Pylon workers ‘abiding by rules’ insists SSEN amid mounting public fears

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Electricity giant Scottish and Southern Energy insists contractors on a new power line through Mid Argyll are abiding by government COVID-19 guidelines despite public concerns that workers could spread the virus.

People from Lochgilphead to Inveraray have repeatedly expressed the view that workers with main contractor on the Inveraray-Crossaig project Balfour Beatty risk spreading coronavirus by travelling home to various parts of the UK at weekends.

Scottish and Southern Electricity Networks (SSEN) this week insisted that the line of pylons in question is an ‘ageing and failing asset’ so work must continue – and backed its contractor.

A spokesperson for SSEN Transmission said: ‘As critical workers, designated by government, we and our contractors follow strict government and industry guidance and have introduced new operating procedures.

‘As a controlled phased return to full construction activity continues in the coming weeks, we will continue to review all operating procedures, adapting our activities in line with any changes to government and industry guidance in what continues to be an evolving situation.’

Argyll and Bute MSP Michael Russell, however, believes that the project should be halted until the community’s concerns are addressed.

‘I have been very clear to my constituents and to SSEN,’ said Mr Russell. ‘I accepted initially their claim that they were ensuring compliance and safe practices but there has been overwhelming evidence from local people that this is not the case.

‘The company, however, does not appear willing to listen to the local community which I think is a poor way to treat local residents.’

Mid Argyll councillors Sandy Taylor and Dougie Philand say they have been contacted by local people about the issue.

Mr Taylor said he ‘shares their concerns’, adding: ‘We can but hope that everyone involved – both the visiting workforce and those with whom they staying here in Mid Argyll – behave responsibly and rigidly adhere to minimum standards of social distancing.’

‘SSEN are totally aware of this situation,’ Mr Philand said, ‘but are choosing not to clamp down on it. This smacks of big companies doing what they want irrespective of the consequences for those of us who live locally.’

A Balfour Beatty spokesperson said the firm was adhering to the Construction Leadership Council’s COVID-19 site operating procedures.

‘At our Inveraray to Port Ann transmission link project, we have implemented a range of measures to reduce, wherever possible, interaction between our employees and the local community. This includes temporary on-site accommodation and the introduction of alternative ways to re-fuel project vehicles instead of using local petrol stations.

‘Those employees who do not reside locally to the project and return home for days off do so following UK Government guidance which permits all critical workers to travel to and from their workplace as required.’