By a Newsnet reporter

SNP MSP Annabelle Ewing has written to the Ministry of Defence urging ministers to launch an investigation into why a UK Cabinet report written 50 years ago was not passed on to MoD officials. 

The report, written in 1958, warned of the risks of radiation at sites where wartime aircraft were scrapped and dumped – including Dalgety Bay.

The BBC says it has seen a copy of the confidential report from 1958 warning of “undesirably high levels of radiation” at sites where aircraft were broken down.  The report stated that records should be kept and “handed on to future users of the land”. 

However this was not done at Dalgety Bay, where campaigners have fought for decades to get the MoD to take responsibility for cleaning up the site currently under threat of closure due to radioactive contamination.

The report was written one year before the former airbase at Donibristle was closed.  The land was later sold for development and much of the area is now occupied by housing.

Highly radioactive particles, believed to originate in radium based paint used on instrumentation panels in the wartime aircraft, have been washed up on the beach at Dalgety Bay.  The beach is adjacent to a landfill site where wartime aircraft were burned and dismantled after WW2. 

Due to the geology of the area, particles from the landfill are being washed out of the site into the waters of the bay, where the tides in the Firth of Forth carry them onto the beach.  

The problem is so severe that it is feared that part of the beach could be designated as radioactive-contaminated land, the first time in the UK this measure will have been adopted.

The MoD argues that the leakage of particles has been caused in part by later building and development, and has refused to take responsibility for cleaning up the site.

The Ministry conducted a survey of the area in September 2011, discovering only 33 radioactive fragments.  However scientists from the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) later carried out their own survey and discovered over four hundred contaminated fragments, some of which were 76 times more radioactive than the previous discoveries.

Speaking to the Sunday Herald after the SEPA survey, SEPA’s radioactive specialist Dr Paul Dale said he had doubts over the reliability of the MoD investigation.

Dr Dale said: “We’ve raised our concerns with the MoD and they say it was done competently but because of what we’ve found we’ve no grounds to believe them.  We don’t believe that the MoD’s survey was effective.”

Speaking to the BBC, Michael Meacher MP, former minister for the environment, said he ordered officials to identify and produce clean-up plans for all the contaminated sites in 1997.  Mr Meacher said:  “I am astonished and deeply concerned that that does not appear to have happened.”

In 2009, when local MP Gordon Brown was Prime Minister, scientists from the MoD refused to analyse particles discovered at the site, citing fears that it could give them cancer.  Mr Brown has since come under heavy criticism for taking no action to clear up Dalgety Bay when he was Prime Minister and had the authority to order the MoD to act.

Speaking in response to reports that the 1958 report had become public knowledge, the defence minister, Andrew Robathan, said:

“Where MoD is found to be a party responsible, namely, the appropriate person, in whole or part for contaminated land under the statutory regime, then we will work with the regulator and other responsible and interested parties such as landowners, to meet our portion of the liability and carry out voluntary remediation where appropriate.”

However doubts remain over the actions of the MoD and whether it has been open and transparent about the danger its previous activities pose to public health.  Ms Ewing, SNP MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife, said the 1958 report raises the question as to what other information has been withheld.

She said:

“This report is deeply disturbing as someone knew about the potential risks at the site.

“I have written to the Ministry of Defence asking why, after being written in a report over half a century ago, this information was never sought out or passed on.

“I am urging the MoD to clarify the situation as quickly as possible and to take this matter forward to find out what other information has been withheld.

“Why did no-one put the interests of the people of Fife first and bring this information to light?

“The MoD has avoided dealing with this clean-up for over two decades and leaked emails even showed the UK’s health watchdog was accused of downplaying the risks of the contamination by one of its own leading advisers.

“The main concern should be for the people of Fife – they deserve better than this.”


2012-05-03 07:39

I’m sure that Michael Meacher will be interested in the news that he served in John Major’s Cabinet.
2012-05-03 07:55

They deserve a better MP than Gordon Brown so why is he still there picking the public purse for doing nothing constructive. Unfortunately his malevolence towards the SNP has spread to all his party in Scotland.
2012-05-03 08:58

Gordon Brown needs kicked into touch, he is a conniving, sneaky low life.
I called him the “Pickpocket” when he was chancellor and more, when he was Prime Minister.
Nothing he says or does approaches reality, self gratification and self advancement.
He is no good for his constituents who he obviously has hoodwinked over the radiation issue which he had known about for many years.It is sad for Scotland that we have him and many others like him in our midst.
2012-05-03 08:59

The Scottish Government should ORDER the MOD to clean up the site.
2012-05-03 10:14

And how would they enforce this order, UpSpake?
2012-05-03 10:16

Surely defence is a reserved issue ? 🙂
2012-05-03 10:24

Indeed. It’s all very well to sabre-rattle. But if you don’t have any sabres to rattle, what then? Then you just look foolish when nothing happens.
2012-05-03 11:03

Sabre-rattling ? I’m not sure thats how many would see it.

Is there a contamination issue at Dalgety Bay ? – Yes

Should we be pressuring the MOD and Westminster to do something about it ? – Yes

Is anything actually being done about it by the MOD or Westminster ? – No, (not really)

I actually wish that SEPA had declared parts of the bay as ‘contaminated land’ – it may force the issue a little more. After all, is the bay a health hazard ? -Yes

When nothing happens or no action is forthcoming I think it’s the MOD and Westminster that will look foolish, not the people calling for something to be done thats been ignored for decades.
2012-05-03 11:35

There’s nothing wrong with raising a stushie about it and demanding action. But UpSpake, if I read him/her correctly, wants more than that. It’s in line with his general complaint that the SNP leadership is too soft. I don’t buy this criticism. Of course, pressure should be put on the MOD. The more pressure, the better IMO.

2012-05-03 09:40

The MOD is clearly the source of the contamination and they can’t blame a subsequent developer for disturbing an unlined landfill that they didn’t know about nor know what was in it. “The Polluter Pays” is meant to be the principle behind the contaminated land regulations and SEPA is rightly keeping up the pressure on the MOD, who couldn’t care less it is clear.

Also, you can rest assured that most MOD airfields have their own little burning area or dump for this sort of material so this is just the tip of the radioactive iceberg.

Oh, and editors note – it’s the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, not Environmental). Otherwise, Keep up the good work lads.
2012-05-03 10:20

UpSpake: What sort of idiot are you? This matter is not in the remit of the Scottish Government, it is a reserved matter. The problem lies with the combination of Labour and Tory Westminster Governments together with the MOD. Westminster need to identify who was responsible among the Senior Civil Servants and sack them for incompetence of a very grave order with no pay-off or pension! The Minsters responsible should be publicly named and shamed.
The current Westminster Government needs to take IMMEDIATE ACTION to resolve this problem with an urgent clean up.
2012-05-03 10:32

Surely it would start with a threat to take the MOD to court by the S/G.
If that does not work, make sure of our legal case and sue them for costs of clearing it all up. Same for any other areas contaminated by reckless dumping.
No better than fly tippers!
2012-05-03 11:37

That sounds like a better approach to me. But, bear in mind that the Norwegian and Irish governments have in the past taken the UK to court over the pollution affecting their coastlines from Windscale/Sellafield, and that hasn’t ended the problem. But it’s always worth a try, I suppose. Makes more sense than ‘ordering’ the MOD to clear it up.

2012-05-03 11:54

Come on guys get real its only Scotland for goodness sake, what does it matter if families in fife get cancer, there are too many Scots in the UK anyway so why should Westminster give a toss about a few Scots.

As long as London is safe that’s, all that matters. Besides, you must understand that it is part of the UNION DIVIDEND!!
2012-05-03 12:16

Quoting rob4i:

Come on guys get real its only Scotland for goodness sake, what does it matter if families in fife get cancer, there are too many Scots in the UK anyway so why should Westminster give a toss about a few Scots.

As long as London is safe that’s, all that matters. Besides, you must understand that it is part of the UNION DIVIDEND!!

Absolutely spot on, rob4i. What still puzzles me is that the unionist parties have some support left in Scotland. It seems obvious to me that they have been conning us for years, and we have been stupid enough to put up with it. Hopefully, there is an even more seismic change coming, and there is another step forward when the results are announced tomorrow.

2012-05-03 13:03

Don’t vote Labour because of your PARENTS.
Vote SNP because of your CHILDREN!

2012-05-03 14:16

Here is another reason not to vote labour.…/…
Dundonian West
2012-05-03 14:26

SNORTS/TROUGHS.Disgraceful immoral behaviour.YES–IMMORAL.Perhaps ‘legal’,I don’t know,but it’s immoral,I’m Alright Jack behaviour.
“However last night a Treasury source said: “We inherited this practice from Labour who saw nothing wrong with it which is typical of their approach to tax fairness.”
Westminster at it again.
My highlighting.
2012-05-03 15:27

‘Unionists are people who when they see the light at the end of a tunnel go out and vote for more tunnel!’
After seeing J Lamentable at FMQs and then voting Labour one must be really in need of some professional help.

2012-05-03 15:22

Let us realise that we live within a corrupt system. If we truly understand that,everything becomes clearer.
The HAVE’s have it, the don’t have’s, don’t get it.
2012-05-03 15:50

According to wikipedia, Michael Meacher was Minister responsible for environment between 1997 and 2003. So for him to claim that he ordered cleanup plans to be produced in 1997, and is now astonished that they were not, is quite pathetic. Did he not follow up on his orders?

Not quite so pathetic, however, as Gordon Brown: “The MoD has come under fire from former prime minister Gordon Brown for trying to evade responsibility for cleaning up the contamination it has caused.”…/…

Maybe that should be their new slogan: LABOUR. AVOIDING RESPONSIBILITY.

P.S. Good to see that Mad Jock McMad put them right on the Guardian site… more power to your keyboard, Mad Jock.
crann tara
2012-05-03 21:19

Hi everyone.I,m new here.Ihave thoroughly enjoyed reading the articles and comments on the site since its start,but this is my first foray.I,m aware that there are sites other than Dalgety Bay with similiar poisonous problems but there is one in particular that springs to my mind.The Holy Loch.When our friends and guardians the yanks steamed over the horizon all those years ago part of the legacy left to us was low level nuclear waste in the loch.However they did assure us,and our wonderful politicians in westminster accepted the assurances,that as long as the loch was undisturbed it was safe.Recently the foreshore of the loch has been dug up in places by large jcb,s and no readings appear to have been taken on radiation levels.I,m sure that this is only an oversight by our Westminster masters.As for the radio-active dials etc at Dalgety the(mainly)wome  n who painted them used fine paint brushes and on occasion would lick the brush tip whilst doing so.It should come as no surprise to discover that lots of these young women contracted various cancers as a result of this work.A lot of this work was carried out in Canada and a Canadian documentary showed that their graves could be discerned by using a geiger counter.That is how dangerous this stuff is.M.O.D.get it cleared.
2012-05-03 22:23

Firstly, welcome!

Secondly, hadn’t heard about the Canadian case, so did a quick search and found following entry in Wikipedia, which explains in more detail:…/…

“U.S. Radium and other watch-dial companies rejected claims that the afflicted workers were suffering from exposure to radium. For some time, doctors, dentists, and researchers complied with requests from the companies not to release their data.”

What is it with any company involved in the nuclear industry? Rhetorical question of course.
2012-05-03 22:24

Welcome along to the site, nice to hear from some new voices.

Thats interesting, I had no idea about the method for painting these aircraft dials. I know that when radium was first discovered and produced they used it in everything from washing powder to toothpaste such was the blind belief in the benefits of the substance.

2012-05-05 09:57

And then there’s this from 2005 ..…/…
Add in the continued use of DU A/T rounds stil being fired at the Dundrennan range in D&G;, its a wonder we arent all glowing in the dark!
Ard Righ
2012-05-05 10:20

Wouldn’t it be good if all the problems created by London are returned to London?

You must be logged-in in order to post a comment.