Central Fife Times column

MOSSMORRAN

Long-suffering communities secured a breakthrough last week with the news that Mossmorran will be subject to a joint investigation following recent episodes of unplanned flaring.

The announcement was made during the Mossmorran Communities Work Group meeting on Friday and will mean that the plant will be investigated by the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

When Professor Wilson Sibbett and I formed the cross-party, cross-community group, we did so in the hope that, with one voice, the group would be instrumental in bringing more pressure to bear on regulators and Mossmorran.

This development proves this approach can succeed – and shows the power of getting the right people together in one room.

SEPA’s chief executive Terry A’Hearn chose to attend to speak directly with community representatives and his clear commitment to halt unplanned flaring is a first victory for residents.

Mr A’Hearn listened to people describing the misery of the impact of noise, vibration and light from flaring – Cllr Alex Campbell, for example, who lives five miles from the plant, likened the noise to that of a helicopter landing in his back garden.

While Mr A’Hearn praised Mossmorran for its willingness to engage in investigations, he immediately warned: “We don’t regulate attitude, we regulate performance”.

Variations to Mossmorran’s permit were imposed this week and, in another development, ExxonMobil and Shell revealed it would be commissioning a review of the plant, which is expected to take up to a year to complete.

There is considerably more work to be done but, thanks to this group, we now have the attention and co-operation of regulators and Mossmorran’s operators – and a vital opportunity to scrutinise progress being made.

I’d like to extend my thanks to community representatives for having the faith and commitment to take part in the group work we have been doing.

We’ve had just two meetings to date – this is merely the start of a process which will see some solutions arrived at quickly, others longer – but we will continue in our endeavours to secure the best positive outcomes for communities surrounding Mossmorran.

 BREXIT

I urged all Scottish MPs on Monday to back Labour’s devolution deal amendment, which set out two key aims designed to break the Brexit deadlock and stop the constitutional crisis over devolution.

One, to reduce the length of time Westminster can ‘freeze’ any devolved powers after Brexit from five to three years. And two, that consent from the Scottish Parliament must be sought unless the UK government must legislate in an area which involves an international obligation – a move consistent with the 1998 Scotland Act.

Labour has been the only party making a serious attempt to break the Brexit deadlock because we know the people of Scotland just want this mess fixed.

Key Brexit votes in parliament this week presented an opportunity to do just that – and I hope as you read this column, that’s the place we find ourselves now.