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Scottish Government ministers are in close contact with regulators amid concerns of a “crisis” at the Mossmorran chemical plant.
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said there was “no doubt about the very understandable concerns” of residents after flaring at the Fife plant last week.
Local politicians pressed the First Minister on community concerns about the plant – with Green MSP Mark Ruskell claiming it was in “crisis”.
Challenging Ms Sturgeon at First Minister’s Questions, the Mid Scotland and Fife MSP said: “This Mosmorran plant is in crisis, communities are suffering, workers are striking.”
He urged the First Minister to ensure the Scottish Government is represented at a public meeting to discuss issues at the Mossmorran plant, owned by ExxonMobil.
SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing, who represents the Cowdenbeath constituency, highlighted the “major unplanned flaring incident” and the “walkout by some workers over reported concerns over health and safety”.
She told Ms Sturgeon that residents “remain very anxious about safety, and about health and environmental impacts”.
ExxonMobil has already said last week’s flaring was part of work to restart operations at the ethylene plant, which closed last August for maintenance work.
In September 2019, the company announced a £140 million plan to reduce such occurrences and improve infrastructure at the plant.
That came after the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa) launched a formal investigation into unplanned flaring at the plant last April following hundreds of complaints from residents about a chemical smell and rumbling noise.
Ms Sturgeon said the site was regulated by both Sepa and the Health and Safety Executive – adding for that reason it was not appropriate for Scottish Government ministers to be at the public meeting.
“It would not really be in anybody’s interests for ministers to step into territory that is rightly for Sepa and the Health and Safety Executive,” she said.
The First Minister stressed that “as things stand” data published by Sepa “suggests no breach of UK air quality standards” at Mossmorran.
The First Minister told MSPs: “It is not the case that ministers are refusing to attend a public meeting because they are not interested in this issue.
“There are regulatory enforcement actions under way right now and it is important ministers respect the independence of that process.”
She added: “Ministers understand and appreciate the seriousness of this issue.
“We will continue to keep in very close contact with the regulators and take whatever steps lie within our responsibilities to ensure appropriate action is taken.”