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Last Updated: Monday, 3 July 2006, 16:09 GMT 17:09 UK
Labour 'rules out' nuclear veto
By Peter MacRae
Executive Producer of The Investigation

Chapelcross towers
Campaigners want to see a new plant at Chapelcross
Labour will promise not to block new nuclear power stations when it fights the Scottish election next May, one of the party's MSPs has said.

Dr Elaine Murray is campaigning for a new plant to be built on the site of the old one at Chapelcross, near Annan.

Scottish Labour has not formally said whether it will campaign for or against nuclear power in Scotland.

But Dr Murray told BBC Radio Scotland programme The Investigation that the party had no objection in principle.

The Dumfries MSP made the promise in the latest edition of the series, which is broadcast on Monday.

It asks the question: "Would you vote for nuclear power?"

Elaine Murray
Despite the resolution which was passed at conference, there are people within the Labour Party who are not particularly comfortable with that position
Dr Elaine Murray
Dumfries MSP

Dr Murray said: "The position of the Labour Party going into the Scottish Parliament elections will be that we would not, on principle, block an application for a new nuclear power station in Scotland.

"We would consider any planning application on its merits."

Last week First Minister Jack McConnell, Scottish Labour's leader, supported the development of a huge increase in renewable energy generation.

It is believed that he is trying to avoid his party making a decision on supporting new nuclear power stations before the Scottish elections in case it is a vote loser.

In public, Mr McConnell will only reiterate the policy of the Labour/Liberal Democrat coalition, saying: "We will not support further development of nuclear power stations while waste management issues remain unresolved."

Party policy

However, the Scottish Labour spring conference in February agreed that "plans must be started to replace or renew our existing... nuclear generating stations where required".

Dr Murray said the first minister must ultimately endorse party policy.

"I don't know Jack McConnell's personal view on nuclear power," she said.

"Despite the resolution which was passed at conference, there are people within the Labour Party who are not particularly comfortable with that position.

"Jack McConnell may be one of them, or may not be one of them. When the election comes he will speak as the leader of the Labour Party in Scotland, in which case he has to defend Labour Party policy."

We know historically people would support a new build here
Councillor Ronnie Ogilvie

Dr Murray's comments will add to pressure on Mr McConnell to say clearly whether Scottish Labour is for or against new nuclear power stations.

While energy policy is reserved to Westminster, Scottish Executive ministers could use planning powers to block new power stations.

There would be potential for constitutional conflict if a majority of anti-nuclear parties controlled the Scottish Parliament after the May election.

If Westminster approved a new nuclear plant in a part of Scotland where local people welcomed the development, there would be considerable anger if Scottish ministers refused planning permission.

'Fantasy land'

Dumfries and Galloway Councillor Ronnie Ogilvie is part of the campaign for a new reactor to be built on the site of the old Chapelcross nuclear power station.

He warned: "I would relish the fight. I'd like to see them come down here and justify it, because we'd have the backing of Westminster.

"We know historically people would support a new build here."

The Scottish Green Party said Elaine Murray was living in "fantasy land" and condemned her for claiming the Labour Party would implement pro-nuclear policies in Scotland after next year's election.

Chris Ballance MSP said the Greens could potentially hold the balance of power following the election, and if so, it would block the building of new nuclear plants.

He added: "Mr McConnell's wavering is an indication of the strength of the anti-nuclear campaign and public opposition - but the battle is by no means over."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
Hear how the election will shape nuclear policy



SEE ALSO
McConnell signals renewables goal
27 Jun 06 |  Scotland
Nuclear stance call for parties
04 May 06 |  Scotland
Hopes grow for new nuclear plant
17 May 06 |  South of Scotland
Nuclear challenge for Labour MSPs
08 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Scotland 'should get nuclear say'
07 Mar 06 |  Scotland
Labour conference backs nuclear
26 Feb 06 |  Scotland

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