Orkney’s MSP, Liam McArthur has secured a commitment from the Environment Secretary, Roseanna Cunningham MSP that she will look again at whether new restrictions on farmers and crofters burning plastics have been ‘island proofed’.
The Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) recently announced that an exemption for burning most types of agricultural waste, including silage wrap, crop covers and fertiliser bags, would come to an end from 1 January 2019. At Environment Questions in parliament this afternoon, Mr McArthur acknowledged the benefits of such a move, but warned that the consequences for island farmers and crofters needed to be taken fully into account.
In response, the Cabinet Secretary accepted that there are indeed specific challenges to dealing with waste in the islands and agreed to raise the concerns with SEPA.
Speaking after the exchange in the chamber, Mr McArthur said:
“Efforts to stem the plastic tide are urgently needed and enjoy strong public support. We need to make sure, however, that this does not simply create different types of environmental problems.
“Unfortunately, farmers in Orkney are unlikely to have ready access to the market for plastics in the same way as their counterparts on the Scottish mainland. For those in the smaller isles, it is likely to be even more difficult to meet the new requirements.
“It is questionable what environmental benefit is achieved if plastic is either buried or shipped away by ferry, at least once and potentially twice. I welcome the Cabinet Secretary’s commitment, therefore, to consult again with SEPA to ensure that the new restrictions are properly ‘island proofed’ and go further in achieving the outcomes we all wish to see”.
Notes to editors: You can view the exchange here.