Scotland business

Minister 'determined' to avert early Longannet closure

Longannet Power Station
Image caption Longannet is one of the biggest coal-fired power stations in Europe

The Scottish government has said it is determined to explore any option which could avert the premature closure of Longannet.

Scottish Power has announced plans to close its huge coal-fired power station at Longannet in Fife early next year.

The move comes after the energy firm failed to win a crucial contract from National Grid.

Energy Minister Fergus Ewing told MSPs he would "strain every sinew" to get the best possible outcome.

During a statement at Holyrood, he said the premature closure of Longannet at a time of falling spare capacity in the system was a "national scandal".

He also defended the government's renewables policy against claims it was harming power stations such as Longannet.

MSPs heard earlier this month that Longannet would close unless Scottish Power secured the £15m National Grid contract, which will run from April 2016 to September 2017.

The SSE-operated gas-fired power station at Peterhead won the contract at the expense of Scottish Power and a third bidder.

Mr Ewing said he would meet with unions on Thursday to discuss the future of the power station's 270 employees, and work with Fife Council on a joint response to the situation.

He said: "The government and all our partners will strain every sinew to secure the best possible outcomes for all those affected and to mitigate the local and national economic impact if closure cannot be averted."

He said the UK transmission charging regime had "uniquely disadvanaged" Longannet, which had to pay £40m to connect to the grid.

'Swift action'

Mr Ewing also called for swift action to progress a proposal from the Scottish coal industry to the UK government for coal restoration, which he said could reduce Longannet's running costs.

But Labour MSP Lewis Macdonald said Mr Ewing had failed to explain how he intended to prevent the early closure of Longannet.

He said: "If plan A was to lobby the National Grid to award its voltage control contract for 2016/17 to Longannet rather than Peterhead, plan A clearly failed.

"What is plan B?"

Murdo Fraser, Conservative MSP for Fife and convener of Holyrood's Energy Committee, said Longannet's closure exposed the "failure" of the SNP's energy policy.

He said: "They're anti-fracking, anti-nuclear, obsessed with wind power, and as a result we face the loss of 55% of our generating capacity in eight years.

"Energy-rich Scotland will be importing power from England to keep the lights on."

Scottish Liberal Democrat leader Willie Rennie said the announcement of Longannet's closure was a "sad day".

He said the priority now was to have "constructive discussions" with the UK government and the energy network about the "sustainable energy mix in Scotland".

Mr Ewing said the preservation of Longannet as a consumer of coal would "allow for the restoration of the mines in Scotland" but Green MSP Patrick Harvie said the government should stop "kidding people on that coal has a long-term future in this country".

More on this story

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites