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by Margaret Taylor
16 May 2024
Swinney accuses Alister Jack of 'menacing behaviour' over nuclear reactor plan

John Swinney says the Scottish Government will have “nothing to do with nuclear power” | Alamy

Swinney accuses Alister Jack of 'menacing behaviour' over nuclear reactor plan

First Minister John Swinney has accused the Scottish secretary of “menacing behaviour” after the latter said the UK Government is planning to build a nuclear reactor in Scotland.

Appearing before the House of Lords Constitution Committee yesterday Scottish secretary Alister Jack said he had asked the UK energy minister to plan for a Scotland-based reactor as part of a UK-wide energy strategy.

The UK Government is planning to build a number of large-scale nuclear plants in England, with the aim of supporting them through the development of smaller modular reactors spread around the country.

“On small nuclear reactors, I have asked the energy minister to plan for one in Scotland,” Jack told the committee.

“I believe that in 2026 we'll see a unionist regime again in Holyrood and they will move forward with that."

Although the UK Government wants a quarter of all electricity to come from nuclear power by 2050, the Scottish Government has long been opposed to including nuclear in the energy mix.

Speaking at First Minister’s Questions, Swinney said that Jack had made “no mention of this proposal to the Scottish Government” adding that that was “utterly and completely incompatible with good inter-governmental working”.

He added that it was illustrative of the “damaging behaviour, the menacing behaviour of the secretary of state for Scotland”.

“The Scottish Government will not support new nuclear power stations in Scotland,” Swinney added, saying that “green, clean energy” is the policy agenda of the Scottish Government, which will have “nothing to do with nuclear power”.

During yesterday’s Lords session Jack noted that devolution is “broadly working as intended” and “friction” between the UK and Scottish Governments is “not evidence of devolution failing”.

Giving evidence to the UK Covid-19 Inquiry earlier this year Jack indicated that relations between the Scotland Office and Swinney, who was deputy first minister at the time, had not been good during the pandemic.

Swinney had earlier told the inquiry that he had made no effort to engage with Jack during the pandemic because he saw no value in it, with Jack saying the Scottish Government bypassed the Scotland Office to go direct to Whitehall because it did not like his department.

“Let's put some context on this – the former first minister and the former deputy first minister, I'm not, you know, on their Christmas-card list,” he said.

During last year’s SNP leadership contest Jack urged the next first minister to work with the UK Government, saying Holyrood ministers have "sought conflict with Westminster" to further independence aims.

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