Scottish Government scraps flagship marine conservation plan

Highly Protected Marine Areas would have restricted fishing and other human activities in some coastal areas.

The Scottish Government has scrapped its current marine conservation plans.

It had wanted to introduce Highly Protected Marine Areas which would prevent all fishing and dredging in 10% of Scotland’s coastal waters. 

It comes after members of the fishing industry and some islander communities raised concerns about the plans.

Net zero secretary Mairi McAllan said the proposals would not progress in their current form but that the Government remained committed to further protecting marine life.

She said there would be further consultation with industry.

“I will outline more on our next steps after the summer recess, but I hope that it is clear that I am 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,” McAllan said.

Former finance secretary and SNP leadership contender Kate Forbes, MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch, said it was a “welcome change in tack”.

“There was fear and opposition in response to this proposal, which is why I promised to ditch HPMAs if I were first minister,” she said.

“Today’s announcement is testament to the determined efforts by local campaigners and the Government’s genuine willingness to listen.

“It is now critical that any new proposals for marine protected areas genuinely take into account communities’ views, fishermen’s lived experiences and the importance of a truly just transition for rural Scotland.”

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, welcomed the announcement scrapping what she called a “flawed” policy.

“Ministers will now need to re-assure people that they are not simply intent on introducing the same policy by the back door,” she said.

“The seafood sector has set out a clear pathway on how we can work with Government to strike the right balance between nature conservation and sustainable use, and the test for Government now is to deliver upon that.”

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