By a Newsnet reporter
Claims by Labour's energy spokesperson Tom Greatrex, MP for Rutherglen and Hamilton West – questioning the SNP's ongoing opposition to new nuclear power stations – have rebounded on Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont.
In a speech to the TUC conference in Brighton this week, Mr Greatrex is expected to claim that the Scottish Government is preparing to do a U-turn on nuclear energy, saying: "... as with a significant number of their policies, it would appear that Alex Salmond and the SNP leadership are preparing the ground for a U-turn. The signs are there if you look closely."
He is expected to add:
"Do not be surprised if at some point in the next few years, the SNP s ideological opposition to nuclear power that was evident only a few years ago is swept under the carpet ... in the attempt to gain votes for its separatist agenda."
A Scottish Government spokesperson dismissed the claim, saying:
"We have a long-standing opposition to the building of any new nuclear power stations, so that will not happen in Scotland."
Mr Greatrex is a noted supporter of nuclear expansion. In June this year, Mr Greatrex wrote in the Huffington Post that the country "would come to regret" turning its back on nuclear energy and called for the development of new nuclear capacity. Mr Greatrex argued:
"New nuclear makes sense from the perspective of climate change, security of supply and jobs and growth."
SNP Westminster Energy spokesperson Mike Weir MP dismissed Mr Greatrex’s claims as "rubbish".
Mr Weir went on to challenge Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont on new nuclear, saying that the SNP's opposition was "absolutely clear", but that Scottish Labour's position was unknown as Ms Lamont has failed to speak on the issue, leaving individual Labour MPs and MSPs to make statements which often contradict one another.
In 2007 Labour opposed the development of new nuclear power plants, saying that waste disposal problems remain unresolved. More recently, in a Holyrood debate on 5 October 2011, Labour's Infrastructure and Capital Investment spokesperson Richard Baker claimed:
"Our party's position has not been to rule in new nuclear power for the future of Scotland’s energy production and consumption, but neither have we ruled it out."
SNP MP Mike Weir has now called on Johann Lamont, Labour's leader in Scotland, to end her silence on the issue and make her position and her party's known.
Mr Weir said:
"Tom Greatrex’s attack is not only rubbish but it has rebounded on Scottish Labour whose position on new nuclear is unknown. Tom Greatrex has thrown down the gauntlet and it has landed on Johann Lamont’s desk – this is yet another issue on which the Labour leader needs to make her position known.
"Right now Scotland is capitalising on our vast clean, green energy potential, instead of following Labour and the Tories blind faith in costly, dangerous and unreliable nuclear power. Labour must recognise that there is no appetite and absolutely no need for new nuclear power stations north of the Border – with their horrendous waste problems and soaring decommissioning costs.
"A majority of MSPs across a range of parties oppose new nuclear power, and Labour themselves are split from top to bottom in Scotland on the issue.
"The reality is that the UK Government is bogged down in nuclear planning issues and making no progress and creating no jobs, while the Scottish Government is getting on with the job of investing in the technologies of the future, and supporting thousands of energy jobs.
"Scotland is ahead of the game and ahead of our targets on renewables – which is good news for Scotland's economy. And we are making an international contribution to tackling global warming with our world-leading Climate Change Act – which is great news for the environment.
"With 25 per cent of Europe's wind energy potential, including massive off shore as well as onshore wind power capabilities, a quarter of Europe's tidal resource, and huge potential from clean coal and carbon capture, these are the real economic and employment opportunities for Scotland.
"The view of the Scottish Government and indeed Scotland's Parliament as a whole on nuclear is absolutely clear. Scotland simply doesn't want or need dangerous and unnecessary new nuclear power stations, with soaring decommissioning costs and the unresolved problem of storage of radioactive waste that burdens future generations for thousands of years."