Policy is fantasy, not fantastic

I am delighted to have caught the attention (letters, April 12) of the Scottish nationalist councillor for Jedburgh as this now affords Jim Brown the opportunity to talk to his boss and the other clowns up in Edinburgh in order that he may acquaint them with the true aspirations of Borderers and, I suspect, the rest of the Scottish people.

It seems to me that the international agreements (mentioned by Jim) driving the Scottish energy policy are not at the top of the agenda for Borderers, particularly as a similar agreement which matured in 2010 was not met and the event passed off without comment. When China and India stop building coal-fired power stations, come back and we can discuss it.

The Scottish Parliament is, of course, skilled at this sort of thing as the £108million absolute limit on the price of the building, set in stone at a day-long festival of commitment chaired by Davie Steel, was ignored some weeks later as costs spiralled out of control and the rest is history. If the consensual agreement which Jim alludes to was indeed reached, then it did not last for long.

What people want is jobs and prosperity and this will not flow from an artificially-inflated price for electricity. The avalanche of jobs envisaged by Jim is based on subsidy – and subsidy will only exist in a few of the most advanced nations, and that for a limited period. Put not thy trust in princes.

Jim accuses me of negativity. Well, negativity is not always negative.

If you witness an incipient folly of monumental proportions and staggering scope, then a certain duty is created to be negative – to fail to do so, as with the Edinburgh trams, is culpable.

We are told, in the context of Scottish renewable energy, that it is fantastic – on that I can readily agree as only in the realm of fantasy can it be seriously suggested that such a policy will enable the vibrant industrial future for this country, desired by all, to be achieved.

I oppose the current wind initiative and the future tidal proposals, not for the blight that they, with their attendant cabling arrangements, will undoubtedly visit on the countryside, nor yet that the windmills disintegrate birds and bats, or that tidal turbines mince sea lions and seals.

I oppose them because they do not work. The policy will not produce the energy to meet the needs of Scotland, but it will eat up the money.

America has cut the subsidy and is littered with abandoned turbines – there have been litigation attempts to find the party to meet the decommissioning bill, but they have scarpered. Westminster is in the High Court trying to cut the subsidy here and Holland is dumping unusable power into Europe at a loss. To suggest financing a Scottish turbine subsidy from the English electricity bill is a project that could only have originated from a politician.

The trick for the protagonists of renewable energy is to make it look cheap and get the money spent so that we are locked in. I think it should be made clear that if we succeed in generating 100 per cent of our power from renewable sources by 2020, then the lights will be off half the time.

The doctrinaire ruling out of the option of nuclear power by Alex Salmond was just such a monumental folly and it will return to haunt him.

We are out of touch with the rest of the world. China is currently building 26 reactors to join the 14 they already have and more are in the planning. India aspires to similar numbers and even such unlikely countries as Thailand and Kazakhstan will shortly join the club.

Driving past Torness recently, I failed to be overwhelmed by the environmental health questions which so exercise Jim. I think the Chinese take the same view and that may partly account for why their economy is booming, while ours is in the doldrums.

There are certainly design challenges with nuclear power, but uranium is not scarce and there is thorium, favoured by India, together with the convenient supply of nuclear waste from previous efforts, all of which can be turned into energy by the fission process.

Fuel can be spun out further using the fast breeder (reactions initiated by fast neutrons), as favoured by the French, and beyond that we have fusion promising limitless power. Though fusion has been demonstrated to be possible, its implementation is fraught with immense difficulties.

These problems are going to be solved somewhere in the world, probably pretty soon, and immense advantage would devolve on those who succeed. Accordingly, it is the duty of the Scottish Government to ensure that Scottish scientists and engineers, together with our world-famous universities, are in the vanguard. History would demand no less.

Robin Cross

Netherby House