People Unite in Opposition to Scottish Coal's Open Cast Plans in Midlothian

Yesterday around 185 people gathered in Cousland, Midlothian, to show their united opposition to Scottish Coal's plans to mine 2 million tonnes of coal from the 154-hectare site at Airfield Farm – the size of Edinburgh's old and new towns combined – just 500 metres from the village. Many villagers and their families came to the Village Hall and were met by 20 cyclists who cycled from Climate Camp in Gogar and a further 60 from the Climate Camp and beyond who came to show their support for the campaign.

The protest started in the Village Hall, with people gathering for a speech and welcome by CAAOC Chairperson Dougie McKenzie. The group then marched through the village the short distance to the proposed open cast site, set in Midlothian's beautiful countryside, and through the right of way to the centre of the open cast area. Community members explained the extent of the boundaries of the site and the devastation that would be caused by it.

Fiona Reed, of Coal Action Scotland, speaking to the congregated crowd, said: “We've come here today to continue our long term commitment to support and stand in solidarity with this community and their struggle against open cast coal. Across Scotland communities are blighted by companies like Scottish Coal, whether its the health impacts, economic degradation or the destruction of their local environment they suffer. Together we are stronger!”

Dougie McKenzie, chair of the campaigning group, Communities Against Airfield Open Cast (CAAOC), said, “We are delighted that Coal Action Scotland is supporting our campaign. Local people have real concerns not only about the impact this mine will have on local businesses, but also on our safety, particularly that of our children - the area surrounding the village of Cousland is riddled with old limestone mine workings, and we have serious concerns about the impact blasting will have on the already unstable ground. Already this year we believe there have been 2 land collapses into old mine workings in the fields around Airfield, and a few years previously a 15-year old boy narrowly escaped death when the ground in the local playing field collapsed beneath him .”

“We hope this rural protest march will raise awareness of our campaign and will encourage more people to object to Scottish Coal’s application. We suspect that there will be many people in Edinburgh unaware of this proposed blot on the beautiful landscape so close to the city.”