A cash pot of about £15 million collected by the UK Government from the Scottish coal industry should be "put to good and proper use" to help restore old opencast mines, says Scottish Energy Minister Fergus Ewing.

He has pressed UK Energy Minister Michael Fallon for the money, raised from coal levies, to be reinvested north of the border.

But he said he had not yet received a "substantive reply" from his UK Government counterpart, accusing him of showing a "disrespect to the people of Scotland".

Mr Ewing raised the issue as the Scottish Open Cast Mining Taskforce, which was set up last year in the wake of the closure of Scottish Coal, met for the sixth time. Scottish Coal collapsed in April last year, resulting in about 600 people losing their job, and has since been criticised for failing to restore several mines.

But since then progress has been made on restoring sites in Fife, East and South Ayrshire and Dumfries and Galloway, with the Scottish Government expecting up to 550 jobs could be created doing this work in the coming months.

Mr Ewing said this had been achieved after the taskforce, which includes the UK and Scottish governments, the Coal Authority, local councils, the Scottish Environ­ment Protection Agency, unions and others had "worked hard collectively to foster the positive action and engagement that has led to the creation of so many new jobs".

He added: "This is great news for the economies of the affected mining communities."