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Anger at call to make Highlands a nuclear-free zone

By Gordon Calder

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A CAITHNESS councillor yesterday said it would be “absolute stupidity” to try and make the Highlands a nuclear-free zone.

Andrew Sinclair, a Wick and east Caithness councillor, condemned the motion by an Inverness SNP councillor as did his far north colleagues.

Ron MacWilliam proposed the Highland Council should become one of the UK’s 40 nuclear-free local authorities. He said there will “never be a business case that is either financially or environmentally competent for new nuclear energy plants in the Highlands.”

The industry, he claimed, has “burdened future generations with a legacy of toxic nuclear waste” which poses an “ongoing threat to our environment and health”.

But the proposal created an angry response from local councillors.


Nicola Sinclair, a Wick and east Caithness Highland councillor, described the plan as “short-sighted” and “overtly political.”

She said: “I was disappointed to see the SNP group bring this motion to council, knowing that two of their members represent thousands of constituents whose livelihoods depend on Dounreay. I greatly support renewable energy and Caithness is contributing enormously to this industry. However, we must also be mindful of the enormous contribution Dounreay has made to our local economy in the past, and the role it will continue to play in the next couple of decades.”

Her Thurso and northeast Caithness colleague, Struan Mackie, was delighted the motion was defeated 46-15. His amendment called on the Scottish Government to rethink its “outright objection” to new nuclear plants in the country and embrace some of the latest developments such as small modular reactors.

Mr Mackie pointed out that Caithness is facing a 20 per cent population decline between 2019 and 2041 and said another nuclear reactor could encourage new employment opportunities.

He said Dounreay and the nearby Vulcan nuclear submarine test site have made “a significant impact” economically and socially on the far north.

“The nuclear skill set currently deployed in the civil and naval nuclear industries should be viewed as an opportunity and asset for the region,” said Mr Mackie, who stressed small modular reactor technology and fabrication show a £250 billion opportunity globally.

Matthew Reiss, also a Thurso and northwest Caithness councillor, strongly opposed the motion.

He said: “It talks of burdened future generations, toxic nuclear waste, ballistic missiles and of course that shocking word Dounreay. It does not mention the thousands of jobs from the ongoing medical uses derived from nuclear materials and the rich diversity of our population or inward migration over six decades.”

Wick and east Caithness councillor, Andrew Sinclair, added: “It would be absolute stupidity to tie our hands behind our back, committing ourselves to an anti-nuclear stance and an outright rejection of these technologies before they’ve even been fully developed.”

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