SNP MSP for Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Alasdair Allan, has welcomed the Scottish Government’s announcement today that it will not be seeking to progress its Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) proposals.
Initial proposals to designate 10% of Scotland’s seas as HPMAs had been widely criticised due to their potential to severely affect island economies and the viability of coastal communities.
Last month in Parliament Alasdair Allan said that his island constituents remained vehemently opposed to the proposals, and expressed his own view that HPMAs should not be imposed on the Western Isles.
Today, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero, Mairi McAllan, gave a statement in Parliament which said that, while the Scottish Government remained fully committed to the outcome of enhancing marine protection by 2030, in line with the EU, the HPMA proposals as consulted on would no longer be progressed.
The Scottish Government’s response to the consultation, along with next steps, will be published after the summer recess, and a new pathway and timeline will be developed over the summer as part of the Scottish Government’s ongoing dialogue with stakeholders.
In his question, following the Cabinet Secretary’s statement, Allan said that the news today was ’a welcome change of tack’ from the Scottish Government which would be greeted with relief along the west coast. He went on to ask how the Scottish Government would now ensure that fishing communities would be at the heart of future marine policies.
Commenting after today’s statement, the islands’ MSP said:
“People up and down the Western Isles have been resoundingly clear in their rejection of the proposals in the HPMA consultation. While most islanders fully recognise the need to protect the seas that surround them, there was a clear consensus that the approach set out in the consultation was too blunt a tool to address such a complex issue.
“The original lack of clarity on where these areas might be designated further heightened fears across all coastal communities, meaning that all those dependent on the sea for their livelihoods were understandably extremely fearful for their futures.
“I am grateful to the Cabinet Secretary and the First Minister for listening closely to the concerns expressed, and for re-evaluating the Scottish Government’s approach. Communities now need to play an integral role in decisions around how best to conserve and sustain the marine environment, while ensuring island jobs and ways of life remain fully protected.”