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Rennie renews calls for inquiry into opencast coal collapse

January 31, 2014 10:17 AM
Originally published by Scottish Liberal Democrats

Leader of the Scottish Liberal Democrats Willie Rennie MSP hasWillie RennieWillie Rennie demanded that energy minister Fergus Ewing launch a Scotland-wide inquiry into the failings of the opencast industry following important new revelations revealed earlier this week.

An explosive independent inquiry into the opencast coal industry in East Ayrshire Council published this week has shown the scale of problems faced on failed restoration costs and planning processes.

The report, headed up by former Scottish Government Chief Planner Jim Mackinnon, detailed events leading up to a £161 million shortfall in funding to restore opencast mining sites throughout the community. Following the collapse of Scottish Coal, 23 sites in opencast communities in Scotland were affected by a severe shortfall in restoration bonds.

Mr Rennie has been working with local communities and environmental groups to seek the answers about the collapse of the sector. Late last year he led a Coal Summit in the Scottish Parliament.

The report raises serious questions over the Scottish Government's continued refusal to open a Scotland-wide inquiry. In a new revelation, the report found that "some (of the recommendations) have wider local authority relevance". Mr Rennie has put forward a motion to parliament today, urging MSPs to back his calls to Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.

Mr Rennie said:

"The shocking revelations at East Ayrshire make it imperative that the Scottish Government order a Scottish wide inquiry into the collapse of the industry. It would not be tenable for Minister Fergus Ewing to pretend nothing has happened.

"Addressing the issues from East Ayrshire Council alone would be insufficient and irresponsible. But East Ayrshire is not alone as the author of the report identifies.

"With every month the need for an inquiry becomes clearer as it is backed up by more evidence of significant flaws in opencast operations. After hosting a coal summit last year I am now urging other MSPs to back this important campaign.

"The many and varied recommendations of this independent inquiry show that there are lessons to be learned on planning, resources, reviews and the drawing up of restoration costs. We ignore the scale of these issues at our peril.

"The communities left to deal with financial and environmental burden of the collapse of Scottish Coal deserve assurances that these failings will not be repeated."