AUTHORITIES investigating the oil spill at Limekilns “must stop passing the buck”.

The criticism of maritime authorities and the UK Government has come from Dunfermline MSP Shirley-Anne Somerville over further delays to the investigation of the beach pollution.

She was told earlier this month that it was a large volume of West Nigerian Light Crude Oil that washed onto the shore at Limekilns in February.

Initial investigations by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) ruled out the source of the pollution being land-based.

However, the search for the guilty party has since ground to a standstill, due to a disagreement between Forth Ports, the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) and the UK Government.

Forth Ports advised the MSP that as the lead agency for oil pollution incidents involving shipping, the MCA would be responsible for leading further investigations.

As the MCA were unable to provide answers as to the cause of the oil spill, Ms Somerville has urged the UK Government, which has oversight of the MCA, for further action to be taken to identify the source of the pollution.

However, minister Nusrat Ghani has stated that as the enforcing authority in the Limekilns area, Forth Ports should be the lead organisation for the investigation of this incident.

As no polluter has been identified, Fife taxpayers have been left with the £600,000 bill for the clean-up operation, which saw approximately 500 tonnes of contaminated waste removed.

Ms Somerville is pressing for a joined-up approach so that justice can be delivered for the communities affected.

She said: “It is beyond unacceptable that the investigation is being held up because of a disagreement over who is meant to be leading it. Local people deserve answers as to who was responsible for the damage this oil spill caused to their communities.

“And importantly, the polluter needs to be held to account and made to cover the cost of the clean-up. We simply can’t stand back and let environmental incidents like this occur without repercussions.

“That’s giving a green light to polluters to do the same thing again in future. If the UK Government, MCA and Forth Ports want to retain any credibility when it comes to protecting our environment, then it’s high time that they stop passing the buck.

“I won’t stop until West Fifers get the answers they deserve.”

The UK Government insist that as the incident occurred within the harbour authority’s area of responsibility, Forth Ports must investigate.

They said the MCA does, however, maintain oversight and provide support where required, as was the case in the Limekilns incident.

Captain Alan McPherson, chief harbour master for Forth Ports, said: “Pollution like this is unacceptable.

“Forth Ports has worked hard to discharge our responsibilities for keeping the River Forth pollution-free and we were the first on the scene when the spill was reported.

“We are working with SEPA which has now committed to sharing its analysis of the oil recovered from Limekilns beach with us.

“This will hopefully assist in determining the source of the oil and finding out who the polluter is.”

SEPA said their investigation into the oil spill was extensive and if further information becomes available they will investigate. They added that data has been passed to other organisations to assist in any off-shore investigations.