HOMES and businesses face being plunged into darkness over Christmas if workers at Scotland's two nuclear power stations go on strike over 'draconian' cuts, according to a trade union.

Employees among the 1,500 strong workforce at the Hunterston B plant in North Ayrshire and Torness complex in East Lothian are set to vote in a consultative ballot held by the GMB union over whether they want to strike.

It follows a row over pay and conditions with the sites' owners EDF Energy.

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GMB Scotland warned of the potential for 'profound implications' if a strike went ahead following a formal strike ballot. It said the country could left without a third of its electricity supply over the festive period.

Gary Smith, the union's Scottish Secretary, said: “Industrial action at Hunterston B and Torness could have profound implications for electricity generation and supply across Scotland, but we have been left with little choice than to take on EDF over these draconian cuts. Each year two of Hunterston B and Torness's four reactors must be shut down by law for two months at a time to enable safety checks, when staff may be required at short notice to come in. Enhanced pay rates were negotiated for these periods, which the GMB claims EDF wants to renege on.

Mr Smith added: “During these periods staff become fully available, work flexibly to accommodate the employer’s requirements and receive enhanced rates in return.

"The outage [shut down] rates were negotiated by trade unions because this is an intensive period of work that places significant demands on staff across the UK’s nuclear fleet and it is ludicrous that a hugely profitable multi-national like EDF is trying to break this agreement.

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EDF said it was "actively engaged" in consultation with the unions, adding: "We’re sharing open and constructive dialogue in a period where costs are going up and income from electricity generation is going down and have been having productive conversations on how to achieve our shared goals.”