§ 25. Mr. G. M. Thomson
asked the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps are now being taken to expand hydro-electricity capacity in the area of the North of Scotland Hydro-Electric Board.
§ Mr. Thomson
Is not the delay disgraceful? Is the Minister aware that it is more than two-and-a-half years since the Glen Nevis scheme ran into opposition from various vested interests? Is it not time that a decision was announced on the Glen Nevis scheme and other schemes? Has he taken note of the excellent answers which he gave me yesterday saying that the Hydro-Electric Board had provided £181 million of social and economic benefits? In view of the quite ludicrous figure, by comparison, of £300,000 accepted by the Mackenzie Committee, will he not let the Board get ahead in helping the Highlands to provide the electricity needed by the Lowlands?
§ Mr. Noble
I agree about the many great advantages which the Board has provided in the north of Scotland in the past. There are, however, fairly complicated calculations in the Mackenzie Report. These are being considered. The schemes to which the hon. Member referred are being considered by the Hydro-Electric Board as well as others.
§ Mr. John Macleod
How long does the Secretary of State propose that these discussions should go on? This is seriously affecting the Highland economy. Is he aware that the average of 5,000 people employed in these schemes is today down below 2,000? It is ridiculous to delay these schemes any longer.
§ Mr. Grimond
Is it not time that we cut through all this red tape? Is not the Secretary of State aware that electricity is needed in the Highlands? Everybody else has realised it for years and years. Discussions have gone on ad infinitum. As we have extremely high unemployment in the Highlands, cannot the Minister get on with it and give us some electricity?
§ Mr. Malcolm MacMillan
Is not the Secretary of State aware that the Island scheme proposals for hydro-electric schemes in North Uist and the Island of Barra were laid before the Electricity Commissioners in 1947 and that tenders were going out in 1954 and 1955, but that not a thing has happened in the years since then? Have they not had time to get on with these proposals?
§ Mr. Ross
It is all very well for the Secretary of State to say that he is not responsible for the provision of electricity but he had the responsibility for stopping the schemes. Is it not a ludicrous position when we set up a special Committee to consider these things, and, after it has made its recommendations, set up another Committee to go into them?
§ Mr. Thomson
In view of the unsatisfactory nature of that reply, I beg to give notice that I shall raise the matter on the Adjournment.