Anger at minister’s trip to controversial waste plant

An artist's impression of the Viridor site
An artist's impression of the Viridor site
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A SENIOR minister has been accused of having a “brass neck” for taking part in a ceremony to mark the start of work on a controversial waste plant in East Lothian.

The Viridor incinerator at Dunbar was opposed by local campaigners and refused planning permission by East Lothian Council before the Scottish Government overturned the decision and gave it the go-ahead.

Environmental secretary Richard Lochhead visited the site on Friday for a “breaking the ground” ceremony heralding the start of construction of the £177 million project at Oxwellmains.

The energy-from-waste plant, due for completion in 2017, will see 300,000 tonnes of post-recycling “residual” waste from all over Scotland processed every year to generate electricity.

East Lothian Labour MSP Iain Gray claimed the minister’s visit had rubbed salt in the wounds of the area.

He said: “Local people were overwhelmingly against this incinerator when it was initially proposed.

“East Lothian Council did the right thing and reflected the views of local people by rejecting the incinerator. However, the SNP Scottish Government simply overturned that decision and imposed it on the local community against its wishes.

“To make things worse, the government then rubber stamped an application from Viridor to transport waste to the facility from across Scotland, breaking a previous promise that it would only be allowed to accept local waste.

“Having ridden roughshod over the local community in Dunbar in this way, it might have been courteous for SNP minister Richard Lochhead to have the tact to keep his distance from the project.

“Instead, he had the brass neck to attend the start of the construction work, boast about how great it is for his Waste Strategy and rub salt in the county’s wounds.

“This just highlights the swaggering arrogance of SNP ministers when it comes to decisions in East Lothian. Time and again they have overruled local planning decisions and ignored the views of local people to force through unwanted developments in the county.”

Viridor says 350 jobs will be created during construction of the energy recovery facility, with another 55 new jobs once the plant starts operating, boosting the East Lothian economy by £10 million a year.

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Environment Secretary visited the site at Oxwellmains to acknowledge this significant investment by Viridor in Scotland’s waste infrastructure and also to welcome its benefits for jobs and the local economy.

“While Scotland is focused on moving towards a more circular economy, where goods are kept in high value use for as long as possible, there will still be a role for energy recovery for the limited amount of waste that cannot be prevented, reused or recycled.”