Planning is already underway to develop new nuclear reactors in Scotland, Alister Jack has told a committee of peers.

The Scottish Secretary acknowledged that the proposals would be opposed by the SNP but said his colleagues in the Department for Energy and Net Zero were preparing for a "Unionist regime" in Holyrood after the 2026 election. 

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The minister was giving evidence to the Lords' Constitution Committee on Wednesday morning as part of their inquiry into ‘the governance of the Union’.

During the session, he suggested laws made in Holyrood be scrutinised by a committee of the House of Lords.

Mr Jack - who is due to step down from the Commons at the next election and is expected to take up a place in the Lords soon after - was asked why the UK Government had not stopped the Scottish Government from "wasting hundreds of millions of pounds" on the doomed Deposit Recycling Scheme.

Mr Jack said the minister in the charge of the policy at the time, Lorna Slater, and her officials “knew from a long distance out” that they would need an exemption to the UK Internal Market Act for a Scottish only scheme.

“They just thought if they kept going I would back down,” he told the committee.

"They never believed I would do a Section 35 on the Gender Recognition [Reform Bill]."

He went on: "It's this idea that they would sail on and I would roll over and not stand my ground and that was their misjudgment."

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The minister said the 25th anniversary of devolution was a chance to “review” how well it was working.

“Devolution is not a bad thing," he said. "Where it’s failed is bad governance.

“In the last 17 years, we’ve got a poorer health service, failing education standards, diabolic ferry services to the islands and higher drug deaths. These are down to bad governance, not devolution.

“I have often thought a better review of legislation in Scotland could be one of the things we could improve upon.

“Some sort of grand committee in this House, helping to scrutinise and improve legislation would be a good thing. I am not alone in saying that the committee structure, in scrutinising legislation in Scotland, has clearly been one of the failings”.

Mr Jack also said that he had asked ministers at the Department for Energy and Net Zero to plan for a nuclear reactor to be built in Scotland.

While energy is largely reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government effectively has a veto on new nuclear power developments through planning regulations.

The UK Government is currently pursuing plans to develop Small Modular Reactors, which will be smaller, less costly and quicker to build than previous generations of nuclear power plants.

The Scottish secretary replied: “On the small nuclear reactors, I have asked the energy minister to plan for one in Scotland, because I believe in 2026 we’ll see a Unionist regime again in Holyrood, and they will move forward on that matter.”

There is some consensus on new nuclear between the Tories and Labour. 

Sir Keir Starmer has previously described nuclear as "vital to our future".

He has previously criticised the SNP's opposition and made clear that nuclear will be a key component of his party's flagship Great British Energy company.

The most recent polling on the issue, undertaken by Survation for True North in January, shows  that 38% of Scots disagree with the SNP's block while 32% support it. 

SNP MP Tommy Sheppard said Mr Jack’s comments were “undermining and patronising our democratically-elected Government”.

He added: “His comments and the decision to ignore the Scottish Government on building new nuclear reactors in Scotland show exactly how this Westminster Government sees Scotland and its people – a nation that should get in line and know its place.

“Scotland doesn’t need expensive nuclear power – we already have abundant natural energy resources, we just need full powers over energy so Scotland can take full advantage of the green energy gold rush.”

Green MSP Mark Ruskell said there was "nothing safe, secure or green about nuclear energy, and many people across Scotland will be dismayed and angry to hear that the Secretary of State is seeking to open a new reactor in Scotland. "