A WAR of words has erupted between two local political figures over the Hunterston B nuclear power station.

Councillor Ian Murdoch hit out at Drew Cochrane, branding the Largs Community Councillor a 'nuclear cheerleader' and says he is in 'complete denial' over safety fears surrounding cracks in the facility's reactors.

The independent took issue with the former News editor for stating in his column that the local people who aired their concerns to the elected member in confidence were 'non-existent'.

Mr Murdoch said: "Mr Cochrane is not always right, he just thinks he is."

He said: “Mr Cochrane quotes me as saying ‘I would challenge any of you to go into a pub or café in Largs and ask anyone about the Hunterston situation. I am not anti-nuclear but people are frightened.

“He claimed not to remember me using these words at the community council meeting, which was wrong."

The independent added that it was his duty to constituents, who speak to elected members in confidence, and not to pass on their details to the public.

Cllr Murdoch said: “He did challenge me to name at least six people at the community council's meeting and I refused to do so. I am restricted by a sense of decency, the North Ayrshire Council Code of Conduct and (GDPR) General Data Protection Regulation.

“I wouldn’t be a councillor for very long if a constituent raised an issue with me and I then named them at a public meeting, much less someone that has their own column in a newspaper.

“In fact Mr Cochrane states that if I had named anyone, he would have attempted to interview them. Who made him judge and jury? Why does he think people should be answerable to him?."

Mr Cochrane continued to lay down the serious claim that Cllr Murdoch was lying about public concerns, writing: ‘I ventured to suggest that he was making up his “absolutely terrified” allegation.’

Cllr Murdoch responded: “I can state categorically that people are frightened and have approached me asking if I can inform them as to what is actually happening at Hunterston B.”

Hunterston B is 13 years beyond its life and is on its second life extension.

Reactor three has 370 cracks, reactor four has between 200 and 300 cracks (please note these figures are modelled). Both reactors have been shut down for approximately one year.

The former community council chair says that he goes agree with Mr Cochrane on one point.

He added: “Mr Cochrane states Hunterston was an ‘industrial gift of employment to thousands of local people for about half a century’.

“He also mentions the ‘500 plus local employees’. I totally agree that it has been of benefit to the local economy and has provided sustained employment.

“What I don’t agree with is his insinuation that there would be mass redundancies if reactor three and four fail to start again."

“I attended the drop in sessions at Hunterston earlier this year and was assured by senior management that even if the reactors don’t start again the power station still has to be maintained and the reactors kept cool.

“There will be no major compulsory redundancies for at least the next four to five years. There would, however, be packages for employees that wanted to retire etc.”

Mr Cochrane hit back.

He said: " I do have all my notes from the meetings that Councillor Murdoch spoke at. At the Hunterston meeting he claimed that local people were "absolutely terrified" of Hunterston re-starting.

"The reason I don't remember him saying that he challenged the public to go into pubs and cafes and ask people if they were frightened was that he never said it at the meetings. He said it, afterwards, to a reporter. I now note that 'frightened' has been further diluted to 'rightly concerned'.

"Therefore, he is wrong to state that I dismiss public concerns. What he doesn't seem to accept is that, for a year, EDF, and the experts - both national and international - for the Office of the Nuclear Regulator have been addressing concerns about the cracked bricks. The specialists will decide if it is safe, not someone having a pint in the pub.

"His only new comments are that he claims he has been assured by EDF that if the reactors don't operate again - and they are licensed, incidentally, to 2023 - none of the 500 employees will be affected. I have never heard EDF say this.

"I am not the only community councillor who thinks that Mr Murdoch runs with the hares and hunts with the hounds."