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Marine / ‘Sigh of relief’ as government makes u-turn on HPMA proposals

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NET ZERO secretary Mairi McAllan has confirmed that the Scottish Government will not be continuing with the controversial proposal to implement Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in 10 per cent of Scottish seas by 2026.

The government said it wants to spend more time working with industries, communities and conservationists to protect Scotland’s waters.

Shetland MSP Beatrice Wishart said there will be a “sigh of relief that the government has finally accepted that it got this badly wrong”.

McAllan said earlier today (Thursday): “We chose to consult as early and widely as possible on the principles of HPMAs, with no pre-determined sites.

“It has always been, and continues to be, this government’s plan to work cooperatively with communities to identify how and where to enhance marine protection in a way that minimises impact and maximises opportunity.

“Therefore, while we remain firmly committed to the outcome of enhanced marine protection, the proposal as consulted on will not be progressed.

“I will outline more on our next steps after the summer recess, but I hope that it is clear that I am determined to protect our oceans in a way that is fair, and to find a way forward that ensures our seas remain a source of prosperity for the nation, especially in our remote, coastal and island communities.”

Shetlanders have expressed much concern about the proposals over the last few months and their likely damaging effect on the fishing industry.

Seafood industry and council to strongly object to highly protected marine area proposals

Isles MSP Wishart welcomed the news today.

She said: “This is testament to the power and voice of rural and remote communities who were united in their opposition.

“They were incensed by the way the SNP and Greens were determined to impose rigid and damaging policies and failed to listen from the outset.

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“It was clear from the start that this was pursued to appease the Bute House agreement and little do with the sustainability of either the seas or the communities who live and work in them.

“There will be a sigh of relief that the government has finally accepted that it got this badly wrong.

“Communities will need assurances that future policy doesn’t make the same mistakes, is led by scientific evidence, meaningful engagement and a proper understanding of all the factors that go into making our communities and fisheries sustainable.”

Conservative Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie Halcro Johnston said his concern was “that, rather than being a genuine U-turn forced by the anger in local communities, opposition MSPs and then threat of an SNP backbench rebellion, this supposed ‘new approach’ is nothing more than sleight of hand from SNP ministers”.

Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, commented: “We welcome that the Scottish Government appears to have listened to businesses and communities and recognised that its policy on Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10 per cent of our seas is flawed and should be scrapped.

“Ministers will now need to re-assure people that they are not simply intent on introducing the same policy by the back door. The seafood sector has set out a clear pathway on how we can work with Government to strike the right balance between nature conservation and sustainable use, and the test for government now is to deliver upon that.”

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “I am grateful to all the MSPs who have spoken up in support of our sector during these difficult months and to those who signed our petition outside Holyrood a fortnight ago.

“We commit to working with the Scottish Government to develop workable proposals that safeguard both livelihoods and the marine environment on which they rely.”

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