A TORY councillor has accused an SNP minister of “peddling misinformation” after she opposed a nuclear mini-reactor being built in her constituency.

Thurso and Northwest Caithness councillor Stuart Mackie accused MSP Maree Todd of letting down the “nuclear workforce and supply chain businesses” in the north. SNP policy opposes nuclear power in Scotland.

The row emerged after Mackie claimed Todd was disregarding the will of Scots in the far north to “remain a nuclear community” in the John O’Groats journal.

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Todd, minister for public health, women’s health and sport, said she would not support the idea of a small modular reactor (SMR) being developed in her Caithness constituency, pointing to the “high cost and high risk” associated with nuclear power.

Rolls-Royce is aiming to build up to 10 SMR power stations by 2035, with calls for one of them to be established in Caithness.

However, Todd argued that Scotland must instead look for “safe, sustainable and cost-effective” renewable energy and although she noted enthusiasm in some parts of her constituency for nuclear she does not "share the enthusiasm".

Speaking to the John O’Groats Journal, Mackie said that Todd was toeing the party line instead of standing with the nuclear workforce.

The National: Dounreay Nuclear Power plant, Caithness

Caithness is home to former nuclear plant Douneray which is being decommissioned

He said: “For decades, workers in the far north developed, prototyped and operated some of the most advanced technology in the civil and defence nuclear fields – bringing with it prosperity and opportunity to our region that was unprecedented.

"The work on our sites shaped the future of the modern nuclear industry, which is safe, reliable and an obvious part of the solution in achieving net-zero. A repeatable modular solution would drive down costs and sustain high-value work in predominantly rural communities.

"Suggesting that nuclear fission is a high-risk option is simply peddling misinformation and does a disservice to the generations of workers who have worked in this highly regulated environment.”

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Caithness has links to the nuclear industry, and is home to Douneray, the former Nuclear Power Development Establishment which is now being decommissioned. The site, in operation since the 1950’s, previously built three nuclear reactors for the UK Atomic Energy Authority.

The nearby Vulcan Naval Reactor Test Establishment was run by the Ministry of Defence to test military submarine reactors. Both sites now serve different functions and are in the process of being decommissioned.

Mackie claimed that workers in the area want to stay in the industry. He added: “Instead of transitioning into alternative employment, like the Scottish Government suggests, they may well leave our community to work at other nuclear sites at home or abroad.

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Todd stood by her remarks that renewables are more important than nuclear

"It is a completely preventable situation if the Scottish Government ‘follows the science’ and listens to communities like Caithness and north Sutherland.

"By choosing to side with her central belt colleagues in the SNP and the Scottish Greens, Maree Todd has chosen to disregard the very clear will from the far north of Scotland to remain a nuclear community and seek new development. The last Member of Parliament who did the same lost his seat after one term."

Speaking to The National, Todd said: “As an MSP representing a vast and rural Highland constituency, a constituency with the highest fuel poverty rates in the country, I cannot in all conscience support a nuclear fission solution as a cost-effective, safe energy source for our community and I believe the vast majority of the public back my position.

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“We must focus on reliable energy sources that offer value for money and align with our net-zero ambitions.

“While I acknowledge the enthusiasm for nuclear power voiced by some sectors of this constituency, I do not share that enthusiasm. The SNP have been clear in their opposition to nuclear using current technologies and the electorate backed that position when they voted for us in May last year.

“Scotland’s future energy supply must be safe, sustainable, cost-effective and deliver high-quality jobs. I believe that the renewables plan, as set out in the Scottish Energy Strategy, offers just that”