Committee asked to look at Minch tankers –

Committee asked to look at Minch tankers Published:  15 November, 2006

Sarah Boyack

The Scottish parliament’s environment and rural development committee will be asked to propose controls on dangerous shipping and cargoes in the coastal waters of Scotland.

The committee, which was instrumental in bringing fundamental changes to the Crofting Reform Bill in response to fears from crofters that the Bill would destroy crofting, has started gathering evidence on protecting and managing the marine environment.

Committee convener Sarah Boyack, said: “Our seas and coasts are hugely important, both to people who live in Scotland and to tourists, and in terms of biodiversity. Far less is known about the health of, and the pressures on, the marine environment than is known about our land. The marine environment is a public resource, used for many different commercial and recreational activities. These activities are regulated on a sector-by-sector basis and administered by a number of different bodies with no overall co-ordination.

She added: “Against that backdrop, there is increasing political focus on the marine environment. The UK Government is developing a marine bill. In Scotland the Executive has published a marine strategy and is considering how it might improve management of the marine environment. These developments offer our committee an opportunity to consider how policy can be developed to ensure that the marine environment is managed sustainably.

“We are keen to hear views on how the marine environment should be managed, especially from communities and individuals who live and work in coastal and marine areas.”

The committee is widely regarded in the North of Scotland as preventing the passage of a Bill that would have been disastrous for crofting. Councillor Bill Fulton, who has campaigned for the past 20 years to place tighter restrictions on dangerous shipping and cargoes in the Minch, said the committee’s inquiry offered a new opportunity to get something done. “The EC is already consulting on a marine policy, and I’m sure the committee’s inquiry will feed into that. I would say that it should be a fundamental consideration for them how to control dangerous cargoes and shipping. If a ship goes down and say a cargo of oil escapes, that will damage the environment and the coastal economy for years to come. It is then futile to have policies about nature conservation, managing the coastal zone and ensuring that the uses of all the sectors are balanced, if the resource itself is damaged beyond repair,” he said.

He urged the committee to be just as open-minded about the concerns of local communities as they were in the case of the Crofting Reform Bill. “This committee actually consulted the people and listened. Highland Council has been shouting at the UK and Scottish Governments for years about impending marine disaster and they haven’t listened. They are talking about a marine national park on the west coast, which isn’t very popular with local people. But they won’t have anywhere to put a marine national park if an oil tanker goes down,” said Councillor Fulton.

He added: “We hear on a regular basis of ships getting into difficulty because they are technically unsound, or because they are inadequately crewed. It is only a matter of time before one of these goes down and we have an environmental disaster. I hope the committee takes this issue seriously and proposes action before it’s too late.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.