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OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt has recently emerged that Fergus Ewing MSP, the SNP government’s Energy Minister, has been holding secret talks with Scottish Coal to find solutions to the cmpany’s financial difficulties, which currently see it in the hands of its bankers Lloyds TSB. As part of these talks the government has been consulting industry deregulation guru Professor Russel Griggs on issues of opencast restoration. Despite there being no information publicly available about these talks, and every door closed to communities in terms of their involvement in current decision-making, Ewing and Griggs will be briefing MSPs on their proposals at Holyrood on Wednesday 17th April. In order for the industry to be profitable again it must be deregulated – meaning no restoration, no community fund payments and no environmental mitigation – but will the Scottish Government sell communities out for the benefit of a failing company?

It appears that what we’re witnessing is the SNP governments desperate attempts to save a private company, one that provides little in the way of economic benefit to Scotland as a whole or locally, but has massive impacts on the countryside and rural communities. Once again local authorities and the government are chanting the jobs mantra and piling support into an organisation that only benefits the very few.

While the outcome of these secret talks will only be clear on Wednesday, we know that they hinge around the restoration of Scottish Coal’s opencast mines. Predictably however, the focus has been on future site restoration, and not on the many scars that already litter the central belt. It looks unlikely that the insurance bonds taken out by mining companies currently will ever be issued to Scotland’s operators again, as the industry is obviously economically unviable. Restoration promises are a necessity for planning approval, and are enshrined in planning consents and legal agreements. So, to allow future opencast operations, another system for ensuring site restoration is needed.

Almost all of Scottish Coal’s opencast sites are woefully behind in their restoration, with some being completely unrestored more than 10 years after operations finished, and some such as Chalmerston in East Ayrshire being 14 years behind schedule. Further still, a document compiled by Coal Action Scotland shows how current restoration bonds in place for active mines cannot possibly provide for the complete restoration of the sites. Scottish Coal’s legacy has been one of blighted communities and unrestored opencasst – if Fergus Ewing gets his way this will only continue into the future.

This issue was highlighted today in Rob Edwards’ article “The opencast scars that may never heal” in the Sunday Herald, which can be viewed here or here.

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1 Response to “Scottish Government’s Secret Talks to Save Scottish Coal”

  1. 1 Coaldust

    We do not recall Government,Local or National, even blinking an eye at the loss of jobs from the Douglas valley in the past. Ramage Distribution,Douglas Plastics, KRG, Incamet ect, all gone now,literally hundreds of Local jobs with no apparent clamor from Government for intervention to save jobs then. Why the special case for Scottish Coal ? With regard to the suggestion of deregulating the restoration of the opencasts , who will end up paying for all the huge holes in our landscape to be filled in? Our guess is that if Scottish Coal (A private company which exists to provide profit to their investors) cannot engineer a plan to make money filling them in (such as a landfill or rubbish tip) it will be ultimately be taxpayers money again that gets used to restore them, if at all.

    If our ex South Lanarkshire councillor ,Danny Meikle was to be believed correct when talking about British Coal (A nationalized company) and their responsibilities regarding restoration of Douglas Castle Colliery(a mere pin prick in the mess we now have from the subsequent opencasts he supported since then)
    “British Coal should be told to clear up the mess up there(Douglas West) as a moral obligation.They caused the mess up there over the years, they should be made to clear up after themselves. They cant be allowed to just walk away and just leave it the way it is”, Cllr Danny Meikle said. From Lanark Gazette, Friday 27th March 1992.

    Does Mr Meikle, our new politicians and South Lanarkshire council still stand by these criticisms and apply them to the far greater mess we are left with now through the length and breadth of our valley,thanks to Scottish Coal?

    South Lanarkshire council ultimately obtained this colliery site at Douglas, and did end up using public funds(our money) to restore this land.
    It may all be set to happen again we fear..

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