UK Government planning nuclear reactor in Scotland despite SNP objections

Scottish secretary Alister Jack said he expected a 'Unionist regime' to be in power in Scotland by 2026.

The UK Government is considering plans to build a nuclear reactor in Scotland, despite long-standing opposition from the Scottish Government.

Scottish secretary Alister Jack has told a Westminster committee that he has asked ministers at the Department for Energy and Net Zero to plan for a nuclear reactor to be built in Scotland, as part of a UK-wide programme.

He also said he expected a “Unionist regime” to be in power in Scotland by 2026.

Responsibility for energy is reserved to Westminster, but the Scottish Parliament has control over planning and environmental regulations, and the SNP has previously said it would block any moves to build new nuclear reactors in Scotland.

Alister Jack is the secretary of state for Scotland.Flickr

The Scottish Greens, who were part of a coalition government with the SNP until last month, also oppose atomic energy.

Under the banner Great British Nuclear, the UK Government is pursuing plans to develop Small Modular Reactors, which will be smaller, less costly and quicker to build than previous generations of nuclear power plants.

The UK Government plans would see existing or former nuclear sites prioritised for Small Nuclear Reactors. In Scotland, these are Dounreay in Caithness, Hunterston in Ayrshire, and Chapelcross in Dumfries and Galloway.

Six companies are in the early stages of procurement to deliver the technology.

Jack appeared on Wednesday morning before the Lords Constitution Committee, and was being questioned by Labour peer Lord Foulkes, who said “everyone around Torness” – currently Scotland’s only nuclear power plant – “is keen to see a new Torness”.

Torness, which began operating in 1988, is due to be decommissioned in 2028. 

The Scottish secretary replied: “On the small nuclear reactors, I have asked the energy minister to plan for one in Scotland, because I believe in 2026 we’ll see a Unionist regime again in Holyrood, and they will move forward on that matter.”

In wide-ranging evidence on constitutional issues affecting Scotland, Jack also revealed he intervened in UK legislation that will exonerate subpostmasters wrongly convicted in the Post Office Horizon scandal, so that it did not automatically extend to Scottish victims, based on the wishes of the Lord Advocate.

Separate Scottish legislation has now been introduced at Holyrood, but it may be delayed until after passage of the Westminster bill.

A UK Government source told STV News that a new Scottish nuclear reactor had been “part of our thinking for some time”.

“It’s called Great British Nuclear for a reason,” the source added.

Responding to Jack’s comments, Tommy Sheppard MP said the Scottish secretary was spending his time left in office “undermining and patronising our democratically elected government”.

“His comments and the decision to ignore the Scottish Government on building new nuclear reactors in Scotland show exactly how this Westminster government sees Scotland and its people – a nation that should get in line and know its place,” Sheppard said.

“Scotland doesn’t need expensive nuclear power – we already have abundant natural energy resources, we just need full powers over energy so Scotland can take full advantage of the green energy gold rush.”

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