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 Superquarry Briefing

Lafarge Aggregates Ltd (ex Redland Aggregates) 

Isle of Harris Superquarry Briefing


This page was originally created when I was one amongst many individuals and organisations who successfully fought against the proposed Isle of Harris superquarry. It is retained both for historical purposes and because I subsequently agreed to serve (unpaid) on Lafarge's Sustainability Stakeholder Panel. An index of the page and its linked pages, including why I sit on their Panel and what it achieves, is below.


Montage of what quarry might look like

Prepared by Envision for SNH for 1994-95 Public Inquiry

Scale of landmass pictured is about 

3 miles across by 10 miles back

"... but I could only conclude that my friend had not taken the trouble to learn enough in advance of the West Highland scenery to put himself on terms with it, and that lack of familiarity had bred the contempt which could thus dismiss it as just a meaningless jumble of stones." - Hugh MacDiarmid, The Islands of Scotland, BT Batsford Ltd., London, 1939, p. 116. 

"The grandest scenery of the Outer Isles is in the Isle of Harris where the hills compete in sternness and sublimity with the great hills of Sutherland. This is indeed the oldest land in Europe, in the sense that the hills of Harris - and, of course, the hills of Sutherland too - have been so long above the sea as to make parvenus of the Alps." - Compton Mackenzie cited in MacDiarmid, ibid., p. 129. 

"Do not be deluded. There is nothing there but just a lot of water and rocks. Just a lot of water and rocks - and peace and beauty and the glories of an ancient people." - Hugh MacDiarmid, ibid., p. xi.


                                        Superquarry and Related Issues Index

  1. Go direct to my 2014 conclusion after 10 years on Lafarge Panel, and National Trust article

  2. My decade of participation in the Lafarge Sustainability Stakeholder Panel

  3. Scottish Environment Link's March 2006 Report, The Battle for Roineabhal (3 MB)

  4. Concluding superquarry debate in ECOS with WWF, FOES and Lafarge

  5. A retrospective view, Harris Mountain Festival 2014, John MacAulay of Harris (who was chair of the Quarry Benefit Group)

  6. The Return of the Summit of Mount Roineabhal - Photo Essay

  7. INSEAD sharing and Debate with Lafarge Vice-President - Harris superquarry and CSR (Feb 2008)

  8. Stop Press: Lafarge unconditionally withdraw from Harris, 2 April 2004 (this page)

  9. Photos, media coverage & timeline of superquarry withdrawal 

  10. Lafarge withdrawal press release (this page)

  11. Canada: my Sunderland P. Gardner Lecture, 2005, with account of Digby Neck, NS, Bilcon superquarry campaign

  12. Lafarge loses Crucial Court Case - update 9 January 2004

  13. Saga Rumbles On - update in ECOS, July 2003

  14. Update as of February 5th 2003

  15. Lafarge knocked back on 1965 backdoor quarry bid - May 2002 update

  16. Lafarge Redland force re-opening of quarry saga - April 2002 update

  17. Scottish Executive REJECTION of Harris superquarry - full documentation

  18. 10-point press briefing on case against the Harris Superquarry (this page)

  19. 10-point proponents' case in favour of the superquarry (this page)

  20. Journal of Law & Religion paper on theology & superquarry background

  21. Stone Eagle at Mount Roineabhal, 1994 (photo)

  22. Lafarge Redland Aggregate's court bid claiming corporate "human rights" 

  23. George Monbiot's Guardian column on Lafarge "human" rights, plus pictures of key players

  24. Lafarge corporate "human" rights and the British Constitution

  25. Lord Hardie's Court of Session Opinion endorsing Lafarge "human" rights

  26. The Guardian photograph of Mt. Roineabhal

  27. Lafarge Redland's own PR company's photomontage of superquarry (this page)

  28. Montage suggesting changes to mountain over 60 year period (this page)

  29. Letters to the Press giving updates

  30. The BBC's 12-7-00 report on Special Area of Conservation (SAC) move for Harris

  31. Stornoway Gazette article, A Sabbath for the Land, on SAC conservation status

  32. "The Bougainville Crisis" - effects of massive minerals development on a Pacific island

  33. Ian Wilson and the proposed Durness superquarry

  34. The Friends of the Earth Scotland superquarries report

  35. The basis of the 6 x Hiroshima Bomb calculation (this page)



Mt Roineabhal (right) from St Clement's Church, Rodel

(Photo: Alastair McIntosh 2003, may be freely reproduced)




By strange coincidence, St Clement is the patron saint of stone workers. 

His martyrdom entailed being put to work as a slave in a quarry! 

He was one of the earliest church fathers and his sermons 

concentrated on social justice and the way that

jealousy undermines community.



10-Point Press Briefing on the Case Against the Isle of  Harris Superquarry Proposal


The following was issued to media and key MSPs in the Scottish Executive on 11 July 2000, to tie in with Lesley Riddoch’s BBC Radio Scotland phone-in broadcast from Harris. Literally minutes before the programme started, the BBC’s environment correspondent, Louise Bachelor, came into the Edinburgh broadcasting studio where I was waiting. She had with her the Scottish Executive’s press release, which had just arrived, making environment minister Sarah Boyack’s dramatic announcement that Harris is to be considered for Europe’s highest conservation status as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). Informed sources tell me that this means the Scottish Executive are actively looking for a way to say “no” to the quarry without subjecting themselves to a legal challenge by Lafarge Redland. Such is a round-about way of doing things, but given the realities of corporate power, it may be an intelligent way.



  1. At 10 million tonnes output per annum, the proposed quarry at Lingerabay will be 50 times larger than a conventional large British quarry (Quarry Management, August 1993, pp. 19-23). Being opencast, it will leave Mt. Roineabhal with a scar 6 times the height of the White Cliffs of Dover. 36 tonnes of explosive will be detonated per week, equivalent over the quarry’s 60-year life to dropping 6 Hiroshima-sized (13 kilotonne) atom bombs on Harris.

  2. The area is a designated National Scenic Area. If Donald Dewar gives Lingerabay the go-ahead, Redland may revitalise their plans for a second large coastal quarry at Carnish on Lewis from where they tried forcibly to take-over crofters’ land in 1992 (West Highland Free Press, 15-5-92, p. 1). Also, Ready Mix Concrete will push ahead with their proposed large coastal quarry on Loch Seaforth, Harris (Stornoway Gazette, 10-3-94, p. 1 & 2). As Norman MacLeod of Bridge House, Leverburgh (01859 520385), puts it, the Hebrides would become "the gravel-pit of Europe."

  3. The 1998 draft public Inquiry Report by Miss Gillian Pain concluded that for the people of Harris, the quarry would create 33 direct jobs and a further 10 induced jobs “giving a total long term increase of about 43 jobs in Harris” (13:280). Remaining jobs (out of 100+ direct jobs – 13:279) would be taken by people living permanently outwith Harris.

  4. Due to efforts made to find alternative employment by Harris Development Ltd., there is now so little “suitable” unemployment left in Harris that the fish processing factory due to open on Scalpay later this year had to conduct a survey to ensure it could recruit sufficient local labour to fill the 40-80 jobs that it will create. The fishing and fish-farming industry both opposed the quarry at the 1994-95 public inquiry. The Scalpay factory, and other tourist-related developments stimulated by Harris Deveopment and other such bodies, were not on the horizon at the time of the public inquiry.

  5. Redland have overstated the need for the quarry. Demand has subsequently been only 2/3 what they predicted during the public inquiry.

  6. Redland Aggregates is no longer a British-controlled company – it has been taken over by the French multinational Lafarge, who played no part in the public inquiry. Prior to the take-over the Financial Times described Redland as a “basket-case” company, which had “gone off the rails” to the detriment of its “long-suffering shareholders” (14 October 1997, p. 25 etc.). The draft public inquiry report states that “the principle objective of MPG6 [British government policy] was to guide industry and the mineral planning authorities in England towards a pattern of aggregate supply in which less reliance would be placed on traditional sources in England” (12:2). The proposal is therefore that a French controlled superquarry violates a National Scenic Area in Scotland for affluent English benefit. At present, England dumps most of its used aggregate into landfill rather than recycling it, as is done, for example, in Denmark.

  7. There has never been a satisfactory explanation of the allegations, reported at the time to the Stornoway police by the Scottish National Party, that a Redland consultant at the last general election tried to bribe the SNP £30,000 to reverse the party’s opposition to the quarry (Stornoway Gazette, 27-3-97, p. 1; West Highland Free Press, 28-3-97, p. 1). (Redland deny all knowledge of this and threatened to sue on the basis of contrary suggestions).

  8. The Coastal Quarry Local Supporters’ Group, which claims to be “entirely independent of Redland Aggregates,” actually had its constitution drafted by Redland’s lawyers, as demonstrated by a fax leaked to the Stornoway Gazette. Redland director, John Lievers, admitted to the Gazette that it was, “completely correct that Redland Aggregates Limited has met the costs of the CQLSN’s mailshots to the people of Harris. The company will continue to meet other reasonable expenses where appropriate and when requested to do so by the Network” (Stornoway Gazette, 10-4-97, p. 11).

  9. It is being claimed by quarry mineral rights owner Ian Wilson that “the latest poll” shows Harris people to be in favour of the quarry. In fact, this “poll” was conducted by the CQLSN and was therefore perceived by many local people as being merely an industry lobbying exercise. Mr Wilson (also of the Durness superquarry proposal) is unable to tell me what the response rate was when I spoke to him in November 1999. The only independent poll remains that conducted on behalf of the Harris Council for Social Services and the Quarry Benefit Group, by secret ballot, supervised by the Electoral Reform Society, in May 1995, at the end of the public inquiry while the issues, both for and against, were still very fresh in people’s minds. 68% of the people of Harris voted against the quarry in this ballot on an astounding 83% turnout. There was a real sense at the time that the island was determining its future. A school poll showed that most young people wanted to stay in Harris, but not with a quarry.

  10. The public inquiry ran from 11 October 1994 – 6 June 1995. The final report has not yet been made fully public. The Scottish Executive have yet to make a decision. Meanwhile, Harris is being held back by planning blight. The 1998 draft public inquiry report concludes: “Even if the Redland forecasts are not fully achieved for various reasons, I find that there would be very substantial benefit to the local economy. The more pessimistic forecasts suggest that there would be around 110 jobs (70 direct and 40 due to multiplier effects)” (13:279). However, sections 14:295-303 (1999 redraft) of the report sets out the price of these jobs which, in the light of recent environmentally-friendly developments, are arguably not needed. The inquiry reporter states: “I find that the proposed quarry will completely change the landscape characteristics of Lingerbay by changing the scale and character of the coastline and its hinterland. Furthermore … the inevitable scale and characteristics in terms of industrialisation of the superquarry will be so significant that the underlying objectives of the NSA (National Scenic Area) in terms of scenic beauty and the landscape characteristics will be materially affected by virtue of the change from a small scale landscape of detailed variety to a large scale industrial area… I find that the impact cannot be described as minimal – on the contrary, it would be locally severe… The present remote, peaceful, and traditional ensemble of a semi-natural and crofting agriculture environment would be disrupted by the intrusion of a man made excavation and associated quarry and harbour installations on an enormous scale… Altogether, I find that this would have a very disruptive effect on the character of the area affecting local residents… It would … introduce a form of industrial activity incompatible with an area of scenic beauty.”


Alastair McIntosh, 01592 891829, (11-7-00)  


A note on the Hiroshima calculation


Section 8:42-49 of the 1998 draft inquiry reporter's report states that 150 tonnes of explosive are required per million tonnes of rock output, which at the maximum of 12 million tonnes output per annum would equate with about 36 tonnes of explosive use per week, or 82,500 tonnes over the quarry's 60-year life in producing an estimated total of 550 million tonnes of rock. As the Hiroshima bomb had an explosive yield equivalent to 13,000 tonnes of high explosive, the Harris proposal (with some variation according to equivalence in the types of explosive used, which is not stated in the draft inquiry report), is equivalent to slightly over six of these.


It has been drawn to my attention that 12 million tonnes per annum equates with more than 82,500 tonnes of explosive. However, this apparent discrepancy is because, at the beginning and end of its life, the quarry would not be running at full production. It is therefore best to base the calculation on total production rather than week-by-week output. 


One might ask, "Why, then, bother to show that at peak production of 12 million tonnes per annum it would use 36 tonnes of explosive a week? Would it not be fairer to use the average annual production figure, which is 9.16 million tonnes which equates with the less dramatic sum of about 27 tonnes of explosive a week?" The answer is that the 12 million tonne figure has been widely used in the public inquiry because, being the peak which will apply for most of the quarry's life, that is the figure of most consequence in determining what the likely consequences of blast would be to the surrounding area.



10 Point Proponents' Case in Favour of the Proposed Superquarry


We can't claim to be "against" something unless we understand the arguments "for." Here, and to be used only in context with the above and the broader arguments elsewhere in this website, is my understanding of the pro-quarry supporters' case. The statements that follow may not be cited as if they are "my words" - they are, rather, an attempt to encapsulate the arguments used by others. Many who support the quarry are people of goodwill. Doing this shows respect to them, but let me be quite clear that I consider most of these points, persuasive though they superficially are, to be distorted or based on highly partial information. For example, if you take point 7, it is a cogent point, but only until you ask why Britain recycles so little of its used aggregate, whether demand is for necessary or profligate purposes, and especially, whether aggregate ought come from areas that are already desecrated (such as Glensanda) rather than opening up new pristine and opencast sources. In short, it's always easy to make money shine. 


1. The quarry will create jobs for Harris and therefore save a dying culture. And these will be tough jobs for real men - not soft tourism jobs. The inquiry report finds that 33 direct jobs will be created for Harris and a further 10 by multiplier effect. However, this on its own is a gross underestimate. In all, the report concludes that 110 jobs will be created including the ones outside of Harris - most of which will be in Lewis and therefore of benefit to the region. Furthermore, the inquiry report acknowledges that these estimates are conservative, and it is the view of Lafarge Redland Aggregates that the actual number of jobs, including multiplier effects, could be more like double that figure.


2. The superquarry concept has been dubbed by its "father," Mr Ian Wilson, "the catalytic superquarry concept." This is because it will catalyse other industry and this effect will generate sustainable development lasting long after the quarry has finished. As such, the area around a superquarry should be considered as being a "crofting enterprise zone."


3. Redland have a proven commitment to environmental restoration. They give money to environmental charities. Their executives and shareholders have a conscience. They could not live with themselves if they thought they were in the business of "raping the Highlands." In any case, the planning conditions to which they have enthusiastically agreed will not allow them to do this. Neither will they allow unnecessary work to be undertaken on the Sabbath.


4. Fears about ballast water contamination and translocated species have been grossly exaggerated by environmentalists and the fishfarming and fishing industry. Redland have recognised this issue and risen, responsibly, to addressing it by developing the most rigorous standards for ballast water management in the world.


5. Far from chasing away other jobs in tourism, the quarry will be a spectacle that visitors will come and wonder at. Ships coming to collect aggregate will be able to import cargo to the islands cheaply and thereby undercut the high prices charged by the state-subsidised Caledonian MacBrayne.


6. The idea of a quarry as a dusty, noisy, unhealthy place is an anachronism. Modern quarries, of the type that Redland manage, cause so little environmental impact that often the people living nearby hardly know it's there ... until the wage packet thumps down on the kitchen table at the end of the week. 


7. This quarry will be 50 times larger than existing large (200,000 tonnes per annum) British quarries. By substituting aggregate usage from smaller quarries, it will help to prevent the further pockmarking of southern England and continental Europe. If aggregate is needed, is it not better to have it all drawn from a small number of places? Yes, demand has slumped since the public inquiry projections were made, but this was only due to the environmental lobby having undermined Britain's road-building programme. Long-term, demand is sure to rise again, and this will make superquarrying a sustainable industry. From both an industrial and an environmental point of view, therefore,  superquarries are a visionary concept.


8. The people of Harris really want the quarry. They were perhaps as much as 90% in favour of it initially, and a recent poll by the Coastal Quarry Local Supporters Group support an earlier TV station's telephone poll suggesting that they remain broadly in favour of it. The quarry, as many local people will tell you, "is the only salvation for Harris." Inasmuch as they may have wavered on this, it was only because of misleading and manipulative information put out by environmentalists and theologians who have an antipathy to progress and development. This comes from a romantic attachment to a bygone age of hardship that, as depopulation proves, is something that Harris people no longer want.


9. Redland will share some of their profits with the community on Harris. Probably about £50,000 a year will go into a Community Benefit Fund. In a community of just 2,000 people, that's a lot of money. Redland are already offering scholarships to Harris students who need funds to study away from home.


10. There is nothing "unique" about the natural environment at Mt Roineabhal. Everything there can also be found in other parts of Harris. The post-glacial landscape of South Harris is already a "moonscape," and will not look much different after a quarry has worked it over. In fact, the quarry will improve it by creating 1200' cliffs for mountaineers, a safe anchorage in the lagoon for yachts, nesting sites for seabirds and fresh rock surfaces for rare plants. As for the much-vaunted Golden Eagles that nest 400 metres from the quarry boundary, they too favour the quarry. Redland have promised to feed them ...  on environmentalists put through the quarry's primary crusher (only kidding, Mr Lievers).



Montage showing what quarry might look like as put out to people of Harris by Redland's public relations company, Barkers Scotland, Glasgow.



Montage suggesting changes to mountain over 60 years by an Edinburgh University GIS student (scale at base - about 3 miles across)





Stop Press: Lafarge unconditionally withdraw Harris superquarry plan - 2 April 2005


Since October 2004, I have been working closely with Lafarge in Paris, assisting them in evaluating the superquarry proposal. To the very great delight of all who have campaigned on this issue, they have now decided to pull out of Harris (this was facilitated by, but not caused by, my work with them). 


Media coverage from the Sunday Herald of 4th April 2004 and the local newspapers is pasted on a special page in this website - click here


A huge "thank you" to all who have made this possible, including the Paris-based executives of Lafarge who came, saw and listened.




Lafarge Press Release                     

Paris, April 2, 2004


Lafarge withdraws from Scottish quarry project at Lingerbay and calls for a public debate on long term mineral supply in the UK



Lafarge Aggregates UK has announced today that it is withdrawing from the proposed coastal quarry at Lingerbay on the Isle of Harris, Scotland.


It follows the decision in the Scottish Court of Session (9 January 2004) to reject its appeal over the extent of the existing planning permission granted in 1965.


The company is also withdrawing its outstanding appeal in pursuit of its 1991 planning application.


Lafarge says that the problem of sourcing medium and long term supplies of mineral in the UK remains unresolved and calls for a serious public debate about where the building materials of the future will come from.



Lafarge, the world leader in building materials, holds top-ranking positions in all four of its Divisions: Cement, Aggregates & Concrete, Roofing and Gypsum. Lafarge employs 75,000 people in 75 countries and posted sales of €13.6 billion in 2003. Addition information is available on the web site at www.lafarge.com .



Lead letter in The Sunday Herald (Seven Days), Glasgow, 11 April 2004, p. 10, under the heading, "End of a long campaign".


The vastness of the proposed, opposed and now withdrawn Harris superquarry scheme is exceeded only by the scale of the campaign that fought it over13 long years. Rob Edwards’ stirring article gave, if anything, over-generous acknowledgement of my own role (News, 4 April). 


But there are many unsung actors, most of whom kept low profiles.


I would request to add three further points of acknowledgement. Firstly, key community leaders and residents on the island have played absolutely pivotal roles, from politics all the way through to prayer. 


Secondly, it was a remarkably successful example of well-co-ordinated NGO action. The NGO umbrella organisation, the Link Quarry Group, included Friends of the Earth Scotland, Ramblers Scotland, RSPB, WWF Scotland, Rural Scotland, Sustrans, NEMT and the Scottish Wildlife Trust. The staff and members of these organisations deserve gratitude.


Thirdly, all parties recognise that Scotland’s planning and political system was not up to handling a proposal of this scale. However, the Western Isles’ MSP, MP and most councillors of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar handled the matter with artful concern. The Government’s own environmental agency, Scottish National Heritage, mounted a principled and fearless stand at massive legal cost.


As your columnist, Muriel Gray, suggested, the people of Harris must now be given the support of the nation as a whole (Seven Days, April 4). In the 1995 secret ballot, 67% of them on an 83% turnout rejected the opportunity of violating a National Scenic Area with a superquarry. Here, then, are a people that have chosen long-term integrity of place over the short-term buck. This enriches all who are sensitive to beauty.


The onus now rests on a wider world to sustain such a community. Everybody can do their bit. Visit Harris. Buy vernacular products like the famous Harris Tweed. And encourage the Scottish Executive and other wheels of governance in their vital efforts to stimulate community empowerment, economic resilience, cultural renewal and environmental sustainability.


Oh, and one last thing, thank you, Redland-cum-Lafarge. You provided a challenge to the cultural immune system. You bowed out with dignity and, by bothering to visit the islands for your final announcement, a personal touch that will not pass unremarked. You leave behind you a community that is stronger – like its mountain. 


Alastair McIntosh




"Yeah man, you know to me a mountain is a Buddha"

- Jack Kerouac, The Darma Bums, Penguin, London, 1976, p. 67.






Last Updated: 09/05/22


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