For the second weekend running protesters have gathered outside Mossmorran chemical plant in Fife.
More than 40 people assembled outside the gates to the plant near Cowdenbeath on Saturday afternoon, some holding placards calling for it to be shut down.
Among those who turned up were local members of the Extinction Rebellion movement, which recently blocked access to the Ineos oil refinery at Grangemouth.
The protests followed the most recent bout of flaring at Mossmorran earlier this month, which was the subject of more than 700 complaints to the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (Sepa).
They have been coordinated by local activist Rebecca Davies, who is leading a campaign called Actions Speak Louder than Words.
She said her biggest concern was the site’s impact on air quality and health – something plant operator ExxonMobil described last year as “near-impossible”.
An NHS Fife report released last year concluded there was no evidence the plant had caused higher than expected cancer rates or significant air quality impact on nearby communities.
But Ms Davies said: “The most important thing is it’s dirty air and it’s killing people, and I’ve seen it. I was a social worker in this area and and dealt with a lot of families who were struggling.
“I’ve never met so much death in one small area. Of course the NHS say there’s no proof, nobody can prove it, but believe me the respiratory problems, asthma problems, brain tumours and all sorts of other illnesses around Cardenden especially, Lochgelly, Ballingry and Cowdenbeath are, to my mind, extraordinarily high.”
Labour MSP for Mid Scotland and Fife Alex Rowley attended, along with Labour councillors Linda Erskine, Judy Hamilton, Alex Campbell and Mary Lockhart, and also independent councillor Linda Holt. David Ross, the Labour co-leader of Fife Council, had been at the previous weekend’s protest.
James Glen, who chairs Mossmorran Action Group, said: “This demonstration was spontaneously mobilised by residents after last week’s protest and despite the poor weather and covid restrictions the number of protestors increased. They believe direct action is the only way the Scottish Government will listen to their demands.
“The Scottish Government insists the plant is safe but the action of regulators, over 740 complaints to Sepa over the latest flaring and the 440 reports on the Mossmorran Action Group’s social impacts map suggest otherwise.
“The Scottish Government has refused to meet members of the affected communities. It has refused to commission an independent study into the environmental, social and health impacts of the plant and it won’t even talk about finding a just transition for its future.
“A poorly maintained plant which belches out dangerous pollution within sight of Holyrood is an issue for everyone in Scotland who cares about our climate emergency.”
In a video posted on social media, Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell sent a message of solidarity to the protesters.
“You have my support,” he said.
“I would be joining you were it not for the fact that where I live here is impacted by covid restrictions.
“But the work you are are doing is so important right now. It’s so important that the community voice is heard in this debate.”
He added: “I think there’s a chance here because the Scottish Government is starting to open up to the possibility of a life after Mossmorran and the need for a just transition for workers to move into the industries of the future.”
An ExxonMobil spokesperson said: ‘’We respect the right to peaceful protest and we ensured a safe space for those attending, but our priority is the safety of our employees and communities and so we took actions to ensure continued safe operations.
‘’We want to be a good neighbour to our host communities, and that is something more than 200 employees, and many more valued contractors, work hard to achieve every day.
‘’We understand the frustration that is caused by the use of our flare, and our commitment to reducing frequency is underlined by an additional £140 million investment in key infrastructure and new technologies due to begin in April.
‘’While already one of the most modern plants of its kind in Europe, we always look for ways to improve reliability through continued maintenance and investment.
‘’The Mossmorran facility is an integral part of Scotland’s energy supply, meeting the needs of homes and businesses nationwide. Furthermore, Fife Ethylene Plant directly supports the manufacturing supply chain for important products such as medical supplies, lightweight electric vehicles and food packaging.’’