An update from COAST’s Winter Newsletter
What has the Scottish Government done in 2019?
There is now very little doubt that the UK will be leaving the EU and there is grave concern that our hard fought environmental protection will be diluted. Protection must have no borders, be joined up and coherent to produce the outcomes that we need. With some 80% of environmental protection sourced through EU laws we need a clear timetable of action from the Scottish Government that will work in whatever post-Brexit world we have.
The 2019 ‘Protecting the Environment after Brexit’ consultation clearly showed that there is a call for the Scottish Government to establish arrangements to ensure they are working to EU standards. Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham has stated ‘We do not want to leave the European Union but if that does happen we will not allow there to be any impact on environmental standards. We will ensure they are maintained, if not exceeded’. However COAST and many other community members see these EU principles currently being ignored by Government.
Nicola Sturgeon, in her TED Talk earlier this year, shared about creating a society which has well-being at the heart of everything we do. She was clear on the pitfalls of a policy using GDP as a measurement of a country’s wealth; a metric which “values activity in the short term that boosts the economy even if that activity is hugely damaging to the sustainability of our planet in the longer term”. So how has her Government done in 2019?
Last year’s December Newsletter described three positive outcomes from community activism in 2018: 1) Scottish Parliament’s ban on mechanical kelp dredging, 2) recommendations by the Rural Economy and Connectivity Committee (RECC) on fish farming to urgently tighten “light touch” regulations, and address fish health and environmental issues before industry can expand, and 3) announcement of the introduction of more effective and comprehensive vessel monitoring, to protect important habitats from illegal fishing.
On Kelp Dredging: Roseanna Cunningham established the Seaweed Review Steering Group. Now coastal communities note with horror that the Group plan to return to the topic of mechanical kelp dredging in 2020 with an ‘industry consultation’ and then three years of field trials, despite the statutory ban and Marine Scotland’s own report warning of the adverse impacts.
On Salmon Farming: the RECC’s recommendations were debated in Parliament, while the Government briefed in favour of the industry on social media. Expansion of the open-cage salmon farm industry has proceeded at full tilt with record numbers of SEPA licenses and local planning applications being processed under the old SEPA finfish regulations. SEPA’s new regulations may appear stronger to some, but in detail allow for the current and new farms to cumulatively kill larger areas of our seabed and pollute more of our inshore waters.
Vessel Monitoring: illegal damage to the seabed in marine protected areas by rogue scallop dredgers has continued at pace this year. There is still no committed action by the Government for a rapid roll-out of effective electronic monitoring, and still no prosecutions in Scotland for these illegal acts of destruction. Electronic monitoring is currently consigned to the Future of Fisheries national discussion paper and damage to our sensitive marine features, areas of vital habitat and blue carbon sinks continues unabated.
This deliberate procrastination must end. Scotland’s First Minister has declared we are in a state of emergency and recognises that “the ecological crisis has to be given the same priority as the climate crisis”. In Scotland’s 2020 Year of Coasts and Waters, COAST and many others call on Marine Scotland to put into action the First Minister’s words.
An update on the north Arran Salmon farm campaign
The Clyde waters are a microcosm of what is happening all the way up the West coast of Scotland; near Arran there are six new salmon aquaculture farms proposed, including the Scottish Salmon Company’s (SSC) 5000 tonne North Arran mega-farm application.
This application received over 450 comments in response to North Ayrshire Council’s (NAC) public consultation; 94% were in objection to the development. The Arran community actively demonstrated against the SSC’s proposal, as 200 people gathered to walk the length of coastline adjacent to Millstone Point where the farm would be sited. The application was objected to by Scottish Natural Heritage and heavily criticised by Marine Scotland Science in their response. See here for official responses to the application https://www.arrancoast.com/official-responses-to-the-north-arran-salmon-farm-application/
Our petition against SSC’s proposal continues to grow as we await the NAC Planning Committee meeting in early 2020 to determine the outcome of this application.
At the time of going to press, an article about the north Arran salmon farm proposal was published in The Guardian, you can view here