Orkney MSP Liam McArthur today welcomed news that the Scottish Government is dropping its plans to designate 10% of Scottish waters as Highly Protected Marine Areas by 2026.
The proposals emerged as a result of the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and Greens. However, Cabinet Secretary, Màiri McAllan confirmed to parliament this afternoon that the government was going ‘back to the drawing board’.
Speaking in the chamber, Mr McArthur noted the ‘alarm’ that the ‘arbitrary’ approach to imposing HPMAs had created in island communities like Orkney. He went on to repeat his call for the Scottish Government to properly resource the monitoring and management of the existing Marine Protected Area network and to engage more closely with stakeholders in the fishing industry and elsewhere over the development of any future plans.
Commenting afterwards, Mr McArthur said:
“The Scottish Government’s plan to impose HPMAs in 10% of Scottish waters by 2026 was arbitrary and counter-productive. The backlash from island and coastal communities around the country was immediate and unambiguous.
“I welcome the fact that the Minister has agreed to go back to the drawing board, though she needs to accept that the uncertainty caused by her proposals have already come at a cost in terms of lost confidence and investment.
“Fishers know better than anyone about the need to protect our marine environment and enhance biodiversity. However, the government needs to look to properly resource the monitoring and management of the existing MPA network, rather than simply imposing additional restrictions before any evidence has been gathered.
“It is essential too that any plans going forward are developed in collaboration with stakeholders and the communities most directly affected. The Minister offered an assurance that this would now happen. She now must deliver on that commitment.”