A FRESH war of words broke out last night between Holyrood and Westminster over whether Scotland can survive without nuclear power.
First Minister Alex Salmond branded atomic energy a “busted flush” and hailed offshore wind turbines as the way forward.
But Scottish Secretary Jim Murphy claimed a future without nuclear power was an “imaginary” one.
He accused the SNP of failing to come up with a convincing argument for why it should not be used to help fuel the nation’s homes and businesses.
The row flared as a plan to build 10 windfarms off the coast of Scotland took a major step forward when the Crown Estate gave companies permission to explore potential sites.
Mr Salmond hailed the “landmark announcement”.
He said: “Clean, green energy is one of Scotland’s key economic strengths and, with £1billion of investment in recent months and a similar level in the pipeline, it is helping Scotland through tough economic times.
“In contrast, nuclear power is a busted flush, steadily declining in output to its lowest level in the 21st century as a result of unplanned outages.
“For Scotland, that proves once again that nuclear power is unreliable and ultimately unnecessary, with risks and uncertainties in waste disposal and the staggering costs of decommissioning,” added the first minister.
The Scottish Government has approved 18 renewable-energy projects since May 2007, Mr Salmond added, and 30 more were on the horizon.
He claimed Mr Murphy was “just out of date”.
“Certainly, no one who can count could possibly come to the conclusion that we need nuclear energy to tackle climate change,” he said.
“What has been announced today has something like three times the energy capacity of our nuclear power stations.”
Mr Murphy had accused the Scottish Government of failing to come up with a sophisticated argument to back up its opposition to nuclear power.
At a nuclear industry conference in Edinburgh, he said Scottish energy self-reliance without new nuclear generation was “imaginary”.
By 2025, all but one of Britain’s nuclear stations would have ended service and, without new nuclear plants, Scotland could depend on electricity imported from across the border at peak periods.
Mr Murphy said ministers in London were convinced by the evidence in favour of new power stations, which would be better designed and more efficient than those they replaced.
He added: “In contrast, Scotland – or indeed our industry – is yet to hear any convincing energy-based argument against nuclear power generation from the SNP-led Scottish Government.
“While they refuse to permit the construction of new reactors here, north of the border, they also refuse to offer any sophisticated argument for why this negative policy is in Scotland’s interests.”
Mr Murphy claimed: “There are early signs that greater realism is entering the debate in Scotland and that, in a changing world where some countries use energy as a tool of geopolitics, nuclear has to be part of the low-carbon mix.
“I am happy to work with the Scottish Government on this important issue.”
The Liberal Democrats also criticised the Scottish secretary for his speech.
Orkney and Shetland MP Alistair Carmichael said: “One has to wonder exactly why Jim Murphy is attending a conference of this sort.
“The fact of the matter is that there is no public acceptance of new Labour’s dash for nuclear power in Scotland.”
Shadow Scottish Secretary David Mundell called on Mr Murphy to unite Labour MSPs and Scottish MPs on the issue.
He added: “I am a longstanding supporter of the conclusion that new nuclear capacity is needed if Scotland is going to meet both its energy needs and its carbon-reduction targets.”