Representatives of the Scottish coal industry task force and key industry representatives met the UK Government on 27 August to discuss the carbon price support exemption proposal. As the member knows, the proposal was brought forward by industry and has the potential greatly to increase restoration activity and to protect Scottish jobs. On 8 September, we received a letter from the UK Government effectively ruling out the possibility of implementing the proposal in its present form. The Scottish Government is deeply disappointed with the UK Government’s response to this innovative scheme, and the matter will be discussed at the next meeting of the Scottish coal industry task force on 28 October.
Does the minister agree that the lack of action by the UK Government, in relation to the return of Coal Authority levies, which was an earlier proposal, and to proper consideration of the restoration coal proposals, shows that the UK Government has turned its back on coalfield communities including those in the Secretary of State for Scotland’s own constituency?
I am afraid that the facts make it difficult to reach any conclusion other than the one that the member, who has campaigned on the issue over a long period, has just set out. An outstanding proposal has come from the industry that would allow restoration to take place and would protect jobs over the next five years, and we will continue to pursue our endeavours to persuade the UK Government to change course. I fear that, if we do not manage to do that, there will be severe consequences for Ayrshire, Fife, Lanarkshire and the communities involved. I hope that the Secretary of State for Scotland will stand by his apparent views, which he voiced prior to his re-election.
I am in broad agreement with Alex Rowley, who sits on the task force, which is a cross-party group, not a political one. I hope that, by working together, we can make progress. I pay tribute to the officials in each of the local authorities involved, including Fife Council, who have done sterling work with limited resources, as has the Scottish Mines Restoration Trust. However, unless we can persuade the UK Government to change tack, we may prematurely lose and forfeit another industry that is vital to Scotland. That could easily be averted if action is taken in accordance with the excellent proposal that has been put forward by the industry.