Dr Aileen McLeod has welcomed the announcement by Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment Richard Lochhead that the Scottish Government will legislate to remove what is known as the “Crown Exemption” from environmental monitoring by SEPA which currently covers a number of MoD sites, including the Dundrennan range near Kirkcudbright.
The range has previously hosted significant test firing of depleted uranium munitions and it is estimated that around 7,000 DU munitions remain at the bottom of the Solway.
Dr McLeod, who has pursued the MoD for assurances that Dundrennan will not be used for future DU test firing, commented:
“I am delighted that the Scottish Government is going to legislate to remove the MoD’s “Crown Exemption” from environmental monitoring, which currently effectively prevents SEPA from monitoring the potential environmental impacts of MoD activity on their own sites. I warmly welcome this announcement.
“As the Minister said, other environmental protection legislation has no similar Crown exemption, and there is no good reason that radioactive substances should be treated any differently from other risks to the environment.
“SEPA can regulate and enforce action on radioactivity across the whole of the nation except for the areas covered by MoD establishments. The Campaign Against Depleted Uranium (CADU) has already uncovered through FoI requests that the MoD attempted to get round regulations prohibiting the dumping of nuclear waste at sea, which might prevent future DU testing at Dundrennan, by describing the test-firing as “placing” the shells in the Solway.
“It has always been a scandal that the MoD could leave around 7,000 depleted uranium shells on the seabed of the Solway. They have previously confessed they don’t actually know whereabouts the shells are so could not recover them even if they wanted to, and Scottish authorities have had no power to monitor the environmental impacts of that activity.
“CADU secured a major concession from the MoD last year when the Minister acknowledged that there would be no further test firing in the immediate future. However, the removal of the Crown exemption will at least allow SEPA to have a monitoring and enforcement role should there be any future testing.
“I am opposed to the use of DU munitions and to their testing in Scotland, as is the Scottish Government. Richard Lochhead’s announcement is a significant step forward using the powers we currently have and which will protect Scotland’s environment from such activity.”
Notes to Editors:
Dr McLeod’s question and Richard Lochhead’s answer are below:
Aileen McLeod (South Scotland) (SNP): On the cabinet secretary’s announcement on using forthcoming regulations under the Regulatory Reform (Scotland) Act 2014 to remove the Crown exemption for MOD sites, what implications could that have for test firing of depleted uranium munitions on the MOD range at Dundrennan near Kirkcudbright on the Solway coast?
Richard Lochhead: As Aileen McLeod will know because she has taken a close interest in the issue, the Scottish Government is opposed to the firing of depleted uranium shells into the Solway Firth. Although we are not aware of any plans to continue that in the near future, we certainly oppose it. If the Crown exemption was removed for defence establishments, SEPA would be more empowered to deal with local situations such as that one, which could cause damage to Scotland’s environment. The measure would help SEPA to address issues in Aileen McLeod’s region and other areas.