Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has renewed calls for the UK Government to ensure that £15 million coal levies raised from coal produced in Scotland is released to restore opencast coal mine sites north of the border.
Ewing’s call comes as up to 550 new jobs are expected to be created in the coming months as significant progress on restoration continues in Fife, East Ayrshire, Dumfries & Galloway and South Lanarkshire.
The sixth meeting of the Scottish Open Cast Mining Taskforce, which includes representatives of affected councils, the Coal Authority, the relevant unions, the Scottish Government and its agencies, environmental agency Sepa, and the UK Government, was held yesterday.
Ewing said: “I have written twice to my UK counterpart Michael Fallon, on this issue since September 2013 and I have yet to receive a substantive reply.
“The UK Government’s lack of engagement in this manner is displaying a disrespect to the people of Scotland.
“The taskforce has worked hard collectively to foster the positive action and engagement that has led to the creation of so many new jobs, this is great news for the economies of the effected mining communities.
“The money collected by the UK Government over the years from coal mined in Scotland, in the region of £15 million, should now be put to good use to help with the restoration of opencast sites.
“We have a significant restoration legacy to deal with in Scotland and that money – paid into the central funds in London – has not been used for the industry or affected communities. It is now needed to be put to good and proper use to help to restore these sites.”
The Scottish Open Cast Mining Taskforce was convened after over 700 workers were made unemployed by the collapse of Scottish Coal last year.
The Scottish Government subsequently established the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust (SMRT) as an independent body to help facilitate the restoration of open cast coal sites across Scotland.
Hargreaves Surface Mining Limited is now on course to employ a total of more than 500 skilled workers throughout Scotland, in less than 12 months since taking over the former Scottish Coal and ATH Resources sites.
Hargreaves has already created 100 new jobs in mine restoration work at Broken Cross, near Douglas, South Lanarkshire.