Nuclear bomb shelters

Wednesday August 7th 2019

Midlothian Council

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Marie Sharp

A bid to find out how many public nuclear bomb shelters exist across Scotland sparked security concerns at Midlothian council who refused to answer on defence grounds.

The council ruled the question a matter of national security and said it was not in the public interest to say how many shelters were available to them.

And they argued that it would expose their strengths and weaknesses.

A Freedom of Information request to all 32 Scottish local authorities asked how many shelters there are in their areas.

But while 23 councils responded that they either had no shelters or no records of any, Midlothian Council decided it could not answer the question in the defence of public safety.

Responding to the question, they said: “The release of this information is being refused on the grounds of exemption contained in section 31 of FOISA – National Security and Defence.

“The information would enable comparisons of strengths and weakness with other areas.”

The officer who made the decision went on to say that they had also carried out a public interest test and added:

“I am satisfied that the public interest in safeguarding public safety and counter terrorism matters outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

The question posed to the councils on the What Do They Know website was “With increased geopolitical tensions in the world between the west and major superpowers such as Russia and China, how many bomb shelters (including nuclear bomb shelters) are available for the public to take shelter in?”

Only one other local authority declined to answer with Comhairle nan Eilan Siar believing it was a question for Police Scotland to respond to not them.

Seven council have so far not provided information.

Of those who have City of Edinburgh Council said that while it has no information about any public bomb shelters it could not rule out any “legacy” sites which may exist through other agencies such as the “now disbanded UK Warning and Monitoring Organisation and the former Royal Observer Corps”.

Dumfries and Galloway said it has no remit to provide bomb shelters, nuclear or otherwise, but added that in the Eighties they had an “emergency centre for the purposes of coordinating the local civil response to a nuclear attack, not for shelter of the public, however in the 28 years subsequent to the end of the Cold War this facility has been repurposed and modified and as such would no longer be suitable for this purpose.”

Other councils provided far shorter replies. East Lothian Council’s response was “nil”.

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