Musselburgh Spill highlights abject failure by authorities

This weekend saw a tragic oil / petrol / diesel spill on the River Esk near Musselburgh.

Local activists and charities fought valiantly to stop the spill with home made booms and to save wildlife. They called on the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and East Lothian Council to take urgent action. They contacted MSPs to ask them to highlight the issue.

Shona McIntosh, Scottish Greens candidate for Musselburgh at the local elections in May, commented:

Local residents' ongoing response to the Musselburgh Spill has been nothing short of amazing.

But sadly, the authorities were asleep at the wheel. Eventually, they "investigated", found the problem but did nothing to stop the spill and took no action to help clean up the mess. Reports this morning are that finally the Council has deployed absorbent pillows to try and stem the flow.

But this has been an abject failure of the authorities in the face of a nature emergency.​

Residents and the East Lothian Green Party demand answers to the following urgent 15 questions:

  • What is the plan to clean up spill from the River and the Forth? How urgent will the response be?
  • What did SEPA / East Lothian Council do to STOP the spill, rather than observe it happening?
  • What measures did SEPA / East Lothian Council take to help clean up the spill and save wildlife?
  • What monitoring is in place to check water and air quality during the spill?
  • What is the result of this monitoring?
  • Is there any truth in reports from residents that SEPA / East Lothian Council only took action because the fire brigade was called out?
  • Do SEPA and East Lothian Council feel they took all steps necessary during the crisis?
  • What ongoing measures will SEPA / East Lothian Council / Scottish Water take to restore the Esk to its pre-Spill state?
  • What ongoing monitoring will be in place to advise residents on the safety of the Esk to children, pets and the local wildlife?
  • How will the results of this monitoring be published?
  • What was the cause of the spill and how did it happen?
  • Were SEPA / East Lothian Council aware of a potential spill from this site?
  • Is there any link between this spill and one in 2021 that affected the burns on the National Trust Scotland Newhailes Estate?
  • What action will be taken against those responsible for the spill?
  • What lessons have been learned to ensure a faster response to nature emergencies in the future?

We would urge Colin Beattie, MSP for Midlothian North & Musselburgh and all Lothian List MSPs, to demand answers to these questions and for those answers to be made public.

We would also encourage MSPs to raise in Parliament the Musselburgh Spill.

We also request the Minister for the Environment to press for action and to formally investigate if SEPA and East Lothian Council took all steps necessary to prevent the spill from getting worse, to clean up the mess after it was reported and to meet their statuatory duties and legal responsibilities.


Michael Philip / Friends of River Esk Group

Mike Clark

Shona McIntosh