Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today raised concerns with Scottish Ministers about proposals for Marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs) around Orkney.
Plans for Marine SPAs will restrict human activity for conservation purposes across Scapa Flow, the Pentland Firth and all of the Kirkwall harbour area including the Bay of Firth.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament today during General Questions, Mr McArthur pressed the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Food and Environment to address questions raised by Orkney Islands Council, Orkney Fisheries Association and others about the plans and their potential impact.
In Orkney, questions have been raised about the geographical extent of the Marine SPAs, the immediate restrictions on activity as soon as draft areas are selected for consultation and the consequences for areas of strategic economic importance to Orkney and more widely for Scotland.
In response, Richard Lochead MSP confirmed the Scottish Government recognised concerns about the forthcoming consultation over Marine Special Protection Areas but stressed the obligations on the Scottish Government under EU law.
Commenting after the exchanges, Liam McArthur MSP said:
“While I share the vision of protecting our natural marine environment, which is a huge asset to Orkney, decisions about how this is done must be taken with great care. That is particularly the case where the potential impact on key local industries, as well as our transport system, is so significant.
“I am pleased the Cabinet Secretary has recognised these concerns and agreed to discuss these in more detail with the Council and other local stakeholders. Such engagement with local stakeholders is absolutely crucial, given the extent of the areas proposed for designation and the way in which restrictions would apply, even before any consultation is completed.
“Our marine environment shapes who we are as a community and needs to be protected. However, there must always be a balance in how this is achieved if our community is to survive and thrive. At present, these proposals do not appear to strike that right balance”.
Notes to editors:
The record of exchanges in the Scottish Parliament can be found by clicking here.