Highlands and Islands Labour MSP Rhoda Grant today (Tuesday 16 May) led a debate on Highly Protected Marine Areas, reflecting the vehement opposition to the proposals across her region.
Mrs Grant urged the Scottish Government to rethink their slap dash and vague policy, saying: “The alarm the Government’s approach has caused means that they must revisit this policy. To say that they will not impose this where communities are vehemently opposed actually ramps up the pressure rather than calms it down.
“Communities now must focus on demonstrating their vehement opposition rather than working with government to try and protect our seas and the livelihoods they support.”
Mrs Grant stressed that the policy had not been built on evidence and that coastal communities were already being punished because of Scottish Government policy that didn’t place communities at its heart.
“The impact that HPMAs could have on fishing are devastating, even on the most sustainable and environmentally friendly forms of fishing.
“We are quoted the success of the No Take Zone in Lamlash Bay, but yet the Clyde Fishermen’s Association who were instrumental in setting up the No Take Zone, tell us that the success is unmeasured.
There have been no comparative studies to show whether or not the policy has worked.
“We also have the No Take Zone in Broadbay, which has not worked at all. Therefore, we must have robust science to guide our management of the seas.”
She added that the plans along with the abysmal management of the ferry fleet were leading to cries of Scottish Government undertaking a second clearance via stealth.
But the Minister responded by congratulating Skipinnish for “capturing the strength of feeling” and claimed that they are still at the drawing board and that they are reviewing the consultation responses.
Speaking after the debate Rhoda Grant MSP said: “The Scottish Government claim to want to protect the marine environment yet they continue to progress this legislation. No one wants to protect the seas more than the fishing communities who have harvested it for years. The Skipinnish song The Clearances Again highlights that and the deep damage it will do to our rural and island communities.
“This policy desperately needs a re-think and the more this SNP-Green Scottish Government drag their feet, the more infuriated communities will feel.”