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Mr. Salmond: Does the hon. Gentleman accept that one of the misconceptions of the debate is that to conform with Kyoto one would have to go down the nuclear route? Clearly, renewables conform with Kyoto, as does combined cycle gas if it moves to 60 per cent. efficiency as has been achieved at Peterhead. Clean technology coal also has a much more beneficial environmental impact. Does the hon. Gentleman agree that it is a fallacy to say that the only way to conform to Kyoto is to be forced down the nuclear route?

John Thurso: May I say to the hon. Gentleman what has been said before? I urge him to have a little patience, as I hope to deal with that point later.

A consideration of carbon dioxide emissions is crucial, so we must examine some of the facts. I am lucky that I have in my constituency a scientist, Dr. Eric Voice, who was formerly at Dounreay but who now works independently as a consultant on emissions. I asked him to consider a number of factors with regard to carbon emissions in Scotland. The information that he gave me is extremely interesting, and may be helpful in this debate.

The last year for which reliable figures are available was 1998, when Scotland produced 72,300,000 tonnes of carbon emissions. Of that, 17 million tonnes—or, roughly,

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24 per cent.—were produced by electricity generation. We must recognise that only a quarter of emissions in Scotland are from that source. Of that generation, 19.7 terawatt hours are currently from nuclear power. If that were replaced by clean coal—medium sulphur bituminous coal—it would require 6,100,000 tonnes of coal, which would produce 20 million tonnes of CO 2 . That would double the CO 2 emissions currently produced by our electricity industry. If gas were to be used, the figure would be about 12 million tonnes of CO 2 .

David Hamilton (Midlothian): Does that mean that the hon. Gentleman and the Liberal party oppose the expansion of the coal industry?

John Thurso: No, I do not think that that follows. I am merely trying to set out the scale of the problem. I shall then consider what we should do to deal with it.

Given the scale of the carbon emissions problem, those of us who are in favour of renewables—the use of which has support on both sides of the House, and of which the Liberal Democrats have always been strong supporters—should pose exactly the same question. What are the problems in achieving, for example, those 19 terawatt hours? If we were to use a 3 MW turbine, which is probably slightly better than the best currently available, and to assume a load factor of installed capacity of about 25 per cent., which is better than any turbine is currently producing, that turbine would produce about 6,570 MW per annum. That broadly means that we would require 2,891 turbines to produce the same generating capacity that is currently produced by nuclear energy. It is all perfectly possible, but the disadvantage is that one would require 2,000 sq km for those turbines. Clearly, that would present equal problems of which those of us who support renewables must be aware. It is more honest to say that we support renewables knowing what we seek to achieve.

The figures quoted mean that if we are to have a genuinely balanced approach and a genuine reduction in carbon dioxide, it is vital to work on our hydro schemes; they are a great asset in Scotland, and we must have new ones. We have to invest in renewables and the level of investment in them must be similar to that which we put into other technologies. We must also look at the way in which we use our energy, which means thinking a little bit out of the box. Scotland, particularly my constituency, has an ability to generate an immense amount of renewable energy but there is a difficulty in transporting it to the jobs and factories in the deep south. Perhaps we should be thinking about moving the jobs and factories up to where the energy is. Perhaps that will be part of the new reality of the future.

Our policy on nuclear energy is perfectly straightforward—to decommission nuclear stations when they come to the end of their useful lives. The current nuclear capacity buys time to make the investment required in renewables so that that they can become a proper and sustainable part of our energy future.

Mr. Peter Duncan: What is the hon. Gentleman's response to the statistic that the entire wind capacity in

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Scotland comes to only 20 per cent. and that that capacity would be lost if Cockenzie power station closed and was not replaced?

John Thurso: I am not sure that I completely understand the hon. Gentleman's question. I have been careful to talk about renewable energy, which is not just about wind—it is onshore and offshore. The Pentland firth has a tidal race that is consistent, not constant. We have wave power and biomass—indeed, a whole range of renewables. We must work out which renewable works at which time in the best way so that we can put the information together.

When the energy review is accepted, or rejected, by the Government—from what I have seen, I hope that they will accept much of it—I hope that we will have an energy policy that is designed to make the necessary investment and create a future energy market using our renewables. Despite all the "don't knows", I hope that the Scottish Parliament will take decisions on planning matters in Scotland.

9.14 pm

Mr. Russell Brown (Dumfries): I notice from the clock that between my hon. Friend the Member for Hamilton, South (Mr. Tynan) and myself, we will probably have had some 26 minutes of Back-Bench speeches in a three-hour debate. I appreciate that you endeavour, as best you can, to control the situation, Mr. Deputy Speaker, but it is somewhat disappointing that we may have only two Back-Bench speakers this evening.

I have been trying to determine whether the debate is about devolution issues such as the planning processes undertaken by local authorities, or whether it is no more than another opportunity for Scottish National party Members to state their views and their case against the nuclear industry and nuclear power generation.

As my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for Scotland suggested earlier, section D4 of part II of schedule 5 of the Scotland Act 1998 makes it clear that nuclear energy is a reserved matter. Schedule 4 of the Act spells out that the Scottish Parliament is charged with the duty to legislate on planning and reserved matters. Why should that be? It is simply in order to ensure that there is consistency as regards devolved and reserved matters.

Whatever the nature of today's debate, I want to consider the issue that causes the SNP the most difficulty: nuclear power. The performance and innovation unit's energy review document issued in the middle of last month ruled nothing out. The longer-term role of nuclear power in energy policy was examined in the review, and the report merely recommended that the options for new nuclear investment need to be kept open.

What was the reaction to that? Regrettably, there was nothing but the usual SNP paranoia. The party saw that recommendation as a signal for new nuclear build. However, let us be clear: if new nuclear plants are to be constructed, the market will bring forward the proposals.

Mr. Salmond: When the hon. Gentleman says that the market will bring forward proposals, does that mean that the huge nuclear subsidy currently in the legislation will be ended? Is he talking about the market or about the rigged market?

Mr. Brown: I am talking about the market, and it is not rigged, as the hon. Gentleman has claimed on many occasions.

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The Government fully believe that the existing nuclear stations should continue and naturally they must operate at the current high safety and environmental standards that we expect.

Over the next 15 years or so, nuclear plants will continue to make significant contributions. During the next 20 years, we shall see the scheduled closure of the three Scottish stations—the two advanced gas-cooled reactors at Hunterston and Torness, and the British Nuclear Fuels Magnox facility at Chapelcross, in my constituency, which produces 196 MW of power. That amount may seem small and insignificant but it has some importance in our local area, although I shall not elaborate on that point.

It is important to remember the contribution made by nuclear power in the daily life of each one of us: 25 per cent. of the power generated in the UK is nuclear based and twice that amount—50 per cent. of electricity in Scotland—comes from a nuclear source. When those three stations close, a significant gap will have to be filled. Who can tell what replacement source will be found? I have to point out to Scottish and Welsh nationalist Members that it will not come just from renewables.

John Robertson: My hon. Friend may share my concerns about nuclear power. However, I am also concerned that if we do not consider all forms of energy we may be left with no energy at all in future.

Mr. Brown: My hon. Friend makes an important and interesting point. Secure energy sources will be vitally important.

I may not have searched hard enough, but I have yet to find anyone who is opposed to renewable sources of energy. None the less, despite the enthusiasm on all sides and the efforts that will be made in the years to come, I firmly believe that in no way can renewables replace our current levels of nuclear power generation.

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