Nuclear Membership no one knew about

Friday October 5th 2018

Nuclear Free Local Authorities

Written by Local Democracy Report, Marie Sharp

Midlothian council paid more than £1,300 to be a member of an organisation its elected representatives did not even know it was in.

Midlothian Council’s membership of Nuclear Free Local Authorities (NFLA) only came to light when one of its councillors tabled a motion asking that they rejoin the group.

Officials were asked to investigate the council’s status before a decision was made and produced a report revealing they were already a member and had paid an annual subsidy of £1,340 for the current year.

The lack of clarity was put down by Councillor Russell Imrie as an “administration blip” . He was confirmed as the council’s representative on the group.

However, it led to Tory councillors demanding the local authority withdraw its membership.

Councillor Andrew Hardie said: “Given it has taken a paper to identify that Midlothian Council was even a member of this organisation I would question what worth this organisation is to the council.

“I am not entirely sure why we are wasting money being a member of this organisation which, as far as I can see, doesn’t seem to have achieved anything.

“I would also question how we could ever truly be a nuclear-free local authority? Our schools, our university buildings, our hospitals and some of our industrial buildings all require items that are radioactive.

“We have nuclear elements across Midlothian in these facilities so the reality is we are not a nuclear-free local authority and this is an organisation that is costing money we can ill afford.”

Councillor Joe Wallace, SNP, defended the membership, saying vehicles carrying nuclear weapons parked overnight in Midlothian near three schools.

He had asked the council to renew its membership at a meeting in August because he believed the local authority had left the group.

The NFLA describes itself as the local government voice on nuclear issues and encourages local authorities to adopt anti-nuclear policies.

It said it has around 50 local authority members – 12 in Scotland including Midlothian.

Councillor Wallace said: “I think it is important that Midlothian is a member of the NFLA. We are one of the councils where they park up nuclear weapons overnight within 100 yards of three of our schools and the MOD shows total disregard for the way they convoy this material, nuclear waste and weapons.

“They travel in all weathers. It has been proved time and time again that they have had accidents, fortunately not too serious but the next one may well be.”

However Councillor Kieran Munro backed leaving the organisation saying: “I am tired of telling my constituents ‘sorry we don’t have any money’.

“We quite clearly do have money if we are funnelling it into things like this. I don’t think we should be sending them any more money; I don’t doubt the sincerity of this organisation but I am sorry there are other things we could give over a thousands pounds to.”

A motion by Councillor Hardie to have membership withdrawn in future years was defeated.

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