An SNP MSP has said she is “hugely disappointed” after the MoD refused to confirm it would take responsibility for the radioactive pollution that is threatening the future of a Scottish shoreline.
Local MSP Annabelle Ewing has called on the Ministry of Defence to admit liability after hundreds of radioactive particles were discovered in Dalgety Bay in Fife.
Ms Ewing, who has been calling for the UK Ministry to deal with the problem since contaminated fragments were originally discovered, says the MoD owes the people of Fife answers and immediate action for a clean-up plan.
The SNP MSP was responding to comments from UK Defence Minister Andrew Robathan who visited the site yesterday. Mr Robathan claimed that it was not certain that the MoD were responsible for the contamination and added: “Who knows who’s liable?”
Ms Ewing, SNP MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said:
“This is a hugely disappointing development not only for the people of Fife but for the people of Scotland. The MoD must accept full responsibility for cleaning up all radioactive material at Dalgety Bay.
“This announcement from Andrew Robathan is yet another delay – and that was exactly what is not wanted nor needed.
“Although regular monitoring is welcomed this simply does not go far enough. Who knows the health implications for the surrounding communities?
“The MoD has consistently failed the people living in these communities in its handling of this situation. They deserve better.
“The MoD doesn’t appear to be treating this situation as seriously as it should. It needs to accept liability, work with Sepa on a remediation plan and make Dalgety Bay the safe place it should be.”
If left untreated, the beach threatens to become the first area in the UK to be closed to the public and designated ‘contaminated land’.
Last year a SEPA spokesman claimed that the agency “did not believe” that the MoD had carried out an effective survey of the area prior to their involvement. Leading experts have accused the MoD of consistently providing misinformation and of conducting an inadequate investigation.
SEPA has given the MoD until the end of February to come up with concrete proposals to deal with the problem. SEPA said that if the MoD did not meet the deadline it would have no choce but to declare the land around the foreshore officially contaminated.
It would be the first time in the UK that an area of land will have been declared officially contaminated. The measure is only put into effect in cases where there is no official plan to clear up the radioactive contamination.
In Dalgety Bay there is no doubt as to the cause of the problem. The particles come from the remains of WW2 aircraft instrumentation containing the highly radioactive element radium. At the end of the war the aircraft were scrapped and dumped in landfill on the site, which was the location of an airbase during the war.
However coastal erosion has caused radioactive fragments from the landfill site to become exposed. Some of the particles washed up on the beach give off a dose of radioactivity equivalent to 5,000 X-rays and can cause skin burns.
In 2009 when local MP Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, the MoD’s own scientists refused to analyse particles from the site because of the risk it could give them cancer. Official minutes from a meeting that same year revealed that the scientists had such grave concerns over the contamination that they refused to handle it.
Despite this, the Ministry continued to play down the possible health risks for members of the public, and continued to resist pressure to pay for a clean-up of the pollution.
In December last year, after a rare appearance at Westminster, Mr Brown finally spoke up about the state of his local beach. Annabelle Ewing immediately called on the former Prime Minister to explain why no action to clear up the beach was taken by his last Labour government.
Brown has been under fire lately over his continued failure to represent the interests of his local constituents and has attended the House of Commons on only a handful of occasions since losing the 2010 general election.
It emerged recently that the former Labour leader had undertaken several lucrative trips abroad in order to give speeches that commended an average fee of around £50,000 per speech.