Opencast Mining: Scotland

HM Treasury written question – answered on 21st October 2015.

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Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, with reference to paragraph 2.260 of the 2015 Budget, what alternative options his Department has considered to address the environmental liabilities associated with unrestored opencast mines in Scotland; and for what reasons each such option was not chosen.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of (a) the merits and (b) compatibility with European requirements of a carbon price support exemption scheme in Scotland; and by what process evaluation of that scheme was conducted.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what estimate his Department has made of the potential supplementary income generated from the proposals of a carbon price support exemption scheme in Scotland.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential effect on employment in (a) Kilmarnock and Loudoun constituency and (b) Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock constituency of his Department's decision to not offer assistance with restoration proposals.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment he has made of the potential number of jobs created in (a) Kilmarnock and Loudoun constituency and (b) Ayr, Carrick and Cumnock constituency of the implementation of a carbon price support exemption scheme.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what meetings were held with third parties who objected to proposals to a carbon price support exemption scheme in Scotland.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what assessment his Department has made of the proposal by the RSPB for the creation of a Restoration Investment Fund in areas with orphaned open-cast mines.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what recent discussions his Department has held with the Coal Authority and the Department for Energy and Climate Change on proposals for a carbon price support exemption scheme in Scotland.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, for what reasons his Department determined that addressing liabilities relating to unrestored coal mines in Scotland was a devolved matter.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, whether his Department assessed the merits of a carbon price support exemption scheme for (a) Scotland and (b) the UK.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, what advice was provided to his Department by independent environmental bodies on proposals for a carbon price support exemption scheme; and what alternative such proposals were made by those bodies.

Photo of Alan Brown Alan Brown Scottish National Party, Kilmarnock and Loudoun

To ask Mr Chancellor of the Exchequer, with reference to the letter from the Exchequer Secretary of the Treasury to the Scottish Government's Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism, for what reasons his Department has concerns over the implementation of a CPS tax exemption on coal from land restoration sites and its compatibility with European requirements.

Photo of Damian Hinds Damian Hinds The Exchequer Secretary

Environmental protection is a devolved matter, and outstanding land restoration liabilities lie with the relevant local authorities and ultimately with the Scottish Government. The Treasury has fully considered the two proposals put to them for addressing the shortfall of land restoration on abandoned Scottish coal mines: an exemption from the Carbon Price Support (CPS) tax and a direct grant from the Exchequer. Following discussions with Hargreaves, the UK Coal Authority, the Scotland Office, the Scottish Government and DECC, the Treasury has had to decline both proposals after thorough consideration. The reasons for this include: - Addressing the shortfall in land restoration is not the responsibility of the UK Government. Environmental protection is a devolved matter, and outstanding land restoration liabilities lie with the relevant local authorities. - The proposals are unaffordable in the current fiscal climate. They would also set a precedent that would risk discouraging companies and local authorities from making proper financial provision for the cost of site restoration and future environmental liabilities. - A CPS exemption would be an inefficient means of addressing the shortfall of land restoration, as the money would not go directly towards this aim and it would incur significant administration costs. - A CPS exemption would distort the market by making non-exempt coal less competitive, and by discouraging investment in low carbon power generation. I have written to the Scottish Government’s Minister for Business, Energy and Tourism informing him of this decision and I would be happy to consider any other options put forward.

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