Sir Walter Scott's eponymous hero The Young Lochinvar immortalised the place with his "racing and chasing on Cannonbie Lee".

Yesterday, the local news on the 100-year-old parish hall bulletin board told of three drivers cautioned recently for speeding, an outbreak of the squirrel-pox virus, trouble at the teenage disco and the upcoming sheepdog trials.

But Canonbie, a tiny Dumfriesshire village with a population of just under 400 and two miles from England, has been touted as the most likely location for a revival of traditional coal mining in Scotland.

First Minister Alex Salmond has already declared "coal is king" and confessed to favouring a resurrection of an industry which has been largely defunct in Scotland for two decades, as a greener option to the creation of new nuclear power plants.

The development of clean coal'' technology, the First Minister believes, could lead to the reopening of mothballed mines in Newtongrange, Monktonhall, Prestonpans and Kirkcaldy to feed Scotland's two coal-fired power stations - Longannet and Cockenzie - and create the need for a new generation of deep coal mines, the last of which, the Longannet complex, shut in 2002.

It is thought that deep seams run for miles underneath the Canonbie area and could yield 400 million tonnes of coal, enough to keep the Longannet power station going for the next 80 years.

Scottish Coal, which owns most of Scotland's opencast mines, has confirmed that it has carried out ground tests in the area but would need a commitment on coal from Westminster before proceeding with the scheme.

Another deep mine, which will extract coke, is planned by energy giant Corus for South Wales, a scheme which is taken as further evidence that the fuel of the industrial revolution could be set for a 21st-century comeback.

Energy watchers will not be surprised by the renewed focus on coal, especially against a backdrop of growing dependence on gas from Russia, the flow of which could be determined by a volatile international situation.

What is perhaps more surprising is the location of the frontrunner for Scotland's first deep mine in a generation.

The Town of the Canons'', as well as the Lochinvar reference, is known mainly for its site on the banks of the River Esk, one of Scotland's best-known salmon and sea trout rivers.

Nestling in a wooded hollow, it is home to little more than a small hotel, antiques store, tearoom and a post office, a staging post for many who visit the area for the pheasant shooting season.

Its residents consist mainly of politically active pensioners from both sides of the border, young families with farming backgrounds and commuters who work in Carlisle, Dumfries and as far away as Newcastle and Glasgow.

Six years on it is still mourning the after-effects of the foot-and-mouth crisis, being one of the worst-hit areas in the UK. Mention mining, however, to anyone in the area and they can provide a 250-year history, a progress report on the work carried out by Scottish Coal and a balanced analysis of what a deep mine would mean for rural Dumfriesshire.

Mines in the area have been traced back to the mid-1700s, the last closing in Rowanburn, a mile from Canonbie, in 1922.

Limestone was mined in the area until the early 1960s, while Scottish Coal's ground testing in Canonbie earlier this year is just the latest in a long process some claim stretches back to the 1950s.

Just a dozen miles away is the former Chapelcross nuclear power station, while a biomass plant in nearby Lockerbie is well under construction.

Ian Lindsay handles the local post run and, as the local Tory councillor, many of the residents' needs and gripes.

The 63-year-old has lived all his days in Canonbie but traces his family to mining stock from Shotts and Kirkcaldy.

It could, he claims, bring an economic boon to an area in need of employment for its younger generation although the older inhabitants would think of it as "a dirty, messy carry-on".

He added: "Without proper infrastructure, especially transportation, it wouldn't go down well at all.

"People still see the scars of mining elsewhere and would not want that mess and grime affecting their little village.

"But I'd like to see the proposal being fully investigated. We knew the coal was there and would be exploited at some time but there are huge risks we need to be kept informed of."

Stephen Laverack has run the Crosskeys Hotel in the village for five years but is selling up. The tourist trade is not what it was, especially with the salmon stocks now seriously depleted.

He knows of the existence of three coal seams, running from Canonbie right into the Solway Firth at Workington, Cumbria. While extra bodies would be a benefit to any hotelier in the area, he has his doubts if the scheme would survive local resentment.

"If it was near the town I can't see the residents supporting it. There is a lot of heavy traffic through the town carrying timber and stones from the quarries," he said.

"Closer to the motorway would be a more sensible option, but even then I don't know. But the big issues would be consultation and the real concerns about ground subsidence would need to be addressed."

The younger generation also weighs up the pros and cons.

Toni Dinwoodie, 20, is one of the few local young people with no immediate plans to head to the cities. A gamekeeper and farmhand, she said keeping more young people in the area with decent employment and increased prosperity were the obvious plus points.

A sudden influx of newcomers and an extra blow to the farming community was the downside.

She said: "I'd imagine that if a new mine opened that new people would come into the area, which isn't necessarily a good thing because they often bring new problems.

"So many people move or retire here for the quiet but our experience of some of those who were here during the testing wasn't that positive.

"Mining has come on so much, we know it's greener and we're used to Chapelcross but it would devastate so much of the farmland, the tenant farmers would lose out and only the landowners benefit."

The talk of the possibility of a new mine in the area for the first time in 85 years has led to Dumfriesshire MSP Elaine Murray demanding a meeting with Scottish Coal's senior management.

Reassurance of the environmental impact is the big issue, but she sees the potential for a new industry in Dumfriesshire.

"We could become a region known for specialising in new energies, including clean coal, nuclear energy, bio-fuels and wind and tidal energy," she said.

"That brings with it the potential for the area to also become a centre for energy research and development."

There is still some cynicism about Mr Salmond's remarks on coal. Some see it as a short-term political reaction to Labour-run Westminster's proposals on the UK's nuclear facilities, while evoking images of a glorious industrial past with an environmental future.

If that is the case, and the Prime Minister-in-waiting has no intentions of finding common ground with the Nationalist-led executive, then local farmer Mitch Carlyle could be right.

The pensioner said: "They were testing on my land 12 years ago and drilling on my neighbour's at the same time.

"Nothing came of it. I heard the same again about three years ago. Again nothing. I won't be holding my breath this time."