Oil giant Shell could face criminal charges following the North Sea oil spill after the UK Government confirmed tonight a report is now being prepared for the Scottish prosecutor's office.
The announcement that Shell faces the possibility of “further action” came as the first polluted bird was spotted at the scene of the Gannet field oil spill
The Scottish Government confirmed the sighting of the first oiled bird following the UK's biggest oil spill for more than a decade as it again called on the company for better communication.
Oil giants Shell had earlier today confirmed around 218 tonnes of light crude oil had escaped into the sea from a damaged pipeline at the Gannet field.
And the UK Government confirmed a criminal case could be brought against Shell as a report is being prepared to be considered by the office of the Scottish Procurator Fiscal for a decision on further action.
The potential remains for the situation to worsen after the company confirmed a further 660 tonnes could still be in the stricken pipeline.
The Scottish Government is continuing to survey and analyse results of information collected around the site of the North Sea oil leak at the Gannet F Subsea installation.
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead again urged Shell for better communication and stressed the importance of openness and transparency.
Mr Lochhead said: "We have made clear the Scottish Government's primary role is to assess and advise on the impact this spill may have on the marine environment.
"The current information we have is that only one oiled bird has been spotted - there is no evidence of any significant impact. The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) advice is that bird densities in the area are low - analysis of the preliminary survey carried out during yesterday's flight is currently being undertaken.
“Initial results will be available once the Environment Group has reviewed and assessed the information.
“The results of this first survey will be used to inform further more detailed and robust surveys - the next, more extensive, one is planned for tomorrow and will involve a specialist aircraft and two trained observers.
"We do not expect fisheries to be impacted, but again monitoring will be undertaken. Marine Scotland's Fisheries Research Vessel Scotia has been diverted to the area and tasked to take samples from the incident area for analysis.
"I have spoken with both Shell's senior management and the UK Government's offshore incident representative Hugh Shaw over the past 24 hours and I stressed, once again, the importance of clear communication on the current operation and the expectation people have for complete openness and transparency on the situation.
“I was assured by both that this point had been taken on board, and I'm pleased to see that steps have now been taken to put more information in the public domain. This must continue."
Hugh Shaw, the UK Government's representative at the scene of the round-the-clock surveillance operation, said today: “Based on the latest intelligence that I have, my view is that the oil leak is under control and has now been greatly reduced as validated by remotely operated vehicle footage and Government aerial surveillance flights. The priority now and over the coming days is to completely halt any further leakage in what is a complex environment.
“Although the spill was deemed as significant, our information is still that the oil is not expected to reach the shore, and that it will be dispersed naturally.
”It will be for DECC and the HSE inspectors to thoroughly investigate the causes of this incident, and once the full report is completed, it will be sent the Scottish Procurator Fiscal who will consider it and make a decision on further action.”