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Marine / Councillors remind government not to ignore fishing industry in energy development

Photo: Shetland News

SHETLAND councillors have sought to remind the Scottish Government that the fishing industry cannot be ignored in offshore renewable development.

The issue cropped up in debate on Friday morning whilst elected members discussed Shetland Islands Council’s (SIC) response to a government consultation on future energy strategy.

Fishing is a key part of the council’s response, with the local authority saying it is “extremely concerned” about the level of interest in further offshore wind development and the impact it may have on the industry.

It claims that the marine planning process for offshore wind has been “woefully inadequate and needs to be overhauled to emphasise the impact of energy developments on the existing very successful national fishing industry”.

Shetland South member and depute convener Bryan Peterson brought up the use of the term “co-existence” between marine energy development and fisheries in the consultation response.

He said he felt that was a “passive” term.

Peterson said he would like to offer assurance to the marine sector that “co-existence wouldn’t just mean tolerance”.

Shetland Central councillor Davie Sandison said he was keen to see language strengthened about the industry.

There has been significant concern from the Shetland fishing industry itself about future offshore wind development and how it may impact its traditional grounds.

Sandison said the Scottish Government would need to “recognise that they can’t just willy nilly ignore the fishing industry”.

“So far the evidence doesn’t make me feel comfortable that that’s embedded well enough in Scottish Government understanding of the significance of that sector,” he said.

Council leader Emma Macdonald agreed, saying it was important for the government to get the message that it cannot lose sight of other sectors.

It comes as the Scottish Government continues to remain under fire for proposals to designate a portion of the country’s waters as highly protected marine areas, in which fishing would be banned.

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Meanwhile Green councillor Alex Armitage said he sometimes gets the impression that the Scottish Government sees the fishing industry as “peripheral” and does not view it as having much importance beyond employing people in rural areas.

He successfully argued for a mention of the environmental benefits of fish as food to be included in a covering letter with the response.

He said fishermen have a “huge role to play in helping to decarbonise our food system”.

“I feel strongly that whenever we talk about fishing in public and with Scottish ministers…that this point about decarbonising our food industry is a really important one to make,” Armitage said.

He added that stressing this point could encourage Scottish ministers to take more notice of the industry.

A spokesperson previously said the Scottish Government “fully understands the need to balance the growth of the offshore renewables sector and protection for the marine environment with continued investment in Scotland’s seafood and wider marine sectors and the communities and jobs which rely on them”.

They said it had been “engaging closely with the fishing industry” as offshore wind plans develop.

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