UK minister planning nuclear reactor in Scotland, says Alister Jack

The Scottish Government has been against nuclear power north of the border.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack appeared before a House of Lords committee on Wednesday
Scottish Secretary Alister Jack appeared before a House of Lords committee on Wednesday (Stefan Rousseau/PA)

UK ministers have been asked to plan for a new nuclear power plant in Scotland, Alister Jack has said, despite objections from the devolved administration.

Both Governments have been at loggerheads over the issue in recent years, with politicians in Edinburgh refusing to back plans for a reactor north of the border.

But during an appearance at a House of Lords Committee, Scottish Secretary Mr Jack said he has instructed UK ministers to begin planning for such a development.

He predicted a unionist administration will be in power in Scotland after the next Holyrood election in 2026.

Under questioning from longtime SNP opponent Lord Foulkes, Mr Jack said: “On the small nuclear reactors, I have asked the energy minister to plan for one in Scotland.

“I believe that in 2026 we’ll see a unionist regime again in Holyrood and they will move forward with that.”

He added that he does not “see any point in having a great fight over it” given the “timescales in front of us” – likely an allusion to the upcoming general election expected this year.

Mr Jack, speaking at the Lords’ Constitution Committee on Wednesday, also hit out at the SNP-led Scottish Government, insisting devolution has not failed but that there has been “bad governance”.

He added: “We have a UK Government supportive of devolution, and an SNP-led Scottish Government that opposes devolution.

Nuclear plant Hinkley Point C is currently being constructed in Somerset
Nuclear plant Hinkley Point C is currently being constructed in Somerset (Ben Birchall/PA)

“A nationalist administration whose political interests are not served by devolution succeeding.

“So of course there has been tension between Scotland’s two governments.

“But friction is not evidence of devolution failing.”

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said Mr Jack’s comments were “undermining and patronising our democratically-elected Government”.

He added: “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.

“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.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The Scottish Government is absolutely clear in defence of the devolution settlement, and in our opposition to the building of new, traditional, nuclear fission energy plants in Scotland under current technologies.

“Small modular reactors, while innovative in construction and size, still generate electricity using nuclear fission and therefore the process presents the same environmental concerns as traditional, nuclear power plants.

“We believe that significant growth in renewables, storage, hydrogen and carbon capture provides the best pathway to net zero by 2045 and will deliver secure, affordable and clean energy supplies for Scotland’s households, business and communities.”