In a little publicised parliamentary debate earlier this month, SNP MSPs Adam Ingram and Fergus Ewing (Energy Minister) chose sides – and needless to say they chose the mining companies and not the communities who have to put up with them.
Adam Ingram, still stuck in the noughties, claimed that Scotland’s several centuries worth of coal reserves would be unlocked with clean coal technologies such as carbon capture. So last decade! Even the industry has given up on carbon capture. Instead all but one of the UK’s coal power stations are set to close in the next ten years, or convert to equally destructive biomass.
The debate focused on the “importance of the coal industry” – apparently still a significant contributor to rural economies across the central belt. These MSPs obviously haven’t stepped out of their bubbles recently and spent time in communities around opencast mines. With ill health, high unemployment and no economic stimulation it’s clear that years of opencast mining has only harmed these rural economies and people.
He also claimed that the industry is a mainstay occupation in the Scottish economy generating £450 million of economic value to Scotland every year and with its wider supply chain employing on average 4,000 people. We’d certainly like to see sources of information on those claims! Given that Scottish Coal have around 800 employees and ATH Resources some 250, Ingram’s maths has gone wrong somewhere.
Energy Minister Fergus Ewing said he recognised that open cast mining played “a very very important part in our energy mix”. Unbelievable really, when you consider that at least 75% of the coal dug in Scotland is exported south of the border. All that means is that parts of Scotland are sacrifice zones for the profits of English power station operators and coal company directors.
He also said he believes “there is a good strong future for the open cast mining industry in Scotland”. At this moment in time ATH Resources are in administration and there are rumors that the same has happened to Scottish Coal. Directors are jumping ship after taking what they can. Mining companies don’t have the finances to keep workers on, let alone start new mines. Now, coal companies, local councils and people like Adam Ingram are clubbing together to deregulate the industry in an effort to make it profitable again, meaning more impacts on communities. And if that doesn’t work, then the companies will go bust, leaving huge holes and vast areas of destroyed countryside, with no money or plan to restore their sites.
Communities should be protected and mines should be closed and properly restored. There is no future for the opencast mining industry in Scotland.