Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MSP Alasdair Allan questioned the Scottish Government on its policy of introducing Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in 10% of Scotland’s sea area earlier today in the Scottish Parliament.
The Scottish Government’s consultation on HPMAs closed on Monday evening. The proposals would see the virtual ending of activities such as fishing and aquaculture in HPMA sites, while allowing non-extractive and non-damaging recreational activities to take place at limited levels.
The islands MSP raised the widespread concern of communities across the west coast of Scotland, stating that, while the need to tackle biodiversity loss was widely accepted, human beings and their communities were also at risk with these proposals. Allan also queried how the policy would be compatible with the Scottish Government’s commitments on tackling depopulation, as well as the overall aims and commitments of the National Islands Plan.
Alasdair Allan commented:
“Fishing is a huge part of our economy and our culture. The recent consultation on proposals for a blanket ban on fishing and most other marine activities - in areas which have yet to be determined - has understandably provoked widespread anger and fear for many people throughout my constituency.
“As I said in my own response to the consultation, there are concerns that, if the site of any HPMAs proved to be in the Western Isles, that would represent a catalyst for further depopulation, mean an abrupt end to fishing businesses built up over generations, and ultimately have a severe impact on many island communities.
“Yesterday, the First Minister gave a very welcome reassurance that the Scottish Government would not seek to impose HPMAs on communities who did not want them.
“Today’s answers from the Minister for Biodiversity, while recognising the strength of feeling over HPMA proposals, left many questions unanswered. Those answers are needed now by coastal communities worried at the idea of an HPMA being imposed where they live.”
View Alasdair's question in the chamber here.