Government under pressure over open-east mines

Opponents of open-cast coal mining say it is wreaking environmental havoc and are calling on the Government to halt the pace of developments. Words: Stephen Naysmith

SCOTTISH VILLAGERS WHO claim to have suffered for years from the effects of open-cast mining operations are hoping a change of attitude from the Government will turn the tide in their favour.

Residents and environmental campaigners who oppose open-cast mining are stepping up the pressure on Labour. They say there has been a presumption in favour of granting planning permission since the coal industry was privatised.

However, they complain there is no strategic overview, with new private coal firms reaping the financial benefits of Scotland’s coal, regardless of the social and environmental consequences.

'Where there is coal in the ground, people can turn a buck on that,‘ said Alistair Somerville of the Scottish Wildlife Trust (SWT). 'The attitude in the past has been that where exploitation is possible it is automatically desirable. That is what market forces do for you.’

The SWT has been lobbying Scottish Secretary Donald Dewar for a review of open-cast mining in Scotland. That has been granted, but will take time. Meanwhile, as many as twelve companies are operating north of the border, and residents across the country fear further development.

Betty McArthur and her husband Angus are already hemmed in by workings in the Lanarkshire village of Greengairs. 'A firm has bought the remaining land and if they get planning permission we Will be completely surrounded,’ she complained.

'If we don't get this stopped, Greengairs Wlll be dead. Nobody will buy a house out here.’ Betty, 58, and Angus, 62, are past the age when they would want to move, she said They are aghast at what has happened to their home. 'This was a beautiful wee place, but not any more,’ said Betty. ’When mining

’Decisions are being taken which have very large implications for our future. The change from deep—pit mining is vast.’

Michael Derrington

Curse of Scotland? Open-cast mining machinery and (inset) a potentially threatened lapwing

began, they said they would return it to its natural state. We used to be surrounded by peat fields. Now it is like a Munro Of filth.’

The peat lands of Ayrshire and central Scotland are the main concern for wildlife campaigners, who stress that such land can never be restored.

'Peat habitats take thousands of years to form,’ explained Duncan Orr- Ewing, conservation officer for the Royal Sooety for the Protection of Birds in Scotland. ’This habitat is being lost to birds and all forms of Wildlife.

'Some of these are internationally important sites. Species such as the golden plover, the lapwing, the lien harrier and many wading birds are being badly affected,’ he added.

Sandy Wilson lives close to the Blindwells open-cast Site in East Lothian. He says local residents suffer from nOise pollution, Vibrations from heavy traffic and blasting, and dust pollution.

The operation was due to cease in January next year, but Scottish Coal, which took the established site over after privatisation, has applied for an extension.

East Lothian Council's planning committee was to

have granted permission, but last week the Scottish Office called the application in for further consideration. Donald Dewar has 28 days in which to decide whether to overturn the decision or not.

It is this attitude that is giving campaigners fresh hope. The Scottish Office confirmed that a review of open-cast policy was taking place over the whole of the UK.

’The concerns of environmental and community groups are being taken on board,’ said a spokesman. ‘The Secretary of State stands ready to call in applications where the circumstances warrant it. We will judge individual applications on their own merit while the review takes place.’

Scottish Coal says it is keen to cooperate with local groups. ’Everybody is looking for an acceptable balance between what we do commercially and what we put back for communities and the environment,’ a spokesman said.

Wilson and McArthur are members of the Scottish Open Cast Action Group (SOAG), an alliance of residents affected by mining developments. The group's press officer Michael Derrington says the pace of developments is fast and Government action needs to be urgent. 'It is almost too late,’ he said. ’Decisions are being taken which have very large implications for our future. The change from deep-pit mining is vast.’

And finally . . . Oasis go radio ga-ga but oops tell them to ‘roll with it’

GOOD TO SEE that civil servants haven’t lost their sense of decency since the Tories' exit. A car accident at the age of three left George Wilson, 49, from Busby, near Glasgow, minus one leg. Nevertheless, he was a successful salesman until last year when pain forced him to quit his job. Benefits chiefs told him to leg it when the chancer made a claim for Disability Living Allowance. ’The decision is not based on the illness or disability,‘ whimpered a Benefits Agency apologist. ‘It is based on the help people need to get about.’ If he Iopped off his other leg they'd probably just tell him to get off his arse and get job-seeking.

THE TARTAN ARMY may have been forced to remove their terribly amusing ode to Jimmy Hill from their Web page, but that hasn't prevented the jolly japesters from launching

Oasis: point overruled

further hilarious assaults on the English nation. On the ’we are not English’ sub-page you can double- click on the English Supporters Association. The Wit! It connects you to the National Criminal Investigation Servicel OK we all giggled when Tim Henman got stuffed at Wimbledon and Australia restored the natural order of things in the Ashes, but comparing English footie fans to paedophiles and murderers is overstepping the mark. Isn't it?

THE LAST TIME I looked, crime figures were still knee-tremblingly

' high. So the guardians of justice

surely have better things to do than pick on local radio stations. When Forth FM cheekin aired the new Oasis single, torpedoing Radio 1's exclusive, the Gallagher brothers ordered the stormtroopers in. To do what is unclear. After extensive headscratching and elimination of suspects, detectives concluded that no crime had been committed. So assaulting members of the press and public and shuffling around with a pocketful of nose candy is fine and dandy but hearing that your little record has been played before you said so is a violation of their rights? Twats.

WE WERE ALL shocked when that big lug Mike Tyson took a chomp out of Evander Holyfield but who would have thought that rip-roaring incident could have had such far- reaching consequences? Glasgow Zoo's gurus decided that their prize African bull ’Tyson' required a new name. Apparently Ankole cattle are

very aggressive and have four-foot long horns. In happier times, Tyson was deemed an appropriate title, but the new moniker is harder to explain. 'Primrose'? Does my ear deceive me7.

IF YOU THINK wage slavery was a British invention, give credit to the Russian state for a radical new plan to boost workers' morale. Instead of being handed a fat pay packet at the end of the week to buy things like haircuts, vodka, sweets and cement, they are actually given haircuts, vodka, sweets and cement. Soviet Socialism failed, capitalism has ground to a halt, so what next? Surrealism, obviously.

(Brian Donaldson)


In an article on body piercing in our 13 June issue, The List wrongly stated that 'Mbe Body Manipulations did not do genital piercings. We would like to apologise.

11-24 Jul 1997 TI'IEUSTS