What Are Our Regional MSPs For?

Perhaps like me you were aware of your regional MSPs but were actually quite sure what they were for? Now that I have written to them  all on a very contentious issue here on Arran I am even less clear as to what they are for.

Paraphrasing the Scottish Parliament website we have 1 constituency MSP and 7 regional MSPs. Furthermore, constituency and regional MSPs have equal status in the Parliament. The terms used to differentiate between the size and geographical areas they represent and the way in whic they were elected.

Voters with 1 vote choose their constituency MSP and with others vote for a political party within a larger region – grouping together 8 – 10 constituencies to form a region. There are 8 Scottish regions each with  7 additional seats in the Parliament.

A list of our MSPs can be flound here.

So we vote for both our constituency and regional MSPs – who have equal status in Parliament – on the assumption that they are there to represent our interests? My experience does not bear this out.

On the matter of the proposed expansion to the Lamlash fish farm I wrote to all of our MSPs and our MP via email – a copy of which I have enclosed below:

I am writing to you as a regional MSP on the subject of a proposed expansion of the fish farm in Lamlash Bay by the Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) – not Scottish at all but registered in Jersey and quoted on the Oslo Stock Exchange. Perhaps as a regional MSP from the Green Party you may already be familiar with the recent history of this application – being ‘called in’ by the Scottish Government only for it to be withdraw by SSC. The relief of the isle was short lived however with a even bigger expansion threatened by SSC which will soon reach North Ayrshire Council for Screening and Scoping under their Stategic Environmental Assessment procedures.

As a local resident of Arran I wish to express my deep concern and serious reservations about this expansion. Evidence continues to pile up against fish farms on so many grounds seemingly almost on a daily basis and yet it seems equally clear that the Scottish Government leans towards pushing revenue generation above local wishes and wider environmental concerns. Further a FOI request seems to show that ministers have intervened on behalf of fish farmers preventing SEPA from introducing a ban on the use of emamectin benzoate by fish farmers. This is not even to mention that the SSC site in Lamlash Bay is located within the South Arran MPA and indeed close to the No Take Zone in the bay. Surely the location of and proposed expansion of a known polluting fish farm makes a mockery of the whole MPA exercise?

Are you are aware for example that data from SEPA shows that SSC have breached environmental standards in Lamlash Bay and has lead them to be dubbed one of the ‘filthy five’ fish farm operatives by environmental campaigners? Are you aware that SSC continues to use emamectin benzoate in Lamlash Bay in an attempt to rid fish of the sea-lice which are known to plague fish farms in Scotland despite it being a neurotoxin reputed to be damaging to other aquatic life, mammals, birds and human health?

Evidence of the environmental damage caused by fish farming is not hard to find and a quick search of Google yields a wealth of daming information – which I’m quite happy to furnish you with if desired. This is all extremely worrying and seriously detrimental for our local marine environment, public health and indeed deleterious to other community uses of the bay. Who wants to swim or row or fish in waters which are effectively a toxic soup of pesticides and polluted by tonnes of undiluted fish waste?

For the reasons above I am writing to urge you as a regional MSP to use your best efforts to oppose the proposed expansion by SSC on behalf of the local community on Arran who strongly oppose any expansion of the fish farm in Lamlash Bay.


The responses are listed briefly below:

Constituency MSP

Kenneth Gibson – replied and supportive.

Regional MSPs

Neil Bibby – Scottish Labour – No reply

Maurice Curry – Scottish Conservative – No reply

Mary Fee – Scottish Labour – No reply

Maurice Golden – Scottish Conservative – Replied non-commital

Jamie Greene – Scottish Conservative – No reply

Ross Greer – Scottish Green – No reply

Ken Macintosh – Presiding Officer – Detailed reply explaining his role and that he as PO had to be neutral.

All told a pretty pathetic response rate I’m sure you’ll agree and hardly a ringing endorsement of our duly elected representatives given the huge amount of local concern expressed about the proposed expansion of the fish farm. Perhaps you as a voter might take the time to write to our regional MSPs in a similar fashion to put some pressure on them for a response? Certainly the poor level of response rate raised the question in my own mind ‘Just what are our regional MSPs for’?

It is worth noting the same email was sent to our Westminster MP Ms P Gibson. Her response was very supportive.