Scottish Coal seeks to walk away from unrestored sites
April 25, 2013

Scottish Coal ask courts to allow them to walk away from opencast sites as Hargreaves directors set up Restoration Trust on Energy Minister’s behalf

Coal Action Scotland media release: for immediate use 24th April 2013
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Scottish Coal ask courts to allow them to walk away from opencast sites as Hargreaves directors set up Restoration Trust on Energy Minister’s behalf

Campaigners are outraged by what they say is a despicable petition to the Court of Session in Edinburgh by liquidators acting on behalf of Scottish Coal, that seeks permission to walk away from mine sites and prioritise the payment of liquidators over planning obligations. [1]

In a separate but related development, campaigners have discovered that Fergus Ewing’s new Scottish Mines Restoration Trust, set up to oversee the restoration of derelict sites as actually registered as a limited company by two of Hargreave’s directors, the very company tipped to buy Scottish Coal’s more productive mines. [2]

A Coal Action Scotland member said: “After so many years of destruction to the countryside and community health, Scottish Coal are making sure they’re taking everyone down with them. They are petitioning the Court of Session to allow them and their liquidators to not only abandon their sites and their statutory obligations, but to prioritise the payment of their liquidators over all winding up costs!

This petition was literally bundled through the courts, with only three days allowed for objections rather than the usual eight. It raises some very serious questions that need answering now, and getting these answers is definitely in the public interest. For example, Scottish Coal imply that local authorities would pick up the costs of putting the sites back together.

And then there’s the other story running parallel to this saga. Fergus Ewing announced on the 20th April that the Scottish Government was setting up the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust to facilitate the restoration of opencast mines, Chaired by Professor Russell Griggs. But the Restoration trust was actually registered as a private company on the 16th April, literally the day before Ewing and Griggs briefed MSPs in Parliament and made no mention of this.

It gets worse: the trust was registered with two directors, Iain Cockburn and Steve MacQuarrie, Group Finance Director and Group Company Secretary for Hargreves, the very opencast mining and waste disposal company currently tipped to buy Scottish Coal’s productive sites. How can Ewing say “we are setting up a new trust” when it’s entirely controlled by yet another private mining company?”

Scottish Coal’s petition to the court of session also raises questions about the company’s finances since its last financial report was issued. In 2011 the company registered assets of £217 million, but in 2013 that figure has since reduced to £55 million [3]. There is no explanation offered for the £162 million difference, what the assets were or where they have gone in that time.

Despite further announcements from Fergus Ewing yesterday about a new task force on opencast mining that will engage with local communities, to date no engagement or consultation has taken place with any communities impacted by opencast mining and these new developments. In response, a meeting is being held on the 1st May in the Scottish Parliament hosted by the Green Party to be attended by members of communities impacted by the operations.

Notes to Editors:

[1] See sections 10.2.1 to 10.2.5
[2] Information obtained from the Certificate of Incorporation of a Private Limited Company, Company no. 447797
[3] See sections 5.1.2 – 5.3.1