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Coal mining companies heaped gifts on local councillors

COUNCILLORS accepted hospitality - including Christmas hampers, whisky and a four-night trip to Barcelona to watch Celtic - from mining companies which wrought environmental havoc on their community and eventually went into liquidation.

The revelations about East Ayrshire Council come after a report found the authority failed to hold opencast coal operators Scottish Coal and ATH Resources to account over the environmental damage they were causing.

Both firms went into liquidation and a disciplinary investigation is under way at the council. The inquiry's report said: "There have been suggestions the relationship between the mining companies and East Ayrshire Council officials was inappropriate or worse."

Information from East Ayrshire Council revealed the late Jimmy Kelly, Labour member for Ballochmyle who died in January 2012, was treated by Scottish Coal to return flights, a hotel stay and tickets for Barcelona v Celtic at the Nou Camp in March 2008.

Kathy Morrice, serving SNP councillor for Cumnock and New Cumnock, was invited to a dinner dance and night at the Queensferry Hotel courtesy of ATH Resources. She also received bottles of wine at Christmas and was treated to lunches and Burns suppers. She was unavailable for comment.

Other Labour members, including William Crawford and William "Barney" Menzies, were given bottles of whisky almost every Christmas.

Council leader Douglas Reid, of the SNP, went to a coal industry lunch in Glasgow with Keir Mining in April 2013, but insisted this and similar trips were to promote jobs and investment in a high-unemployment area. He said: "The majority of councillors are there for the right reasons. It's sad their reputations can be tarnished by the actions of others. We need to get the trust back."

Councillor Menzies, a member of the National Union of Mineworkers and former Scottish Coal employee, denied being compromised in any planning issues, and said he donated all the whisky to a miners' convalescent home.

Councillor Crawford said he declared all gifts, but said: "Maybe in hindsight I shouldn't have taken it."

Contextual targeting label: 
Local government

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