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Earth First! Suits Last

Earth First; Suits Last

 

by Alastair McIntosh

 

 

Published in Product, Edinburgh, No. 4, 2000, p. 4.

 

"This is the only f'ing rock that you're going to get out of Scotland." That's what a group of Earth First! activists from the Pollock Free State M77 motorway protest said as they beat drums and handed out coloured sticks of Edinburgh Rock at Edinburgh’s Maybury Banqueting Centre in 1992.

 

But it was not to kiddies, but to shocked international businessmen zipped up in suits that the ecowarriors gave the candy. It was hardly the fare for which delegates had paid £160 for the privilege of hearing why Scotland was “the place to come” for establishing an international "superquarrying" industry.

 

What's unsound about the idea of superquarries is locating them on pristine sites within National Scenic Areas, such as South Harris in the Outer Hebrides. Here, if the French-owned Lafarge Redland Aggregates get their way, one of the biggest holes in the world will be blasted out of Mt Roineabhal. It would be 50 times larger than an existing large British quarry and be equivalent to dropping 6 Hiroshima-sized atom bombs on the mountain. Eagles nest within just 400 metres from the quarry boundary and in 1995 the people of Harris voted 68% against the development.

 

The road protest activists from Glasgow were one step ahead of the industry, however. As a limousine transporting dischuffed Scottish Office dignitaries sped back to St Andrews House, prospective entrepreneurs realised they had been given vital market information. Scotland was not, afer all, going to be an environmental walk-over. British road-building has now been cut back, and aggregate demand has crashed with it.

 

In July the Scottish environment minister, Sarah Boyack, asked Scottish Natural Heritage to consider whether South Harris merits designation as a Special Area of Conservation – Europe’s highest protective designation. If this goes ahead, the people of Harris will be able to get on with sustainable job creation. Already the efforts of Harris Development Ltd has created more jobs than the quarry would have achieved. And the Roineabhal eagles will be able to nest in peace.

 

 

 

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5-9-00

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