Jamie Stone: My Highland constituency of Caithness, Sutherland & Easter Ross has long grappled with an existential problem: depopulation. Over the past century, only a select few events have managed to stem the tide of people leaving. One was in 1954 when Dounreay, a village on the north coast, was selected as the site for the UK’s first fast breeder nuclear reactor. Suddenly, families were moving into Caithness rather than leaching away. Good jobs were in steady supply, new houses sprang up and families began settling in the area long-term. Was the age-old “Highland problem” finally solved? Seventy years on and the north of Scotland is once again in economic decline. Both Dounreay and the Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment, which have provided hundreds of well-paid jobs since the 1950s, are decommissioning. Some renewed hope for Caithness’s nuclear community arrived last year, when the UK Atomic Energy Authority said it was seeking a host for its Spherical Tokamak for Energy Production project to develop a nuclear fusion plant. Yet recent reports that the Scottish government will reject any future nuclear power creation in Scotland has cast doubt on Dounreay’s bid to be a leading scientific hub again. The thousands of people employed directly and indirectly by the Caithness sites face a deeply uncertain future. As worried as I am for my constituency, the nuclear nimbyism of the SNP-Green coalition is not just economically devastating for the far north of Scotland. It is also environmentally and scientifically illiterate. For decades scientists have recognised that nuclear fusion could provide a clean method of generating almost limitless energy. If the science behind it could be cracked, then humanity’s energy problem would be solved once and for all — and so too would the nightmare of global warming fuelled by using fossil fuels. It is alarming that the Scottish government does not recognise this. It must decide if its primary aim is to improve people’s lives or to continue to play tiring political games with its governmental foe in Westminster. To me, it is very simple. Turning our back on a technology that could be incredibly environmentally, economically and scientifically important to Scotland, and indeed the rest of the world, would be nothing short of disastrous.
Times 30th Sept 2021 read more »