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Cyanide Case Shows Need for Help in Managing Toxic Substances

Scottish Land & Estates, which represents 2,500 landowners throughout Scotland, has issued the following statement in response to a story reported on today (25 October 2012) of an accidental cyanide poisoning in Uig on the Isle of Lewis:

Luke Borwick, chairman of Scottish Land & Estates, said:

“Reports around the cyanide poisoning case were inaccurate for a number of reasons but also highlight the total failure of the relevant authorities in assisting individuals in disposing of potentially toxic substances within their charge.  Firstly, the affected person had a landholding of 200 acres and as such descriptions of him as an estate owner are wildly inaccurate.  He had come across keg of substance believed to be cyanide within premises he had recently come to own.  He proceeded, quite rightly, to contact both Western Isles Council and SEPA, both of whom failed to effectively assist him with disposal of the substance and, quite logically, he turned to a private contractor for help.  While packaging the material he inadvertently ingested some of the cyanide and emergency services were called in. 

“The predicament of this individual demonstrates the distinct lack of support available on disposal of toxic substances from the relevant Scottish Government agencies.  Scottish Land & Estates has called repeatedly for the Scottish government to take a proactive approach and introduce a clear process that will allow landowners and farmers to avoid exactly what has happened in this circumstance.  Now is surely the time to take action and put in place measures through the appropriate channels – presumably SEPA – to ensure these events are not replicated.  In addition, the inaccurate reporting both of this individual as an estate owner and, in some media outlets, with an intent to poison wild birds, is sensationalist and hugely disappointing since this in no way reflects the true situation”.


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