Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing has pledged that the Scottish Government will do all it can to protect jobs in the coal industry.
He welcomed comments from one of the liquidators of Scottish Coal, Blair Nimmo, who said that: “It is still possible mining operations will continue and offer future employment prospects for at least some of the people who have lost their jobs.”
Mr Ewing also announced that a new trust is to be set up to help restore old open cast mines across Scotland – a process over time that is expected to create hundreds of jobs. The announcement comes after months of discussion between key stakeholders.
Mr Ewing said: “Our concerns remain with the workers and families affected by the decision to make 590 Scottish Coal staff redundant. However I very much welcome the view from the liquidators that there is a possibility that mining operations may continue. The Scottish Government will do everything we can to secure the continued operation of the business on a sustainable basis, and we are in contact with both the liquidators and the trade unions in this regard.
“Meanwhile, Skills Development Scotland will also co-ordinate local response teams under the Partnership Action for Continuing Employment to provide tailored help and support those affected.”
Speaking about the establishment of the new Scottish Mines Restoration Trust, Mr Ewing said:
“We have been working closely with the key stakeholders over the past six months to address the issues facing the coal industry in Scotland and we share the concerns raised by local communities around the responsible restoration of open cast coal sites.
“I am therefore pleased to announce that we are setting up a new trust to help facilitate the restoration of old open cast coal mines across Scotland. Whilst our main concern is to retain as many of the existing Scottish Coal jobs as possible, the restoration process itself is expected, over time, to create hundreds of jobs across the country – as well as restoring the local environment.
“The new Scottish Mines Restoration Trust will engage with local councils, landowners, and coal operators to ensure the best possible outcome for local communities and the effective restoration of old open cast mines.”
Professor Russel Griggs, OBE, Chair of the Scottish Government’s independent Regulatory Review Group has agreed to chair the trust initially, and added:
“I am grateful for the support and constructive engagement I have had from local councils, landowners and the coal operators over the last few months in developing the new Trust. I look forward to working with them to launch the trust and be ready to help with a fresh approach to restoring old mines.”
The trust will be independent from the Scottish Government with a board made up of representatives of local authorities, and other stakeholders. Coal operators will still be responsible for the restoration of their respective open cast sites, however these tasks are often complex and the trust will work with coal operators, local councils, landowners, communities, and environmental bodies to facilitate the responsible restoration of open cast sites.