In 1980, the Atomic Energy Authority (AEA) wanted to dump nuclear waste in the hills not far from Ayr. The local populace, however, fought back and the first ever public inquiry in the UK was held into onshore burial of nuclear waste.
The Scottish National Party (SNP) were one of the main objectors alongside a host of other environmental pressure groups. SNP National Executive Committee member and Glasgow solicitor Willie McRae, as well as young SNP activist Brenda Carson, turned out to be key figures at what came to be known as the ‘Mullwharchar Inquiry’.
A polemicist, and an extremely crafty lawyer, Willie played a chess game with the AEA – luring them into questions to which the Authority could not answer for fear of reprisal.
His most famous proclamation during the two-week long inquiry is criminally unknown: “Nuclear waste should be stored where Guy Fawkes put his gunpowder!”
The inquiry also inspired a 15-year-old Ayr Academy schoolgirl by the name of Fiona Hyslop to write a poem about the injustice of the whole situation. Anyone know what she’s up to these days?
As a result of the inquiry, the campaigners against nuclear waste won and the AEA ran away to lick the gaping wounds caused to their bank balance – indeed, such was the beating they got that they decided to drop further attempts into burying nuclear waste in any hills in the UK.
At least that was the case then.
It was only a matter of time before it came around again.
That 50-year stockpile is reaching its endpoint.
How fitting on the 30th anniversary of Willie’s death that those in power have decided to use that power to silence our rights.
UK Parliament surreptitiously passed a law just before it was prorogued for the General Election. It is a law that will see to it that the public get no more public inquiries into this matter in England and Wales.
Fear not though, the decision instead will be left to three inspectors and the Secretary of State for Energy. Oh, and you can still write to complain – they ‘may’ consider your points.
Willie would be beyond apoplectic with this development. He was a fundamentalist and believed in independence or nothing – however, in this instance, I am sure he would have been thankful for some protection offered by devolved powers.
If you’re interested in Willie McRae, or more on this subject, I’m currently crowdfunding a book on Kickstarter all about Willie’s life and death.
EDIT: It should be noted that this was shared far more than I thought and on a lot of Scottish nationalist groups and I just want to clarify some matters in what was a very simple blog post about Willie McRae and not some sweeping commentary on nuclear waste dumps. I have updated some of the text to reflect this edit.
Allow me to clarify that the new law DOES NOT refer to Scotland per se – as the Scottish Government is opposed to this particular type of dumping.
While the matter of nuclear energy has reserved status, and is therefore not devolved, the SNP is opposed to nuclear waste dumps and the Scottish Parliament, controlled by the SNP, still has the ability to control planning permission. They have instead opted to continue to store nuclear waste until they can determine what to do next.
As nuclear waste continues to be created, the hope is that technology arrives to deal with the matter.
However, should a Scottish parliament be made up of those who are open to nuclear waste dumps in Scotland, then this could very much change – and this is the direction that those in Westminster are going in.
I hope that clarifies the matter. When the Mullwharchar Inquiry was held, it WAS affected by UK Law – hence the link.