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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 12:41 GMT
Fury at nuclear debate comments
Malcolm Wicks
Malcolm Wicks challenged "fundamentalists" in Scotland
The UK energy minister has sparked fury among opposition parties after urging Scotland to have a grown-up debate on nuclear power stations.

Malcolm Wicks said it would be foolish if the country failed to have mature discussions on energy policy.

Ministers' chief concern was having a clean energy supply, he said.

The Scottish National Party and the Scottish Greens accused Mr Wicks of "hysterics" and of spinning a line from London.

A three-month public consultation on how the UK should meet its future energy challenges is currently under way.

Speaking to The Scotsman newspaper, Mr Wicks said he was "neutral" on nuclear power, but believed no-one should automatically rule out atomic power.

Our paramount concern (is) to have an energy supply which is clean, and nuclear is a clean source of energy
Malcolm Wicks
UK Energy Minister

"It would be foolish of a nation not to have a mature debate about it, a grown-up debate," Mr Wicks said.

"What I mean by a mature debate is not that every one agrees with me, but I think that minds should be open on this."

He added: "Our paramount concern (is) to have an energy supply which is clean, and nuclear is a clean source of energy."

Energy resources

The minister said merely "pushing ahead" with renewables was not the solution to energy efficiency concerns.

"I would at least hope that the environmental fundamentalists would look at that fact and think through the implications," he said.

Asked to identify those fundamentalists, he said: "I mean people who are so committed to the environmental agenda but who imagine that the answer can be windmills and some tidal power and some solar power and some recycling."

SNP energy spokesman Richard Lochhead said the minister should accept the case for Scotland gaining control over its energy resources.

Mr Lochhead added: "Mr Wicks' hysterics are the clearest sign yet that Labour wants to foist a new generation of dangerous, dirty and unwanted nuclear power stations on Scotland.

Mature debate

"Successive UK governments have prevented Scots from benefiting from the massive energy resources on our own doorstep."

Green MSP Chris Ballance said the minister demonstrated pro-nuclear fundamentalism by accusing anyone who disagrees with him of being immature.

"Yet his own immaturity is revealed by the fact that he is not prepared to listen to the arguments and engage in serious debate," said Mr Ballance.

"Instead he is trying to spin the debate by accusing others of being 'fundamentalists'.

"The arguments against nuclear power are many, they are serious and I can only hope that we do indeed get a mature debate - because I am confident we would easily win it."




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