The long awaited but closely guarded briefing to MSPs by Professor Russel Griggs and Energy Minister Fergus Ewing took place in the Scottish Parliament today. Despite countless attempts to find details of this briefing – none of which were made publicly available – and after numerous requests to meet with Griggs and MSPs privy to the discussions beforehand, the time and content of the meeting were kept a closely guarded secret. However, shortly before it happened the details were revealed and a Glespin resident decided to attend in person since all other routes for participation seemed closed. The resident wanted to know what was going on, and why no community group in Scotland had been involved in any discussions so far. They also wanted to know if neighboring Glentaggart would ever be restored. The briefing seemed like the place to get these questions answered. Alas, it was declared “private, and for MSPs only”, so the Glespin resident was unceremoniously asked to leave after a short call from the Energy Minister to parliamentary staff. Will the minutes of the briefing be made publicly available? he asked. Nobody knew.
Despite back-room whispering and closed-door talks between the Scottish Government and Scottish Coal having gone on for months, and the fact that we’d been told some proposals and solutions to the coal industry’s woes would be offered, it seems that Griggs and Ewing got cold feet, as nothing concrete came out of the briefing. Could it have been because of recent publicity highlighting the fact that they’d so far excluded communities impacted by opencast from the discussions? Or could it be because they’ve neglected to look for solutions to the fact that there are tens of un-restored opencast mines littering the central belt already? Or maybe it is because their secret talks to save a private company which brings nothing but degradation to rural communities have been exposed?
We wait in anticipation for the next installment of this ongoing saga. Griggs apparently said he was representing each community at the briefing, though how he can do this without having communication with anyone from a community impacted by opencast and having refused to meet community members, is a good question. He also said he wanted to make sure communities weren’t left with big black holes next to them. Has he not been down the A70 between Douglas and Cumnock recently? And finally, he said that NGOs and communities would be consulted on their proposals. We wait with baited breath.research