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CADU welcomes removal of the crown exemption for MoD’s Scottish military bases

The announcement by the Scottish government that the MoD will no longer be exempt from environmental regulations governing its nuclear sites in Scotland could have major implications for the future testing of depleted uranium (DU) weapons at the Dundrennan Range in Kirkcudbright, Dumfries and Galloway.
14 March 2014 - Rachel Thompson

Last year, CADU helped force the MoD to U-turn on plans to renew test firing of DU after highlighting the public unacceptability of the weapons and potential breach of international environmental law testing entails.

Dundrennan range

CADU campaigners after building their memorial garden on the firing range in November 2013

From Dundrennan to Dalgety Bay, the Ministry of Defence (MoD) has had a less than impeccable record when it comes to managing radiation on its bases in Scotland. However, revelations this week that the MoD had known about a radioactive leak from the Vulcan nuclear reactor in Dounreay for two years but withheld the information from the Scottish government have led the Scottish government to announce an end to crown exemptions for MoD sites in Scotland.

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) regulates the storage and use of radioactive materials everywhere in Scotland other than MoD bases. Up until now MoD land in Scotland has had immunity from radioactive substances legislation due to having ‘crown exemption’. Instead, SEPA have had to rely on a Memorandum of Understanding - a voluntary agreement - with the MoD as a substitute for regulatory powers. As defence powers are reserved and still the domain of Westminster, the Scottish government has had little control over the MoD’s activities.  

CADU Campaigner Rachel Thompson said: “Concerns in the 1980’s that the MoD was turning Scotland into a ‘nuclear dustbin’ have turned out to be pretty accurate. Test-firing at the Dundrennan Range is just one of a number of controversial radioactive activities by the MoD that have prompted the Scottish government to act.

“CADU has long campaigned against the firing of DU at the Kirkcudbright MoD range in Dundrennan. We are yet to see what effect this legislative change will have on this practice but we welcome the fact that the MoD will finally be subject to regulation and potentially a possible ban on this dangerous, environmentally damaging practice.”

In the past the MoD has stated that any firing would also have to take place in accordance with procedures set by the Scottish Government’s own agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency’, we now have further confirmation that the MoD cannot be trusted to self-regulate when it comes to radioactive materials.

This is not the first time that the MoD has been found to be abusing its exemptions. Earlier this year, SEPA named them as the perpetrators of radioactive contamination in Dalgety Bay and last year CADU discovered that the MoD had attempted to circumvent international legislation against dumping hazardous waste at sea by stating that the 6,700 DU rounds fired into the Solway Firth, were in fact ‘placed’ there.

In response to local MSP Aileen McLeod’s question as to how this would affect the firing of DU in her constituency, Scottish Environment Secretary, Richard Lockhead stated that: ‘...the Scottish government is opposed to the firing of DU shells into the Solway. Whilst, we are not aware of any plans to continue that in the near future it is something that we do oppose and indeed if crown exemption is removed from defence establishments then SEPA would be more empowered to deal with local situations such as that which could potentially cause damage to Scotland’s environment.’

Last year, as part of the International Day of Action Against Depleted Uranium Weapons, CADU campaigners staged a mass walk on at the test-firing range in Dundrennan and created a peace garden to highlight the risks the weapons pose to civilian health in Iraq.

Notes:

McLeod welcomes end to Dundrennan Range Crown Exemption: http://www.gallowaygazette.co.uk/news/local-headlines/mcleod-welcomes-end-to-dundrennan-range-crown-exemption-1-3337439