Environmental justice for Scottish citizens was given a huge boost today (Thursday 12th) as a court ruling declared that former opencast sites must not be abandoned, following the collapse of Scottish Coal earlier this year. 

The Court of Session in Edinburgh has ruled that the liquidators of Scottish Coal cannot abandon sites or their responsibility to safeguard the environment.  This overturns a ruling from July, when The Lord Ordinary directed that the liquidators have the power to “abandon” certain heritable property located in Scotland and owned by Scottish Coal, including opencast sites in East Ayrshire.[1][2]

Friends of the Earth Scotland’s Head of Campaigns, Mary Church, said, “KPMG thought they could just walk away from sites they didn’t like, abandon opencast mines to pollute watercourses and ignore human health concerns.  This is a huge victory for every community saddled with an old opencast site and all credit to SEPA for fighting this through the courts.  This judgement will provide reassurance for anyone living near an opencast coal mine or a landfill site if an operator goes bust in future.”

SEPA, East Ayrshire Council, the Scottish Government and others appealed the decision and in a judgement issued today, the Court of Session ruled that ‘the court will …. direct that the liquidators do not have the power to “abandon (otherwise disclaim)” the sites or the statutory licenses.'[3]


Notes to Editors

1. Today’s ruling from the Inner House of the Court of Session is available at http://www.scotcourts.gov.uk/opinions/2013CSIH108.html. This judgement overrules a decision in July whenthe Outer House ruled that liquidators KPMG were also allowed to “abandon (otherwise disclaim)” certain statutory licences, including licences granted under the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) Regulations 2005 and 2011 and permits issued under the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2000 and 2012 held by Scottish Coal.

2. http://www.rspb.org.uk/Images/opencast-coal-mining_tcm9-353523.pdf – Friends of the Earth Scotland and RSPB briefing from July on opencast. 

3. Friends of the Earth Scotland is:
* Scotland’s leading environmental campaigning organisation
* An independent Scottish charity with a network of thousands of supporters and active local groups across Scotland
* Part of the largest grassroots environmental network in the world, uniting over 2 million supporters, 77 national member groups, and some 5,000 local activist groups.