ENVIRONMENTAL protesters almost triggered a "major disaster" by digging up an underground power cable, according to the owner of the estate whose land they have occupied.
The Earl of Home, chairman of Coutts bank and the son of the former prime minister Sir Alec Douglas-Home – who owns Mainshill Estate where dozens of protesters have encamped in protest at plans to develop an open-cast coal mine – authorised the release of a statement accusing them of endangering lives.
In the statement, the protesters are accused of "wanton vandalism and criminal damage", but most seriously they are accused of risking people's lives by digging up the power cable and verbally abusing those who tried to stop them.
An estate spokesman said: "What has really appalled us is that a few nights ago a major disaster was narrowly averted. The protesters set about digging up an 11KVA underground power cable, despite being told how dangerous it was and how it would affect the power supplies of local people of Douglas and the nearby hospital.
"Those who tried to explain the consequences for the protesters themselves and the effects on the local community were merely treated to yet more verbal abuse.
"Had that cable been exposed and touched by any of the protesters, their children or indeed any locals, the result would have been horrendous injury and possible death.
"A potential tragedy was only averted when Scottish Power's emergency engineers managed to gain access to the site with the police. They filled in the excavation and made it safe. We are horrified the protesters are prepared to put their own children and the local people at risk."
Last night, a spokeswoman for the protesters insisted the cable was dug up by accident and that no-one was verbally abused.