Following the liquidation of the Scottish Resource Group earlier this month, and the loss of 50 jobs at the open cast site in Kirkconnel, south of Scotland MSP Joan McAlpine and Councillor for Mid and Upper Nithsdale Andrew Wood have welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement that they will create a Scottish Open Cast Mining Task Force.

The taskforce will be a cross-party initiative and will work closely with all relevant stakeholders including communities, councils, land owners, coal operators, in maintaining a sustainable Scottish coal industry.

Commenting, Ms McAlpine said:

“This has been a difficult time for the people of Mid and Upper Nithsdale and I am glad that the Scottish Government are doing what they can to help the affected communities.

“It is good news that the SNP Government has set up a Scottish Coal Taskforce in order to look into the sustainability of the coal industry across the country.  I am also hopeful that jobs restoring old open cast sites will be created through the newly formed Mines Restoration Trust.

“However, more can always be done and I plan to meet with the Chief Executive of Dumfries and Galloway Council to discuss how young people and those being made redundant can be supported through other initiatives in order to boost their job prospects and find new opportunities.”

Cllr Andrew Wood said;

“Jobs are scarce, but vital to Mid and Upper Nithsdale and losing 50 such positions within the open cast at Kirkconnel, will have a devastating effect on this part of my ward.

“While much is being done to look for a buyer to take over this business, as an operational site, the reality is that with recent suggestions coming from within the office of the Rail Regulator that a £4.04p per ton, per mile, is to be imposed on the freight of coal from 2014 onwards, few potential buyers are going to take on such added costs, especially when international coal prices are at an all-time low.

“It is however, welcoming news that the Scottish Government is to create a Scottish Coal Taskforce, looking at how a sustainable coal industry can be maintained across Scotland and it is further encouraging to note that a Scottish Mines Restoration Trust will be put in place to facilitate the restoration of old open cast coal sites, which should create hundreds of new jobs.

“These are positive steps which should have beneficial outcomes, for those who are presently being made redundant and young people within my ward, seeking apprenticeships, supported through Communities Jobs Scotland, YES Scheme, Future Jobs and Employment Recruitment Initiatives, developing their future skill base and job prospects.”