By Lucy Ashton
Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Shetland Beatrice Wishart has today announced the party’s intention to hold Parliament’s first debate on planned Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) on Tuesday, following serious concerns from island communities about how the government’s proposals will impact on them.
Under the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and Greens, Ministers announced plans to designate 10% of Scottish waters as HPMAs. This would exclude almost all human activity carried out in these areas, from fishing to infrastructure construction, with even recreational activities subject to monitoring and management.
LibDems Beatrice Wishart and Liam McArthur – fighting for fishermen.
In April, Scottish Liberal Democrat MSP for Orkney Liam McArthur met with representatives of the local fishing sector to hear their concerns about how the proposals would impact island and coastal communities.
Ms Wishart said: “Our debate seeks to give a voice to all those communities who depend on the marine environment and who fear that HPMAs will cause serious harm to their lives and livelihoods.
“Protecting stocks and the biodiversity of our waters is obviously vital, but the Scottish Government is taking an overly rigid approach to HPMAs.
“While HPMAs are being considered elsewhere in the UK and across the EU, Scotland is the only country which plans to introduce them so quickly, so indiscriminately and without any proper assessment of their impact.
“In particular, a third of Scotland’s waters are already designated as Marine Protected Areas which benefits specific species and habitats. These new HPMAs, however, appear to be a one-size fits all policy which make absolutely no distinction between environmentally damaging and environmentally sustainable practices.
“On Tuesday, Scottish Liberal Democrats will set out the concerns of island and coastal communities directly to ministers and urge them to explain what action they will take to address these fears.”