An important debate took place in the Parliament today on the future of how we will source Scotland's energy.
During the debate my colleague Joe Fitzpatrick was able to inform the Parliament of the potential for renewable energy in his own city of Dundee. According to Joe, Dundee is the sunniest of all Scotland's cities, making it a likely candidate for harnessing the power of the sun. Mr Fitzpatrick also was able to tell us about the potential for the creation of ethanol from the seaweed in the Firth of Tay on which his home town in nestled.
Mike Russell suggested that this begot the potential slogan "It's Scotland's Seaweed". I actually thought it was more likely that Joe was trying to supplant the traditional "three J's" of Dundee (Jute, Jam and Journalism) with a new "three S" motif, "Sun, Seaweed and the Sunday Post" (the last a nod to the fact that journalism is the one remaining "J" alive and kicking in the city).
Anyway, aside from these nonsensical observations, Joe and many other MSPs were able to point out the huge potential for renewables in Scotland. Unfortunately there were some who were making the case for the continued reliance on nuclear power.
The justification for this varied from the need to maintain a baseload to the need to ensure energy supply beyond the lifetime of more finite sources of energy.
There is no denying that we of course need to maintain a baseload to ensure adequate supply of energy to meet all our domestic requirements. However, the fact of the matter is that nuclear is supplying less of that energy today than it has in the past. Nuclear power stations in Scotland actually generate less energy than the combined amount of renewables generated energy. I do not believe it is beyond the wit of humankind to ensure a suitable mix of renewables sources in the twenty first century to ensure a baseload adequate for our requirements.
Michael McMahon, Labour MSP for Hamilton North and Bellshill for some reason quoted John F Kennedy's "Man on the Moon" speech during the debate. I shall be charitable and avoid snide statements about Labour members being wired to the moon! He was trying to use the speech as some form of justification for nuclear power, as far as I could understand. He failed to make the comparison properly I feel, but it did serve as a useful reminder of the scientific achievements that people have made.
If we can successfully send a man to the moon and return him to the earth, then I do not believe it is beyond us to develop the proper mix of renewables energy in Scotland to meet our requirements.
As for the suggestion that nuclear is needed to breach the gap left by expired finite resources, it fails to pay cognisance to the fact that nuclear power is reliant upon uranium that must be mined from the ground and is itself a finite resource. This is to fail to mention that this uranium is often sourced from some of the most volatile parts of the world.
It is also to fail to mention the fact that still we have not worked out how to safely store nuclear waste. I doubt we ever will. It seems an oxymoron in itself. How can you safely store radioactive waste? This is material that remains hazardous for thousands of years, yet some would have us store it somewhere as yet to be defined. Funnily enough the proponents of nuclear power in today's debate didn't offer a corner of their garden to bury the toxic stuff in. Maybe they're not so keen on it after all?
Anyway, this is all to say that I am proud to be in a party in government that is opposing an expensive and dangerous new generation of nuclear power stations supported by Gordon Brown's Labour government at Westminster. It was pointed out today, that Scotland is a net exporter of energy. That being the case, and it also being the case that we have only begun to scratch the surface of our national renewables potential, I cannot see the logic in building new nuclear power stations in Scotland.