Demand for clarity over ‘delayed but not dropped’ marine protection areas

The Scottish Government scrapped the flagship Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) policy last week.

Demand for clarity over ‘delayed but not dropped’ marine protection areas iStock

There have been demands for clarity on the future of controversial fishing restriction plans which were dropped last week after a Green MSP claimed there was still a commitment to move forward.

The Scottish Government scrapped its flagship Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) policy in its current form.

Net zero secretary Mairi McAllan said the proposals would not progress following uproar from Scotland’s fishing communities but the Government remained committed to further protecting marine life.

The plans, which were agreed as part of the powersharing agreement between the SNP and Scottish Greens, would have resulted in the banning of human activity in at least 10% of Scotland’s waters.

But Scottish Green MSP Ariane Burgess said she was “confident that the marine protections that we’re both committed to bringing in will come forward”.

Speaking in an interview with the BBC over the weekend, she said: “What we’re doing is taking the conversation to the communities and designing something together that will ensure that we have long-term fishing for 20 years, 30 years, 100 years from now.

“What we’re both absolutely committed to is that marine protections need to be brought forward.”

On Tuesday, Scottish Tory rural affairs spokeswoman Rachael Hamilton wrote to McAllan, asking for clarity on the future of the policy.

She said: “Scotland’s fishing communities are vehemently opposed to the proposals.

“They, and I, feared your announcement last week was merely a delaying tactic to placate rebel SNP MSPs ahead of a cosmetic rebrand – and those fears appear to be justified by Ariane Burgess’ comments.

“As has been reflected in response to the consultation on HPMAs, these devastating restrictions would do untold damage to our fishing communities.

“Fishermen are already subject to terrible spatial squeeze pressures, and further reductions of the area available to them for fishing could drive many out of business.”

Hamilton added: “The very least our worried fishing communities are owed is clear, honest, unambiguous messaging from the Scottish Government over its intentions for the industry.

“They’re not getting that currently, so you have a duty to provide that clarity.”

A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “The cabinet secretary was clear when she set out our position to parliament last week.

“While we remain firmly committed to the outcome of enhanced marine protection, the proposal as consulted on will not be progressed and a full response to the consultation and information on the next steps will be published after summer recess.

“The babinet secretary has made clear that she is determined to protect our oceans in a way that is fair, and to find a way forward that ensures our seas remain a source of prosperity for the nation, especially in our remote, coastal and island communities.”

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