Pat Spackman (66) has been awarded $75,000 (£47,000) by the US Department of Justice after her husband, Derek, died from throat cancer. The UK Ministry of Defence (MoD) had previously refused her a war widow’s pension, claiming that her husband’s death could not be blamed on the contamination.
Her victory is an embarrassment for the MoD, which has battled for decades under successive governments to avoid paying money to nuclear test veterans and their families. Mrs Spackman condemned the MoD’s behaviour as “shameful” – a criticism echoed by a Conservative MP.
According to lawyers, the MoD has spent more than £4 million trying to block legal claims from over a thousand test veterans and their relatives for war pensions and financial compensation. Cases are currently before a tribunal and the High Court in London.
Between 1952 and 1962 Britain and the US exploded more than 40 nuclear weapons in the atmosphere around Australia and in the Pacific. The explosions and their aftermath were witnessed by over 21,000 British servicemen, often dressed only in shorts and sandals.
Staff at the Clyde Off-Site Centre near Rhu on Gareloch, a few miles south of the Faslane naval base, have been told that it is facing closure. The Ministry of Defence (MoD) accepted the centre was under review, but insisted no final decisions had been taken.
Critics claimed that the closure of the centre to save money could lead to gaps in the emergency precautions meant to protect Scotland from radiation leaks - though this was denied by the MoD.
The centre is a large building housing a 24/7 emergency monitoring team, which is dispatched to nuclear accidents in Scotland to check for contamination. The building also acts as an off-site control centre for nuclear emergencies at Faslane.
The MoD said yesterday that some of the centre’s 15-strong team were put on alert on Friday after the nuclear-powered submarine, HMS Astute, ran aground on the seabed near Skye. This was standard operating procedure, according to an MoD spokesman, but they were then stood down when it became clear no radioactivity was leaking.
The US billionaire, Donald Trump, is demanding tens of thousands of pounds in legal costs from an 86-year-old Aberdeenshire pensioner who has been trying to protect her home from his luxury golf development.
Molly Forbes, who is worried about paying her next electricity bill, is being pursued in court this week by the New York property tycoon in an effort to recover his legal bills.
“It’s very unfair,” she told the Sunday Herald. “If he’s a billionaire, what’s he need money for from little people like me? He’s unbelievable."
Forbes, a widow, is one of several local residents who have been resisting eviction to make way for Trump’s controversial £750 million resort at Menie on the Aberdeenshire coast. She has been threatened with compulsory purchase of her home.
Last year she made headlines by launching a legal challenge against Trump and Aberdeenshire Council, asking for a judicial review of the decision to give the development the go-ahead. But she has had to drop the action because she was refused legal aid.
from Sunday Herald, 24 October 2010
Scottish ministers have come under attack from one of Britain’s top green gurus for their “addiction” to the oil and coal industries that threaten to tip the world into catastrophic climate chaos.
Jonathon Porritt, a former high-level government adviser and one of the rock stars of the environment world, has condemned the Scottish government for backing new oil and coal developments which will generate huge amounts of climate pollution.
Prolonging the future of last century’s dirty old industries at the same time as promising to combat climate change was “cognitive dissonance on a massive scale”, he told the Sunday Herald.
Expert calculations showed that to avoid “disastrous” climate change the world could only afford to emit another 890 billion tonnes of carbon dioxide. That meant, Porritt argued, that 75% of the oil and coal reserves around the world to which money had already been committed ought to stay in the ground.
Exploring and drilling for new oil reserves in deep waters off Shetland “doesn’t make any sense at all,” he said. Yet such drilling has been backed by the nationalist government, as well as Labour, Liberal Democrat and Conservative politicians.
Love them or loath them, wind turbines have come to symbolise the energy revolution that is changing the face of Scotland. More than a thousand have been erected across the land in the last decade or so, and thousands more are planned.
They are the most visible aspect of one of the most important shifts in energy policy ever attempted. To prevent the climate chaos which scientists say is being caused by pollution from fossil fuels like coal and oil, the world has decided to switch to clean, renewable resources, including wind, solar and water power.
Crucially, we also all have to learn to use energy more efficiently, by cutting wastage wherever it occurs. So as well as wind turbines, solar panels and hydro schemes, we need home insulation, double-glazing, better boilers, heat pumps and the like.
None of this is rocket science: it’s common sense. Saving energy saves money, the more so the higher energy prices rise. It can also bring increased energy independence and self-sufficiency, and ultimately help keep the nation’s lights on.
Dozens of potentially disastrous flaws in the safety regime for nuclear weapons at Britain’s bomb bases, on public roads and at sea have been exposed by secret Ministry of Defence (MoD) reports seen by the Observer.
Safety practises at the bomb factory at Aldermaston in Berkshire have been “poor”, nuclear weapons convoys have suffered from “crew fatigue” and safety regulation has been ignored by nuclear submarine commanders, according to the MoD’s internal safety watchdogs.
The reports, released after a three-year freedom of information battle, also reveal that the “intrinsic safety” of Trident nuclear warheads was put at risk by an argument between Britain and the United States. A new US-made “arming, fusing and firing” system being fitted onto warheads worried the MoD’s Nuclear Weapon Regulator, Andy Moore.
There was a "medium risk that safety justifications will lack key information” and a need for "engagement with US on information supply,” he warned. This has been a highly sensitive issue within government.
Last month, the Observer reported that a major fire in a high explosive building in August had raised concerns about safety at the Atomic Weapons Establishment (AWE) at Aldermaston. Fire brigade logs showed that 20 appliances and 95 crew fought the fire for almost nine hours.
Comment from Sunday Herald, 17 October 2010
Sometimes, your worst suspicions are confirmed. You like to think the best of public agencies, but they leave you little choice.
So it has been with my three-year battle to force the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to release reports on the safety of nuclear weapons. I thought the MoD, and the UK Information Commissioner, would behave themselves. But they didn’t.
Let me explain. There could hardly be anything more important than ensuring that the British government’s 200 or so nuclear warheads don’t go off by accident. Unfortunately this job is left to a secretive set of faceless officials within the MoD, who are on same payroll as those they are meant to be regulating.
This is unlikely to make them tough, independent or accountable public watchdogs. But they are all we’ve got to protect us from an accidental Armageddon, and I wanted to find out what they’ve been doing.
Potentially catastrophic lapses in nuclear weapons safety at the Clyde naval base have been exposed by secret Ministry of Defence (MoD) reports released after a three-year freedom of information battle.
The handling of up to 200 nuclear warheads on Trident missiles at Faslane and Coulport near Helensburgh has been plagued by “difficulties” “confusion”, “shortcomings” and “non-compliance”, according to the MoD’s internal safety watchdogs.
“The fragmentation of approaches to safety management issues does not engender confidence," warned Andy Moore, the MoD’s Nuclear Weapon Regulator. “This is a resource issue for a naval base that is heavily loaded and subject to funding constraints.”
Critics pointed out that poor safety procedures for nuclear weapons could lead to accidents scattering deadly plutonium across the country. The MoD, however, insisted that its safety record was “as robust as possible”.
The MoD released a series of reports by its nuclear safety regulators last week on the eve of an appeal to the UK Information Tribunal that threatened to expose the ministry’s multiple breaches of freedom of information law. The MoD has been trying since 2007 to keep the reports secret.
The study has raised fears for the health of millions of children worldwide who use synthetic lawns for sports or play, and has prompted calls for “urgent checks” in the UK.
There are thousands of football, hockey and tennis playing surfaces made from synthetic turf across the UK. According to Sport Scotland, there are 232 full-size synthetic playing pitches in Scotland.
US health researchers have discovered that after 2-4 years or more of wear and tear, some artificial grass can become contaminated with lead dust. This has led to playing fields in the US being closed down because they were regarded as hazardous.
Lead, a heavy metal, has long been recognised as a potential danger to public health, and was eliminated from petrol and paint 20 years ago. If it gets into the body, it can cause brain damage, as well as heart disease and cancer.
Scottish Nationalist, Labour, LibDem and Conservative MEPs are all fighting to stop the European Commission introducing a ban on drilling for deep sea oil. The Commission wants to prevent another disaster like that at the Deepwater Horizon rig in the Gulf of Mexico.
But the MEPs argue that a ban could cost oil companies billions of pounds, and isn’t necessary because UK safety standards are better than those in the US. This has infuriated green groups, who have lambasted the politicians for protecting company profits instead of the planet.
The LibDem MEP, George Lyon, and the Tory MEP, Struan Stevenson, will this week be pressing for a meeting with the European Energy Commissioner, Günther Oettinger, to urge him not to propose a moratorium.
Leaked Commission documents suggest that on Wednesday Oettinger is going to put forward a proposal for a temporary moratorium on deepwater drilling for oil and gas while the implications of BP’s spill in the Gulf of Mexico are investigated.
08 October 2010
The call comes from a powerful coalition of interests from across Scottish society representing as many as two million people. The coalition, which includes trade unionists, students, faith groups, aid charities, environmental organisations and campaign groups, has previously been influential in shaping Scotland’s policies to combat climate change.
The groups are calling for manifesto commitments to a £100 million-a-year home insulation programme, a £9 million-a-year increase in the international aid budget and an investment of up to £120 million to restore peat bogs. They also want reductions to speed limits and curbs on new road building.
The Stop Climate Chaos Scotland coalition brings together over 60 groups, including the trade union Unison, the National Union of Students, Oxfam and WWF Scotland. Its lobbying helped persuade the Scottish Parliament last year to introduce world-leading targets to reduce climate pollution.
Now the coalition is trying to ensure that in the run-up to the election next May, every political party makes the promises that will be needed to meet those targets. The aim is to cut greenhouse gas emissions 42% by 2020.
The health of visitors to one of Scotland’s most popular coastal resorts is being put at risk from radioactive contamination because the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has withdrawn from monitoring the area.
The government’s Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) is now threatening to take legal action to force the MoD to keep cleaning up Dalgety Bay in Fife, which is being repeatedly polluted by dangerous radioactive debris from the Second World War.
Some of the particles found on the foreshore near a sailing club used by thousands of families are so highly radioactive that they could be lethal if they found their way inside the body. According to Sepa, outside the body they are “hot” enough to cause radiation burns on exposed skin.
Dalgety Bay was the site of the old Donibristle military airfield, where a large number of aircraft were dismantled after the end of the Second World War in 1945. The dials in the planes were coated with luminous, radioactive radium so they could be read at night.
The dials were removed and incinerated in a “bash, burn and bury” policy, along with other waste. The resulting ash and clinker was dumped as landfill to help reclaim part of the headland on the bay.
In the last couple of years there has been a massive boom in the number of drivers sharing lifts to work across Scotland, according to figures obtained by the Sunday Herald.
Since September 2008, the number of people who have signed up to one of Scotland’s online “liftshare” networks has increased by 50% from 16,200 to 24,300. There has been a similar rise throughout the UK, with numbers leaping from 270,000 two years ago to nearly 400,000 now.
And the boom is set to continue, with the celebration of the UK’s first ‘liftshare week’ from Monday, designed to recruit more drivers and sharers. Organisers are distributing wild-west-style “wanted” posters urging people not to be “a lone ranger”.