A CASH pot of about £15 million collected by the UK Government from the Scottish coal industry should be “put to good and proper use” to help restore old opencast mines, Holyrood’s Energy Minister said.
Fergus Ewing has pressed the UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon for the money, raised from coal levies, to be reinvested north of the border.
But he said he had not yet received a “substantive reply” from his UK Government counterpart, accusing him of showing a “disrespect to the people of Scotland”.
Mr Ewing raised the issue as the Scottish Open Cast Mining Taskforce - which was set up last year in the wake of the closure of Scottish Coal - met for the sixth time.
Scottish Coal collapsed last April, resulting in about 600 people losing their job, and has since been criticised for failing to restore several mines.
But since then progress has been made on restoring sites in Fife, East Ayrshire, Dumfries and Galloway and South Ayrshire, with the Scottish Government expecting up to 550 jobs could be created doing this work in the coming months.
Mr Ewing said this had been achieved after the taskforce, which includes the UK and Scottish governments, the Coal Authority, local councils, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, unions and others, had “worked hard collectively to foster the positive action and engagement that has led to the creation of so many new jobs”.
He added: “This is great news for the economies of the effected mining communities.”
But he hit out at the UK Government as he called for cash raised from coal levies to be invested in Scotland.
“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,” Mr Ewing said.
“The UK Government’s lack of engagement in this manner is displaying a disrespect to the people of Scotland.”
He went on: “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.”
A spokeswoman for the UK Department of Energy and Climate Change said: “We are engaged with the taskforce and are considering their suggestion that Scottish coal levies contribute towards the restoration of opencast sites in Scotland.”