"The Government have clearly sent the message to Shell, ‘you can do whatever you want’. Fortunately due to protest, the refinery remains unconnected to the gas field. If, as Shell planned, gas had been flowing by now, we would potentially all be dealing with a gas leak and explosion.”
SECURITY has been stepped up at the Scottish offices of several major companies amid fears of direct action by protesters opposed to their work on a gas pipeline and refinery in Ireland.Bases in Aberdeen and the Highlands are being targeted by supporters of the so-called Rossport Five, who have achieved martyr status after spending 94 days in prison for breaching court orders restraining interference with the pipeline, which is linked to the Corrib gas field. International attention has focused on the development in Mayo following last year's jailing of the three small farmers and two retired teachers. Their cause has attracted global support in what is seen as a David and Goliath battle, and sparked the creation of a major protest campaign.The five have not only had a ballad dedicated to them, but last month were invited to be grand marshals of the St Patrick's Day parade in San Francisco.Their campaign is based on a belief that the development will bring virtually no local benefit, but significant safety and environment risks. On the other side are Shell and the Irish government, who say it is of strategic national importance and could supply 60% of all Irish gas needs.
The Rossport Solidarity Camp has been established on the Mayo shoreline near the beachhead where the pipeline is meant to hit land. Residents from the camp and members of the Shell to Sea campaign, which is trying to force the company to process the gas offshore and so reduce the risks, have been trying to disrupt work at the Bellanaboy gas terminal construction site.Now Scottish contractors working for Shell are considered at risk, having been identified by the campaigners who have suggested protesting at all offices of these companies. In recent literature, they highlight Technip and Transocean as ''two companies doing offshore work for Shell with UK offices''.Technip is responsible for the multi-million pound contract to project manage and install a 52-mile umbilical (which carries control and communication cables) and install five wellhead protection structures. The protesters identify their bases at Westhill on the outskirts of Aberdeen and in Evanton in Ross-shire. They also highlight the offices in Queens Gate, Aberdeen, of Genesis Oil & Gas Consultants, which is owned by Technip.The Transocean vessel Sedco 711 is working on the project, and its offices and training centre on the Altens industrial estate in Aberdeen are pinpointed. The addresses are carried on the website of Earth First, which says it is an organisation which uses ''direct action to confront, stop, and eventually reverse the forces that are responsible for the destruction of the earth and its inhabitants''.It includes links to organisations which offered training in direct action and civil disobedience in the run-up to the G8 conference at Gleneagles.Last night, all of the contractors referred calls to Shell. A Shell spokesman in Aberdeen said that they had ''appropriate measures in place'' and did not discuss security measures.However, The Herald understands the oil giant is taking the threats of action seriously and has alerted all its contractors. Heightened security measures have been implemented, particularly with mobilisation of Technip's Corrib contract due to begin this month.The Rossport Five say they remain committed to preventing the development in its present form. Last week they made a further court appearance in relation to their refusal to comply with the order preventing them from obstructing the pipeline work. They were spared any more time in jail, but had costs awarded against them which could run into hundreds of thousands of pounds.