SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE RESPONSE TO THE PROPOSED POLICY FRAMEWORK FOR NEW NUCLEAR BUILD
The Scottish Executive welcomes the UK Government's review of its strategy for achieving a secure, affordable, low carbon energy future for the UK. The Scottish Executive is committed to working with the UK Government, regulators, energy companies, and other stakeholders to achieve a balanced energy policy which ensures security and diversity of energy supplies; delivers affordable energy for households and businesses; and reduces carbon emissions. Earlier this year the Executive responded to the DTI consultation on the UK Energy Review. In its response the Executive emphasised the following issues for UK energy policy:
· Increasing the proportion of renewable and low carbon energy within our overall energy mix - across all sectors including transport;
· Developing and sustaining Scotland 's energy industries, establishing Scotland as a leading location for the development of renewable energy technology;
· Promoting greater energy efficiency;
· Ensuring security and diversity of energy supplies;
· Ensuring the rising costs of energy do not exacerbate fuel poverty or unfairly constrain Scotland 's economic growth;
· Striking the right balance in developing Scotland 's energy resources and infrastructure whilst protecting Scotland 's natural environment.
An effective overall energy policy must balance all these issues. In its response the Executive invited the UK Government to take specific actions in the above area, and many of these proposals are being taken forward.
As regards nuclear power the Scottish Executive's position has not changed. The Scottish Executive clearly set out in its Partnership Agreement that it will not support the further development of nuclear power stations in Scotland while waste management issues remain unresolved. Where decommissioning of nuclear power stations occurs, we will aim to use and develop best practice in decommissioning and high energy technologies.
Any proposal to build a nuclear power station in Scotland would require consent from Scottish Ministers under the Electricity Act. The Executive's policy creates a presumption against Ministers granting consent to a new nuclear power station whilst waste management issues remain unresolved. Ministers are obliged to take into account all material considerations, and ignore all irrelevant considerations, when deciding whether to grant or refuse consent in an individual case. The UK Government's proposed statement of need would be one such material consideration that Scottish Ministers would consider alongside other material considerations. However a UK statement of need would not in itself require Scottish Ministers to grant consent to a new nuclear power station in Scotland.
Certain aspects of the proposed framework for new nuclear build are devolved - the main areas being planning, consenting of power stations, and environmental regulation. As the review document acknowledges, it is for the Scottish Executive to decide on its own approach to these issues.
The Scottish Executive is therefore considering its approach in relation to the framework in two areas in particular. First, the proposed Strategic Siting Assessment will set out criteria for deciding on potential sites for new nuclear power stations. It will also indicate how potential sites meet these criteria, and where Government would accept new nuclear build. In the Executive's view, this is essentially a consenting issue and therefore it is for the Executive to decide whether to publish such an assessment in relation to Scotland, and if so, to decide how such assessments would be made. The Executive will consider whether, given its position on nuclear power, such guidance is appropriate or required in Scotland.
Second, the proposed framework sets out proposals on the conduct and scope of public inquiries in relation to the consenting of new nuclear power stations, with the objective of ensuring that inquiries focus primarily on local issues. Powers to grant consent to new power stations under Section 36 of the Electricity Act are executively devolved to the Scottish Ministers. Therefore it is for the Scottish Ministers to set the scope of such public inquiries, and to decide how any such inquiry would be conducted in Scotland. The Executive is currently considering its approach on this issue - but its initial view is that any proposal to build a new nuclear power station in Scotland would require full public and Parliamentary consultation on the relevant issues before Ministers could reach any decision on whether or not to grant consent.
The Executive is currently promoting a series of measures to modernise the planning system in Scotland under the Planning Etc (Scotland) Bill currently before the Scottish Parliament. Should the Executive decide to make further changes to the planning and consenting regime, as it applies to nuclear power stations, such proposals would be subject to full prior public consultation.