppose. Across Scotland as a whole, almost 55 per back nuclear. When it comes to the Scottish government’s policy of opposing the building of new nuclear power stations, more than a third (38 per cent) of SNP voters don’t agree with the party.
Safe, reliable and low-carbon nuclear energy will be essential to providing baseload energy for a majority renewable grid. The Scottish government’s blinkered view on nuclear power means it is standing in the way of state-of-the-art Small Modular Reactors being rolled out. With energy bills still painfully high for most people, the Scottish government should be doing all it can to generate as much clean domestic energy as possible.
Britain Remade, the pro-growth campaign group that I lead, has set out an alternative plan. Our Powerbook for Scotland report provides a roadmap for energy security by 2030. It outlines a series of reforms to cut Britain’s dependence on volatile international gas markets, deliver clean domestic energy supplies and bring down bills. To achieve this Scotland should fast-track clean energy projects within designated zones, boost investment in grid connections, cut the time it takes to get planning permission and drop the SNP’s effective ban on nuclear energy.
Instead, the party is condemning millions of people, and tens of thousands of businesses, to paying higher bills all because of its adherence to a rigid ideology that believes nuclear power is the worst thing since the Act of Union of 1707. Scotland has a bright future ahead, but this won’t include keeping the lights on if the Scottish government doesn’t drop its effective ban on new nuclear.
Sam Richards is the founder and campaign director of Britain Remade