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News / MSP questions seizure of anti-whaling boat

John Finnie MSP.

GREEN highlands and islands MSP John Finnie has raised concerns about the seizure of an inflatable boat from anti-whaling campaign group Sea Shepherd by police in Lerwick harbour last week.

He said he feared the incident might cause Scotland “reputational damage”.

The rigid inflatable boat (RIB) Echo was seized nine days ago following a request by the Faroese chief of police.

The reason given was that Echo had been involved in attempts to disrupt the Faroese whale hunt, or grindadráp, when 61 pilot whales were killed on 12 August at Sandavágur.

Sea Shepherd appealed to the High Court to have the boat returned, and were granted a warrant to suspend the boat’s extradition to Faroe.

However 15 minutes before the warrant was granted in Edinburgh last Friday afternoon, the Danish naval vessel HDMS Knud Rasmussen sailed into Lerwick harbour, picked up the RIB from Lerwick police and departed for Faroe, where it is now berthed. No attempts were made to stop it.

On Thursday this week Finnie raised the matter in the Scottish Parliament during first minister’s questions, when he asked what assessment would be made of the procedures involved in this case.

First minister Nicola Sturgeon dodged the question, saying that it was inappropriate to comment on a matter that was “under criminal investigation”.

She did, however, explain: “The Crown Office received a letter of request from the Faroese authorities and subsequently sought a warrant in the matter, which was then executed, on the basis of allegations of criminal activity.

“Given the circumstances, it is not appropriate for me to say any more on the issue.”

Finnie has now written to the Lord Advocate to obtain an understanding of the legal processes involved in this unusual case.

Whaling is outlawed under European Union law, but Faroe is outside the EU and has introduced its own law banning people like Sea Shepherd from disrupting the grindadráp.

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Faroe however is a protectorate of Denmark, which is a member of the EU and therefore has extradition agreements with other EU countries like the UK.

Finnie said: “I am writing to the Lord Advocate asking how Scotland would ordinarily respond to a request for foreign action on matters which may be legal in one jurisdiction, but are illegal in Scotland. I am sure there must be some protocol in place.”

He added: “I am concerned about potential reputational damage to Scotland as a result of this and can’t help but feel that Sea Shepherd has been an easy target in this.”

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