THWAC is dead, long live THWAC! Another era in the fight against Scottish Coal ends, but the struggle continues…

May 23rd, 2011
After eight months of occupation and struggle, Coal Action Scotland has decided to bring an end to the Happendon Wood Action Camp. The camp was taken in September last year to resist Scottish Coal’s plans to open-cast the woodland, and to act as a base in South Lanarkshire to take direct action and work with affected communities in the ongoing struggle against the coal industry. Having felt that those goals were met as much as they were going to be, and with Scottish Coal’s application being submitted for a new 4 million ton open cast at Glentaggart East, we have decided to change our focus. We are in no way abandoning South Lanarkshire, or the struggle against Scottish Coal, and will continue to be active in the area in new and exciting ways.

Surrounded by three active open cast coal sites, and multiple scars being “restored”, the residents of THWAC placed themselves alongside the people of the Douglas Valley, right in the belly of the beast. Making the threat of new coal exploitation and the constant noise and disruption a part of everyday life for ourselves is one way in which we felt we could show solidarity. We were able to build on links forged during Mainshill, and met many more people campaigning and working to halt Scottish Coal’s march across the Douglas Valley.

During our time at Happendon Wood we tried to impact as little as possible on the environment we were staying in. This included using solar panels to charge the batteries to power the laptops and the lights in the communal and office, donating our shit to a local housing coop who will compost it and use it to grow food in their orchards, grey water systems to filter our waste water and using paths to reduce the soil erosion. Great effort was taken to return the small area of woodland we inhabited to its original state as we left, and we left the land better than how we found it. More than Scottish Coal can say.

The camp became a useful hub in the community for sharing information and ideas. Public meetings were organised and links between the many communities were forged. During our time at Happendon Scottish Coal launched their “Forward Strategy.” Their land grab of the Douglas Valley involved three new open cast coal sites, with plans to remove a total of 5.4 million tonnes of coal, flying in the face of local opposition and global opinion on climate change. This catalyst ignited a local campaign with opposition reaching from Glespin to Lesmahagow and a series of public meetings, kick started by people from THWAC. People from all over the Douglas Valley have continued their generosity with food, water, building materials and lock-on cement. We would like to say a massive thank you to the all the people who came down and provided vital practical and moral support in a winter cold enough to rival last year’s at Mainshill.

During the occupation of Happendon Wood, Coal Action Scotland continued campaigning against coal expansion in Scotland. The Health Study Group and Community Ecology Group carried out vital research into the negative effects of the coal industry. Ecological studies have been carried out at prospective coal sites in the Douglas Valley, discovering protected species which were somehow overlooked by Scottish Coal’s paid for ecological surveys. More and more research has been conducted showing the links between coal extraction and respiratory diseases, regardless of Scottish Coal or South Lanarkshire Council’s refusal to listen. CAS also continued to support the campaign in Midlothian against an open cast by Scottish Coal near the village of Cousland, and we thank the local campaigners for their support in return. The community managed to defeat the proposal at the planning stage.

A Smooth Newt found during tat down.

As the name suggests, THWAC was started as a base for direct action. During the eight months affinity groups from across the UK, and further afield, came and carried out a wide variety of direct action and protests at open casts in the area and targets further afield. This included: mine gates locked shut at night three times, digger diving at Mainshill twice, Mainshill offices were attacked with paint, Ravenstruther coal rail head was blockaded twice, South Lanarkshire Council’s offices had banners hung from the roof and stink bombs let off inside the committee room, Scottish Coal contractors RPS and Weber Shandwick had their offices glued shut and slogans painted on their walls, and according to anonymous reports posted online there were six sabotage actions with over thirty three vehicles incapacitated. These add to the already impressive list of actions taken against the coal industry since Coal Action Scotland formed. Through this campaign of sustained direct action we have cost Scottish Coal a considerable amount.

Over the next few months we will be setting our sites on Scottish Coal’s plot to tear up Glentaggart East in the Douglas Valley. We are joining with local campaigners in a call out for as many objection letters to South Lanarkshire Council against this application as possible. More information about this can be found on the STOP website. We will also continue to use direct action to apply pressure on them to abandon this open cast. If anyone wishes to join in then Target Brochures showing coal infrastructure across Scotland can also be found on our website. After the success of last year’s event we will be planning another Outdoor Skill Share from the 26th to the 29th of August, where we will run workshops on the practical skills needed to hold a protest site. More information can be found on the Outdoor Skill Share website.

All that’s left is to say thank you to all our visitors and see you all next time.

The Happendon Wood Action Camp