Mr. Frank Doran (Aberdeen, Central): The hon. Gentleman has been on his feet for 20 minutes, much of which he has spent nitpicking about who said what and on what radio programme. When will he deal with SNP policy? Once a year he gets the opportunity to initiate a major debate in the House of Commons, but he is navel-gazing.
The hon. Gentleman is detailing his concerns about the anticipated decline in nuclear power and saying that he and his party will oppose it here, in the Scottish Parliament and, if necessary, on the picket lines outside planning offices. How does he plan to replace that power with renewable power, given that the political reality is that SNP activists the length and breadth of Scotland oppose each and every renewable energy proposal that I have come across?
Mr. Salmond: The hon. Gentleman is being foolish. He is repeating something that was said in the Scottish Grand Committee. I have looked through some of the cuttings to find out who is supporting wind energy projects in Scotland. In Galloway, as the hon. Gentleman should know, Alasdair Morgan MSP is very much in favour of them. In Fenwick Moor in east Ayrshire, the two local SNP councillors, Katie Hall and Annie Hay, are leading the campaign in favour. Adam Ingram, the MSP for South of Scotland, is supporting the Eaglesham Moor project in that area.
I came across one MSP who has spoken up against a renewable project in ScotlandJamie McGrigor, the Conservative MSP for Highlands and Islands, who spoke against it in the constituency of my hon. Friend the Member for Moray (Angus Robertson), who, like Margaret Ewing, the former MP, supports it. So the only person of political significance who has actively opposed the development of wind energy is the Conservative MSP for the Highlands. [Interruption.] The hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan) says, "Not guilty." He is disavowing Mr. McGrigor's activities.
The hon. Gentleman is right, however, that there is an organisation that opposes wind energy projects the length and breadth of Scotland. During the past year, it has singlehandedly stopped 14 wind energy projects in the south of Scotland, which have been detailed by Alasdair Morgan, the MSP for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale. The Ministry of Defence, controlled by the Government, has scuppered every one of those projects because it thinks that they are a danger[Interruption.] Conservative Front-Benchers say, "Quite right, too." I can see that there is unity there. The MOD thinks that such projects are a danger to low-flying aircraft.
I am happy to acknowledge that people in every one of the Scottish parties may object to one scheme or another. In the course of my extensive research, I came across a Member of Parliament who stood out against a key development in the electricity infrastructurethe interconnector linking Scotland and Ireland. He conducted that campaign as an Opposition party spokesman against the Conservative Government, continued it even after the late Donald Dewar gave the interconnector planning consent, and revived it when the Scottish Parliament was established, on the basis that he was no longer bound by collective responsibility: that Member is now the Minister of State, Scotland Office.
The Minister may have thought that he had good reason to oppose the interconnector because there was strong local feeling against it, and that he was doing no more than representing his constituents, but it ill behoves
John Robertson (Glasgow, Anniesland): Will the hon. Gentleman clarify his response to the hon. Member for Galloway and Upper Nithsdale (Mr. Duncan)? Is he saying that he is totally in favour of all renewables at any time, anywhere in Scotland?
Mr. Salmond: I am in favour of the target announced by the Scottish Executive, which is supported by the Minister for Industry and Energy. It should be possible to raise the contribution of renewables from 10 per cent. to 30 per cent. over the next 20 years, albeit that it will be a tough target to meet. It will require investment and infrastructure in the west of Scotland, where many people have huge enthusiasm for renewables projects. Securing the gas expansion that goes with it will require a huge investment in infrastructurenot only electricity lines, but of the gas network on the east coast of Scotland.
A few days ago the Minister sent me a courteous letter about a matter that I raised in the Scottish Grand Committeeentry charges for the gas system at St. Fergus compared with other landfill terminals such as Bacton. Entry charges south of the border are much lower. The Minister gave me a comprehensive answer in which he says that that is the result not of Government policy, but of the auction system; that the price that is determined in the auction for entry is determined by the capacity in the system. For the past 10 years, the price of entry at St. Fergus has been many times higher than that at southern terminals because capacity has been inadequate. Although St. Fergus is the most economic place for companies to use, they cannot get into the system.
Mr. Michael Connarty (Falkirk, East): Has not the hon. Gentleman kept up with the science? Sheerwater and others now carry out gas cleaning on the field. They do not put it through St. Fergus, but straight into the gas grid, so St. Fergus is no longer the bottleneck that he describes.
Mr. Salmond: The hon. Gentleman is not in command of the subject. Expansion is under way at St. Fergus. In the past few days, Marathon announced a 675 km pipeline from the north-east of Scotland to Bacton. The pipeline, which goes an enormous distance at enormous expense, is required because Marathon cannot get through the network at St. Fergus owing to undercapacity in the system.
Mr. Salmond: The hon. Gentleman may not be familiar with the science. If the system is reinforced on land, gas can be exported anywhere through the gas system. It is not necessary to use an expensive offshore pipeline if the pipeline on land has sufficient capacity to take the gas. That is elementary. The hon. Gentleman is an experienced Member of Parliament for the north-east of Scotland; I suggest that he familiarise himself with the oil and gas industry that he is meant to represent.
Mr. Salmond: For the first time in 40 years there is a new hydro project in Scotland, for which the SNP has expressed support. It will be a test of whether people are prepared to accept the further development of that enormous resource, which was originally developed because of the vision of a group of people after the second world war. The straight answer to the hon. Gentleman is yes, we would.
So far, I have considered whether there is a pattern of the Scotland Office grabbing back powers from the Scottish Parliament and Executive. We will be interested to find out whether the position that holds is that of the Minister for Industry and Energy or that of the Minister of State, Scotland Office. I have considered Scotland's potential across a range of electricity-generating options, which, by common consent, is enormous.
Mr. Salmond: I have given way once to the hon. Gentleman; I have given way 10 times in total so farperhaps morewhich is reasonable, so I shall now make some progress. The hon. Gentleman might strike it lucky before the end of my contribution, which is slightly longer than I originally intended.
We know that the Conservative party has been the only party unambiguously in favour of nuclear power. The Labour party went into the 1997 election with the same policy as that which the SNP and the Liberal Democrats now have: that the current nuclear power stations should be phased out when they reach the end of their technical or economic life. The most recent Labour manifesto made no mention of that policy. No doubt, the policy might emerge as this debate continues, but it has a lot of support in the Scots Parliament, so it is entirely reasonable to suppose that a majority of its Members may well not want to give section 36 permission to develop a new nuclear power station in Scotland.
That brings us to the crux of the debate. If such a majority exists and the Scottish Parliament and the Executive, who are responsible to it, decide to say no to a new nuclear power station in Scotland, will that decision prevail, as the Minister for Industry and Energy has said; or will there be a reserved power, such as that alluded to by the Minister of State, Scotland Office? The Minister for Industry and Energy said that that decision would prevail"end of story." We want the Government to tell us whether they and the Scotland Office share his view; whether they are willing to argue and fight for Scotland and the Scottish Parliament; or whether they want to thwart the democratic will of the Scottish people.