THE SCOTTISH Government has again confirmed that it will not progress with the hugely controversial proposal to implement highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) across 10 per cent of Scottish waters.
Publishing its own response to the consultation process today (Tuesday), the Holyrood government said the policy will not be continued.
The move was welcomed by the fishing industry which had campaigned against the proposal.
Net zero secretary Màiri McAllan said: “In response to the findings of the consultation, and as I set out in parliament earlier this year, the proposal to implement Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) across 10 per cent of Scotland’s seas by 2026 will not be progressed.
“My thanks go to everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation and to those who have continued to engage constructively with me and other ministers over the summer.”
She added that the government was however firmly committed to protecting the marine environment and would work with coastal communities to protect Scotland’s seas for the benefit of all.
“As a priority this includes completing management measures for our existing Marine Protected Area (MPA) network and protecting our Priority Marine Features,” McAllan said.
“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 coastal and island communities.”
Shetland Fishermen’s Association (SFA) executive officer Sheila Keith said members were pleased that common sense had prevailed.
“The angst caused by the ill-conceived proposals was clear by the responses to the consultation which showed, when you removed campaign responses, 76 per cent of respondents opposed, and only 20 per cent supported the plans.
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“However, our concerns are not wholly alleviated as the government still discuss the implementation of “enhanced marine protection” over 10 per cent of Scottish waters.
“We are interested to find out what the government might mean when it refers to new plans for community led marine protection.
Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) chief executive Elspeth Macdonald added: “We welcome today’s confirmation by the Scottish Government that it will not seek to ban fishing in at least 10 per cent of Scottish waters.
“But ministers need to maintain that position and not bring in similar measures through other routes.
“What’s important is that we have an approach to conservation that balances marine protection with sustainable use, as the government’s existing policies should be aiming to achieve.”
Meanwhile, chief executive of industry body Salmon Scotland, Tavish Scott, added: “This confirmation is a huge relief for salmon farmers and all those who rely on our sector who were concerned about the impact on their livelihoods.
“I am grateful to all the MSPs who spoke up in support of our sector and rural Scotland.
“We once again commit to working with the Scottish Government to develop workable proposals that safeguard both livelihoods and the marine environment on which they rely.”
The full response from the Scottish Government can be read here.
During the consultation phase a specific Shetland-based campaign attracted 26 responses, all from people “utterly opposed” to HPMAs.
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