During the past three weeks I have republished six of my newspaper articles written while I was working as an investigative journalist in Scotland and North East England. The first looked at the likely governmental conspiracy over the outbreak of Foot and Mouth Disease in 2001 another at the secrecy of the Bilderberg organisation, a third was a piece about the top secret Aurora aircraft, the fourth looked at big cats at large in the UK and the fifth was an investigation into the mysterious death of Scottish Nationalist leader Willie McRae. The last piece looked at the extent of 40-year cover-up on exposure of British servicemen to A-bomb tests.
Today I reload a piece I wrote in 1995 about secret dumps of deadly Sarin gas in the sea waters off Scotland.
THOUSANDS of tonnes of the deadly Sarin gas are dumped in corroding drums off the Scottish coast.
Experts and environmentalists last night warned that it is only a matter of time before some of the nerve agent, buried in Scottish waters after the Second World War, could be washed ashore or trawled up by unsuspecting fishermen.
They also warn that the Japanese attack might encourage people to recover some of the nerve agent from its underwater repository for political extortion or terrorist activities.
The Nazis produced at least 300,000 tonnes of the substance during the war but never used it in battle. After the Third Reich fell, most of it was buried, burned or dumped in rivers, lakes, and the Baltic Sea.
Until the early 1980s, the US army had about four million litres of the gas in store in West Germany. It has also been produced in the Middle East.
Inhalation of just 0.5 milligrams of Sarin can kill almost instantly. The gas reduces the level of a key enzyme needed by the nervous system, causing difficulty in breathing, a decline in blood pressure, and contraction of the pupils. Survivors could still suffer nerve, brain, and liver damage.
German scientists said Sarin, 20 times as deadly as potassium cyanide, ranks as probably the world’s second most lethal chemical after a related gas called Soman.
More than 120,000 tonnes of chemical weapons captured from Nazi Germany were dumped by the British Government at sites in the North Channel, North Atlantic, the Skagerrak and the deep channel approaches to the Western Isles between 1945 and 1956.
The deep water repositories contain drums of Sarin, also known as GB, cyanide, the deadly blistering agent phosgene, and large quantities of mustard gas.
Official documents reveal that many of the dumps used to dispose of sarin between 1945 and 1947 are considerably shallower than the 1000 fathoms judged to be safe by 1956.
The Government remains adamant that the sites pose no threat to fish stocks or human life, despite fears raised by Irish politicians in 1986 of a link with an unusual number of birth defects.
Hundreds of dead birds and sea mammals have also been found, some of which displayed burns similar to those caused by nerve gases.
Two months ago, Greenpeace condemned plans by Highlands and Islands Enterprise to undertake exploratory fishing trials in deep waters off the Western Isles close to one of the dump sites.
Dr Rune Eriksen, a Swedish expert who sits on the Helsinki Committee for Chemical Weapons, said there had been more than 400 cases of Scandinavian fishermen trawling up pieces of solid mustard gas and other chemicals in the Baltic, where weapons were dumped by the Russians.
Many fishermen have been hospitalised and there have also been fatalities.
Dr Paul Johnston of Exeter University said it would only be a matter of time before Scottish fishermen suffer that same fate.
”These weapons are still active and potentially lethal,” he said, ”The drums are corroding and some may have punctured.”
He said chemical changes which may have occurred make Sarin ”even more corrosive and dangerous.
”It would be a triumph of hope over experience if there was not an accident before too long.”
However, he said of greater concern was that yesterday’s attack could give people the impetus to search for the drums of gas.
”It would be a highly dangerous enterprise but the gas could be used on the black market or for terrorist activities,” he warned.
Western Isles MP, Mr Calum MacDonald, said the Government must remain fully aware of the potential danger of the dump sites to fishermen and the general public.
He said he was also extremely concerned that members of the public might be tempted to search for the dumps. ”After what happened in Japan, there is quite an alarming prospect for the future lying off our coast,” he added.
A Greenpeace spokesman said: ”This tragedy in Japan proves how dangerous the gases are. We repeat our call made in January for the Government to conduct an urgent investigation into what exactly has been dumped and then to do something about cleaning it up or making it safe.”