Police arrest oil rig protesters

OPERATION: Police on the oil rig after being flown on to end Greenpeace demonstration, with an activist lowering himself to a portable ledge. Photographs by Sandy McCook
OPERATION: Police on the oil rig after being flown on to end Greenpeace demonstration, with an activist lowering himself to a portable ledge. Photographs by Sandy McCook

Police have stormed an oil rig on a helicopter to arrest two protestors and bring a Greenpeace demonstration to an end.

Activists clambered on to the BP-operated rig in the Cromarty Firth on Sunday, where two protesters had remained at all times.

A stand-off unfolded yesterday after police said they were going to lower the platform into the North Sea to allow boats access to remove the campaigners.

However, a protestor lowered himself and a portable ledge to the base of the south-west leg.

Later, a second demonstrator also abseiled down.

In a video, one of them said the platform was “sinking” beneath him and claimed police would not say how far it would be lowered into the water, adding he was “pretty firmly attached” to the metalwork.

Two police rigid inflatable boats were seen at the base of the platform, where they spent much of the day negotiating with the activists and removed a banner.

The force confirmed that a 40-year-old man and a 50-year-old man had been arrested and taken ashore.

Chief Superintendent George Macdonald said: “The particular nature of this protest made this an extremely complex operation.

“The safety of all involved was of paramount importance and we have utilised highly trained specialist officers from across the entirety of Police Scotland to deal with this incident.

“We fully understand the rights of peaceful protests, however, there is a balance when such actions are potentially reckless.”

The campaigners boarded the 27,000-tonne rig to prevent it from making its way out to the Vorlich field in the North Sea.

The operation brought the number of people arrested in connection with the protest to nine.

Two people appeared at Tain Sheriff Court on Wednesday, and today a third was in the dock.

Joanne Paterson, 53, of Knockburn, Munlochy, pleaded not guilty to breaching the peace.

It is alleged she, while acting with others, boarded the rig, refused to leave and tethered herself to the rig, placing herself and others in danger between Sunday and Wednesday.

Some locals created banners to support the campaigners and Greenpeace had vowed to stay on the rig as long as BP continues drilling for oil.

A BP spokesman said: “BP is grateful for the support of Police Scotland, Transocean and all authorities who helped bring this incident to a safe conclusion.

“It was a complex operation that required specialist skills and resources to be mobilised from across the country and was carried out in a professional and respectful manner.

“Police Scotland, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the Port of Cromarty Firth worked together, dedicating time and resources in response to the protestors’ actions.

“This response diverted significant time and resources away from public services, including Police Scotland.

“BP supports discussion, debate and peaceful demonstration, but the irresponsible actions of Greenpeace put themselves and others unnecessarily at risk.

“We share the protestors’ concerns about climate change, we support the Paris agreement and are committed to playing our part to advance the energy transition.

“However, progress to a lower carbon future will depend on coming together, understanding each other’s perspectives and working to find solutions, not dangerous PR stunts that exacerbate divisions and create risks to both life and property.”

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