A response to a Freedom of Information request has revealed that NHS Fife representatives have enjoyed corporate largess from ExxonMobil while residents have ongoing concerns over the corporation’s impact on local health.

Board member, Richard Innes from the Mossmorran Action Group requested details of all gifts and corporate hospitality offered or accepted to the Fife NHS Board, it’s members and associated staff or groups since 2012.

The FOI response revealed that select NHS Fife employees and board members are in regular receipt of lavish gifts from the corporations.

The former chief executive John Wilson who retired from NHS Fife in October 2014 received box office tickets to attend the six nations Scotland vs Wales rugby match (2013) and luxurious meals at Balbirnie House Hotel (2013 – 2014).

Mr Wilson joined by the NHS Fife board chairperson Alan Burns also attended hospitality events at Balbirnie House.

Balbirnie House Hotel
Balbirnie House Hotel

This regular junket from ExxonMobil is enjoyed on an annual basis by select community councillors and councillors, including:

  • former Cowdenbeath councillor and former chair of the Mossmorran & Braefoot Bay Community and Safety committee, Peter Lockhart
  • Councillor Fiona Grant (2017)
  • Regular attendee Cowdenbeath Councillor Gary Guichan (2015, 2016, 2017)

The FOI response also revealed that the current NHS Fife Chief Executive Paul Hawkins attended the Edinburgh Military Tattoo, enjoying box office seats in 2015/2016.

Edinburgh Military Tattoo
Edinburgh Military Tattoo

Guests of ExxonMobil include select community councillors, councillors, MSPs and MPs. Attendees are treated to box office seats, drinks, a meal, and transport to and from the event.

The event is valued around £800-£1000 per person and has been attended by:

  • Councillor Carol Lindsay – 2012
  • Former MSP Cara Hilton – 2013 & 2014
  • Former Dunfermline and West MP Thomas Docherty – 2014
  • Dunfermline and West Fife MP Douglas Chapman –2015

ExxonMobil have defended the offer of gifts and hospitality events claiming that it allows “for a more informal interaction with local leaders”.

According to ExxonMobil’s policy on Business Gifts and Entertainment for employees, the corporation holds their staff members to a higher standard:

“The Company’s business interests are best served when commercial decisions are based on commercial criteria and not influenced by such factors as gifts or entertainment. Only in this way can the Company sustain constructive ongoing relationships with those organisations, firms and individuals doing business, or seeking to do business with it.”

ExxonMobil actively discourage employees from giving or receiving gifts. Only gifts of a nominal value (£30 or less) may be accepted by staff, only where appropriate and where it avoids the appearance of impropriety.

A spokesperson for the Mossmorran Action Group says:

“The ExxonMobil spokesman defends the corporate largesse the company showers on politicians, regulators and others as entirely above board. Yet like many companies, including Shell, Exxon is chary of allowing its employees to accept similar largesse – employees may not receive gifts or hospitality exceeding £30. It’s obvious why Exxon would benefit from such a double standard. But if the public is to trust politicians and regulators, they need to adhere to the highest standards of propriety and refuse all gifts.”

NHS Fife have previously dismissed local health concerns, and in 2011 produced a study looking at cancer mortality rates within a 5km radius of the Mossmorran facilities.

The report looked at a limited data range (2000-2002 and 2007-2009) and found that areas within 5km of the Mossmorran facilities had higher than normal cancer rates than the rest of Fife and Scotland.

When the figures were ‘deprivation adjusted’ (i.e. making comparisons across Fife communities if they had the same deprivation profile as Central Fife areas), they found that cancer mortality rates were lower between 2000-2002 and higher than the rest of Fife and Scotland between 2007-2009.

The most common occurring cancer in the 2007-2009 time period was trachea, bronchus and lung cancer, which NHS Fife concluded:

“This type of cancer is strongly related to smoking which is known to be more widespread in areas of higher deprivation.”

The 2-page NHS Fife report does not effectively show how these conclusions were reached, failing to show the quantitative data used such as the number of smokers vs the cancer mortality rates, and data of the specific pollutants emitted by ExxonMobil and Shell that are known to potentially cause the cancers identified.

A similar FOI request sent to Scottish Environment Protection Agency reveals that their employees and board members have not accepted any gifts from ExxonMobil or Shell during the requested period (2012 – June 2017).

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