28 April 2008
Any proposal to build a new nuclear power station in Scotland could be blocked by the Scottish government, according to internal documents released today.
A series of emails between civil servants in June 2005 confirms that Scottish ministers have devolved legal powers to reject applications for new power reactors north of the border.
“My understanding is that as the law stands any new development of a nuclear generating station in Scotland”, concluded an analysis by Colin Forsyth from the Scotland Office, “would certainly require consent from the Scottish Executive under section 36 of the Electricity Act and acceptance under the devolved system of land-use planning.”
He added: “There is no very clear reason why it should be supposed that at some point UK ministers would wish to impose new nuclear plant on an unwilling Scottish Executive. If faced with a proposal to develop a nuclear plant, the Executive would need to consider issues such as overall plant availability, the generation margin and security of electricity supply in the context of Scotland and the capacity of the grid.”
In the released emails the officials were discussing how best to answer a parliamentary question from the Scottish Nationalist MP, Mike Weir. He had asked which responsibilities for deciding on new nuclear stations were devolved.
After the question was answered in the House of Commons on 7 June 2005, Forsyth couldn’t resist a wry poke at the politicians. “I suspect confusion (real or pretended) over consent powers isn't going away any time soon,” he wrote to colleagues.
The government was ordered to release the emails by the Scottish Information Commissioner, Kevin Dunion, in response to an appeal which I lodged in June 2006.
The released emails are available here.
This story was followed up by The Scotsman here.