SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes has vowed to overturn controversial proposals for a Marine Highly Protected Area (HPMA).
The statement follows a warning from the Scottish Fishermen’s Union that banning fishing in a tenth of Scottish waters under a net of new HPMAs would have a disastrous impact on the industry.
She said she would cancel controversial government plans to ban all commercial and recreational fishing in large swaths of Scottish waters and instead commission a feasibility study in devolving marine protection and coastal fisheries powers to local authorities if she is elected first minister.
The SNP leadership candidate said the regulations formed by coastal communities will better reflect local needs and values, while protecting the marine ecosystem for future generations.
She added that the relevant government should consider the cumulative impact of any proposed legislation rather than operating in a silo, and that the current HPMA proposals are “an example of how not to engage with government”.
Kate Forbes said: “I will commission a feasibility study to give councils more power to ensure that marine protection appointments are effectively implemented and enforced, ideally consulting on what Scottish Maritime Act statutory responsibilities can be delivered most effectively by local authorities.
“We have a range of experiences in coastal communities, and I believe they are best placed to manage marine protection designations and inshore fisheries in a way that balances conservation objectives with socioeconomic considerations.
Local communities are often the most affected by changes in marine ecosystems, and they can provide valuable knowledge and insight into the health of local fish stocks and other marine resources, and a more tailored approach can improve monitoring and enforcement.
“So I would like to see a study that looks at whether this modus operandi can improve outcomes, both for local communities and for blue economy growth more broadly.”
Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch’s MSP added: “As I understand it, no other EU country has implemented HPMAs and there is no evidence to show that they are actually achieving their goals.” The current plans will have a disproportionate social and economic impact on our island and coastal communities, and could potentially Affect work being done in other parts of the government to reverse population decline.
“There is concern from all corners of the fishing and processing sector, with potential ramifications beyond fishing to small-scale and community-led renewables, port infrastructure, and marine tourism to name a few.
“I can’t understand why anyone would think, especially when we are deliberately trying to stem population decline in rural areas, that it would be a good idea to take such a comprehensive approach. Our food and drink sector is a success story.
“Our foreign exports are at record highs in 2022, but these proposals will decimate the seafood industry.
“Across government, we have to look at the cumulative effect, rather than working in a silo.
“This current consultation shows the dangers of poor engagement with communities and the rural economy.
“It’s an example of how not to deal with the government.
It’s also an example of what I want to do differently.
“Under my leadership, I will reset these relationships and work with coastal and island communities and their associated industries in a friendly and constructive manner.”
Responding to Banff and Buchan’s comments, MP David Duguid, whose constituency is in the fishing ports of Peterhead, Fraserburgh and Macduff, said: “Kate Forbes has been radio silent on HPMAs since the proposals were first submitted by the SNP-Green Government last year.
It is only now that she has entered the leadership race that she has suddenly decided to put her head above the barricade and speak out against her party’s destructive plans for the Scottish fishing fleet.
“We’ve seen throughout this leadership race that each and every one of these candidates shift their perspectives to fit the narrative.
“I have met regularly with industry leaders throughout this process to advocate for what is right for our fishing industry in the Northeast.
“By contrast, this central belt government including Kate Forbes has done nothing to alleviate the concerns of the sector and the dire consequences HPMA would have on their fleet.”
His view was echoed by Scotland Highlands and MSP Donald Cameron who said: “Communities across the Highlands and Islands have expressed genuine concern about these plans, and they need to be heard.
This is a harmful proposition that will undoubtedly cost jobs, livelihoods, and opportunity.
The impact on local economies would be severe, and the whole thing would have to be called off.
Rather than pitting these important communities against each other, the Scottish government should work with them.
“It is the case that more must be done to achieve ecological and diversity goals, but this must be done responsibly and with the input of experts from our coastal communities.
“This is just another SNP-Green policy that was dreamed up in the Central Belt with no thought of how it could harm others elsewhere in Scotland.”
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