15/08/2011 Newsnight Scotland


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the part of many politicians to say, make cuts to the police. Thank you


very much. Tonight on Newsnight Scotland: The spill from the Gannet


Alpha platform is the biggest in the North Sea for a decade, but are


Shell giving out enough information on what's going on? The Environment


secretary tells us that the Scottish Government was only told


two days after it happened. And, 30 years ago Glasgow granted Nelson


Mandela the freedom of the city - the first place in the world to do


so. We'll have a personal look back at the campaign. Good evening.


Shell has confirmed that more than 200 tonnes of oil have spilled into


the North Sea after a leak at one of its platforms off the Aberdeen


coast. It's one of the biggest spills in a decade. Shell says it


has brought the leak under control, but conservationists say they're


hugely concerned about how long it has taken to get information about


the slick. Catriona Renton reports. Hundreds of tons of oil may be


gushing forth, but information about this or oil spill is only


being released slowly. On Friday news was made public. There was a


leak in a flow line leading to the Gannet Alpha all platform, 130


miles off Aberdeen. We now know that it started on Wednesday. Shell,


who operate the oil rig, say that the total oil spilled so far is


around 216 tons, or 1300 barrels of oil. The sea's surface area


affected has been some 90 miles by 2.5 miles. And this is the second


leak at the platform in just over two years. It is one of the worst


oil spills in UK waters for more than a decade. These pictures were


released this evening by a Muddy and Scotland. And the Department of


Energy and Climate Change says several hundred tons of light crude


oil could be spilled. They say that in the context of the UK


continental shelf, this spill is substantial, but it is not


anticipated that oil will reach the shore, and it is expected that it


will be dispersed naturally. But conservation groups are concerned


about how difficult it has been to gain accurate information. The have


to look carefully at how communication takes place and how


transparent and honest people are at the earliest possible stage


because that gives you time to get everything in place. When you're


trying to piece it together in retrospect, it does not blow very


well, and that is the major lesson to be learned. Trawling for Royle


does not come without risks. Part of the concern here is that the


spill is happening in the well- established oil fields of the North


Sea. No one has comparing this incident to the Gulf of Mexico, but


the images of that crisis in April 2010, the World's worst oil spill


in history, are striking. Shell has described began it up a leak as


insignificant but it is still much larger than anything experienced


here and recent times. At a oil spills that have been recorded in


the past have been small, so this one is clearly much bigger, but


that does not mean to say that it will have much more impact because


it is bigger. You have to remember, oil disperses naturally in the


marine environment, and usually very quickly. To make, work is


continuing to stop the leak. Shell echoes the view from Oil and Gas UK


that it expects the oil will disperse naturally. It says that


high wind and waves of other the Kent have led to a substantial


reduction in the size of the oil slick, but it remains to be seen


what the long-term environmental effects will be. No-one from Shell


was available to answer questions about the North Sea's biggest oil


leak in a decade. The trade body, Oil and Gas UK, were similarly


otherwise engaged, as was a minister from the UK government's


energy department. But earlier I spoke to the Scottish Government's


Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead. I asked him to bring us


up to date with the situation. Shell now have diver's and vehicles


trying to stop the leak. And we ought to progress as soon as


possible and in terms of what has been leaked, the size is about 217


barrels which is significant in terms of the North Sea but when


hundreds of thousands of barrels have been leaked in major incidents


around the world, hopefully it is not going to cause much major


damage to wildlife and anything else. It was Friday night before


the public were told. When were the Scottish government told? Ministers


found out on Friday as well and died early Saturday divorced


Minister was on the phone to the head of UK operations for Shell, to


make sure that ever operations team would be set up for the Scottish


government in Aberdeen. Our interest is to make sure that we


protect the marine environment, because all the other issues


involved are reserved to the UK government in London. Did you ask


why there was such a delay between the League capping on Wednesday and


Scottish ministers been told on Friday? -- the leak happening.


companies can be more open and transparent, but we have to


understand the conditions they were operating in. We were initially


told this was a minor incident. But when the aircraft took to the skies


and look to the oil Sheehan, and information was monitored from the


oil company, it became clear that this was more than a minor incident,


but quite a substantial leak, albeit in the context of what has


happened in the rest of the world, it is not much evidence that damage


has been caused and Olay the wind and waves will disperse the ongoing


leak. -- hopefully. Are you confident that the Scottish


government will discover what caused this leak? The UK government


offices responsible for offshore pollution set in and set up an


operations room in consensus with the oil company, Shell, in Aberdeen


and they take over, and it is up to the individual who runs that on


behalf of the UK Secretary of State to make sure that Shell is doing at


the end has to do to stop this week. -- everything it has to do. Then it


reports to the UK government and the Scottish government, because we


are very concerned about what is happening and we want to be part of


that investigation. You have talked about this leap been significant.


How significant will it be in terms of Ireland -- environmental damage?


That is why the Scottish government is taking such a close interest


because of the damage to the marine environment. We are speaking about


a leaked far out at sea. This league has been slowed down in


terms of the leak from a pipe. That means it is more likely to be


disbursed by the North Sea. The evidence is that there is no


potential damage to marine wildlife. There is very little money and


wildlife known about in the area well as league has a cup. -- marine


wildlife. Ornithologists are checking the bird population to see


if there is any there, and we are in contact with the RSPB. Is it


significant that nobody from the company has been available to be


interviewed about their handling of this? I have encouraged Shell to be


as open and transparent as possible, because that is what the public


expect, we want the Scottish public to be kept up-to-date. But Shell


should be open and transparent, because people want to know and


trust that the right thing is happening and that is why we should


be hearing from them as often as possible and we would encourage


them to be as open and transparent as possible. We in the Scottish


government are being open and transparent. Listening to that is


the Sunday Herald's Environment Editor, Rob Edwards, who joins me


now. How concerned should we be about this leak? We should be very


concerned. It bears all the hallmarks of what has happened in


the past when industries have major problems - they did not tell us


immediately. When they do tell us, they played down and then it


emerges as a much bigger problem and, that looks like the pattern


here. The Scottish government, along with the rest of us, did not


know about it until two days after it happened, and only now, five


days after it happened, how we had any hard information from Shell


about what happened, and that is more alarming than anything we have


had before. A is it possible that Shell did not have that


information? I don't know about that but it did the amazing if they


did not know more about it and they actually told us. What is


disturbing to me is that not only has a lot of oil been leaked but it


is still leaking. According to Shell, one ton each they are still


coming out and they are still trying to plug it. The history of


these things, with the experience of BP and the Gulf of Mexico is


that they tend to downplay them and then the truth comes out and that


The North Sea is a vast body of water, the amount of oil which has


leaked into it is significant according to Shell, but it's not


all that significant, is it? This isn't major in comparison to other


leaks in other parts of the world. It's not as bad as a major oil leak


next to a coastline. But I was a little surprised to hear the


minister saying that this is an area where there's no marine life.


I somewhat doubt that. I'm sure there is some marine life. We know


oil is damaging to marine life. We're at the stage where Shell and


the Government are reassuring us it's going to be, but we don't


actually know what the damage will be to wildlife. But we know that


oil can be damaging. Maybe it will be dispersed and maybe there won't


be a major problem, but it would provide more comfort to the public


if there was more information about what the threat is and what it's


likely to be. Does the fact that it's getting more difficult to get


access to some of the oil reserves in the North Sea make incidents


like this more likely in the future? Yes, I think it does. I


mean, oil is becoming more and more expensive to extract because it's


running out. Therefore, oil companies, including Shell, are


going to deeper and more dangerous places like the Arctic to find oil.


And obviously, the deeper and more dangerous places they go to the


risk of an accident increases. It's not, you know, this kind of


experience isn't encouraging. There's a wider issue behind that


which is whether we should be drilling more oil in the first


place, because we know that every drop of oil we take out of the sea


will be burnt and will worsen the climate change crisis that the


world is heading towards. Edwards, thank you very much for


joining us this evening. 30 years ago Glasgow City Council


granted Nelson Mandela the freedom of the city. It was the first city


to do so. In 1981, when Mandela was still in jail, convicted of


terrorism, it was far from uncontroversial. Glasgow continued


to be a centre of anti-apartheid campaigns throughout the 1980s.


David Pratt, now foreign editor of the Sunday Harold was involved in


those campaigns. (the Sunday herald) We asked him to look back.


It's a long way from the dank confines of a jail to the streets


of Glasgow city centre, but in 1993, the world's most famous political


prisoner, Nelson Mandela made that very journey. Mandela's long walk


to liberty after more than 27 years of incarceration and his arrival in


Glasgow in 1993 to collect his freedom of the city honour has long


since entered the annuls of political folklore.


I have Cherished the idea of a democratic and free society in


which all persons live together in harmony and with equal


opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve,


but if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die. These


days as Glasgow commemorates the 3078 anniversary of Mandela


receiving that award, it's something the city is rightly proud


of and looking back to 1981, when it was first destowed on him, would


seem only natural for a city, then so identifyibly social in its


leanings. 25 years ago on busy Friday afternoons like this, I used


to come to this place. I was then a young journalist and activist with


the anti-apartheid movement. On those afternoons I would join other


activists outside what was then the South African consulate in the


building behind me. This place was then known as St George's place.


Later, it became known as Nelson But as I know only too well, from


my days as an activist, Mandela's freedom of the city was a hard-won


battle that had its heroes andville ans both close to home and far


overseas. It was when the Lord Provost held a controversial lunch


for the South African minister, that the level of activism in


Scotland hotted up. David hodge's performance with South Africa was


one great embarrassment to the Labour group. That was one reason


why we obliged him to leave. He simply didn't see the connection


between standing up for gas weedgeians rights and standing up


for oppressed South Africans. We were able to set the record


straight. That was one of the motivating factors. He is an


individual. We are the people who Glasgow Labour group was becoming


increasingly embroiled in the battle against apartheid, the real


front line remained the movement's organisation of rallies, concerts,


demonstrations and a weekly picket at the South African consulate.


started with the freedom of the city. Glasgow being the first city


in the world to do so in 1981. After that, we led the way in many


ways. We saw this as a focus of course, with South African


consulate being here. So, the pickets had a real focus. People


got to know that the consulate was there, represented the apartheid


regime in Glasgow. There was more to this political activity than


just public, mainstream demonstrations and rallies. There


was also a thriving covert movement. Orderary Scots acted as couriers,


procured documents, established safe houses in Glasgow for those in


exile and were even involved with arms smug tolling the ANC in South


I think quite heroic young people and some older people, who wents in


and out of South Africa delivering documentation, delivering money.


These were Scots? These were Scots, but from Britain generally. Some


who took part in overland safari delivering weapons. That was, they


were literally sitting on a keg of dynamite, so to speak, and they


played a role which showed the essential humanism of human beings


who are going to help others. wasn't in the same as working


underground in South Africa, but we were working with people who were


working underground and trying to assist them and sometimes of course,


it's easier for a white to do By 1986 when St George's place,


home to the South African consulate was renamed Nelson Mandela place,


Glasgow's reputation as a bastion of anti-apartheid activity was well


and truly established. It was a move, however, that wasn't to


everyone's liking. Among the most vociferous opponents were the


Conservative group, who had consistently tried to block the


city's association with the ANC and indeed so Nelson Mandela was


nothing more than a terrorist. was convicted of planning to carry


out a series of explosions in public transport which would have


resulted in very many innocent civilians being killed. Clearly


that was a major issue. It was a wet and windy day in Glasgow,


Saturday, 9th October 1993, when Nelson Mandela finally came in


person to receive his apart of free of the city. I will always look


back to this occasion with fond memories, because I now have had


the opportunity to thank directly the men and women who have taken


interest in events taking place 6,000 miles away. It was a moment


Glasgow should always be proud of, a moment when most Scots, to their


credit, decided to take a stand and fight for something they


instinctively knew to be right. It Let's have a look at the


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