A week ago today the last of the camp was taken down and participants at Take Back the Land! were saying goodbye for now to our site on the edge of 350ha of bog and wet heath moorland – the proposed new Glentaggart East site. The camp was occupied on the evening of the 10th July and set up on the symbolic site of Scottish Coal’s new mine in the Douglas Valley, a beautiful part of the Southern Uplands. The occupation was the third in the area since 2009 and part of Coal Action Scotland’s four-year old direct action campaign against opencast coal mining in the Douglas Valley.
The camp aimed to bring people together for a week of action targeting coal infrastructure in the area. Over the weekend between 80-100 people stayed at or visited the camp. We took action against a number of targets, supported a community garden project in a near-by village and generally survived the wind, rain and midgies. Here’s an account of some of the actions that took place:
Mainshill Shut Down for the Day
Saturday 14th July was advertised as a mass action, and except for the eviction of the Mainshill Solidarity Camp in January 2010, was the largest action that has happened in the area. Over 45 people walked the couple of miles from the camp to Mainshill Open Cast Coal Site (formerly Mainshill Wood) and invaded the site, stopping all work for the day. The atmosphere was good, opencast workers got to have a cup of tea and constructive conversations were had. One thing’s for sure, and that’s that our common enemy is the Scottish Coal bosses.
Eventually the Chief Inspector showed up and threw his weight around making everyone leave, but by then the consented time for operations at the site was nearly over so the opencast workers left as we did. This certainly gave us confidence and energy for the week ahead.
Link to article: http://coalactionscotland.org.uk/?p=3085
Broken Cross Open Cast Coal Site Blockaded
This wasn’t actually the action we’d intended to do – we wanted to close down the Ravenstruther Coal Rail Terminal, a costly and effective action as most of the coal taken out of the valley has to go through this terminal. It’s an action that has happened 5 times already in the past, but that morning it was already blockaded by Strathclyde police. In the past the police have certainly done unreasonable things in the area, but for the entire week we camped at Glentaggart East the police acted as Scottish Coal’s private security guards, doing anything they could to protect the profits of the mining company.
With Ravenstruther already blockaded we turned around and went to the only entrance to Broken Cross Open Cast Coal Site, the largest mine in the area, and stopped HGVs from getting in to take the coal away to Ravenstruther (to end up down south at Drax Coal-Fired Power Station). Strangely enough the police didn’t anticipate us doing this – even though they followed us everywhere they weren’t able to stop the lock-on, but were very upset about it!
The blockade lasted for over an hour and a half before Inspector Whip, possibly the most unreasonable cop in the central belt of Scotland, oversaw around 30 Scottish Coal workers lifting the three blockaders and their concrete lock-on tubes out of the road and onto the verge, kept out of site by police vehicles parked in the way. Now, we’re pretty sure that they broke just about every rule in the(ir) book, and it was an incredibly dangerous thing to do.
Three people were eventually arrested and then released from Lanark Sheriff Court the next day, charged with a breach of the peace.
Link to article: http://coalactionscotland.org.uk/?p=3098
Lord Home’s Garden Opencasted!
We said that the camp would target aristocrat landlords – in the past his garden has been invaded for frisbee games and he’s had car tyres let down during dinner parties – but this time his manicured lawn was dug up to bring the issues closer to home. As if the injustices in the Douglas Valley weren’t blatant enough with the corporate control, collusion between the mining company and local council, health and all the other impacts of opencast coal, most of the land in the valley is owned by a wealthy aristocrat. In fact, he’s a caricature of himself – he’s the son of former Tory prime minister Alec Home, went to Eton and Oxford University, is chairperson of Coutts Bank and of course, is a hereditary peer sitting in the house of lords. Lord Home is all about the money and will be getting millions for leasing his land to Scottish Coal for Mainshill and Glentaggart East.
Will he listen to the community though? Of course not! He really lives in London and only visits Douglasdale and his mansion to go shooting in the summer so probably isn’t even aware of what the impacts of opencast are on local people. To remind him of some of these impacts around 20 people set about with spades and shovels to dig up his lawn, making as much of a mess as possible!
Link to article: http://coalactionscotland.org.uk/?p=3106
The Glentaggart East site is in the initial stages of being worked so was littered with survey stakes pointing out borehole locations, site boundaries, etc. They were promptly removed and made excellent firewood.
Support for Community Garden
Throughout the camp we provided bodies and support for Glespin’s fledgling community garden, a community growing project aiming to inject some energy and colour back into the village. Glespin has lived next to an opencast mine for 12 years and is set to get a brand new one at Glentaggart East. At no point has the village benefited from opencast, but it has certainly suffered from noise, dust and massive HGVs speeding through the middle of it.
We’d like to thank everyone who came to the camp and stood in solidarity with people in the area. It was great to see so many people respond to our call-out!
The struggle to Defend the Douglas Valley most certainly continues – if you’d like to stay in touch and keep up-to-date with what’s going on have a look at our website or sign up to our email list. If you want to take action see here for direct action resources, here for a Douglas Valley direct action guide and here to a Targets Brochure and guide to dismantling the coal industry in Scotland.