Fishermen and fish farmers call for marine park referendum –

Fishermen and fish farmers call for marine park referendum Published:  16 January, 2007

COMMUNITY representatives from Lochaber and Mull will present a petition to the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee tomorrow, asking for a local referendum to be held in the communities proposed as sites for Scotland’s first coastal and marine national park (CMNP).

It is the latest move to try to get Parliamentarians to appreciate the alarm, dismay and anger the proposals have caused in coastal communities from Argyll to the Western Isles. A number of local authorities, Highlands and Islands Enterprise, the Scottish Crofting Foundation, and three west coast fishermen’s organisations, have all opposed the Park proposals.

The petitioners will inform MSPs that they have been starved of information, and that many of the local communities that could be most directly affected have not had a chance to take part in what local people claim has been a deeply flawed consultation exercise. Iain MacKinnon, a fisherman and fish farmer in Ardnamurchan said that his previous experience of Scottish Natural Heritage, who are acting as advisers to the Scottish Executive, had not been encouraging.

Mr MacKinnon said: “We have found that they are not good at listening to local people, or taking account of the needs of the community. Since this whole thing started we have been trying to get information from them about what this will mean to fishermen and fish farmers, local communities and what it could mean for future house building and jobs for our children, but so far without success. Yet SNH are promoting the areas of Mull, Ardnamurchan, the Small Isles and Skye as the likely areas for the CMNP without speaking to local people. That is an appalling liberty in a democratic country.”

Hugh MacPherson, a crofter-fisherman from Ardnamurchan, said they felt they were taking on the full bureaucratic machine of the Executive, with few resources, and that it was an unequal battle. “Where the park goes will have little effect on the rest of Scotland, but it will have a tremendous effect on local people, but there has been little or no local consultation. It is very important that the voices of people living and working in this area, and the voices of their families are listened to,” said Mr MacPherson.

He added: “We are spending our own time and money to battle against this, whereas SNH and the conservation lobby are paid to try to bring this Park into existence. No one will give us a straight answer. No one can say how this will improve the quality of our roads, schools and other services. Our fear is that they might give as many promises as they like but once the Park is in place, they will start changing things and it is difficult to know what we can do to make a living.”

Mr MacKinnon said: “The petition asks MSPs to change the National Parks (Scotland) Act 2000 to include the requirement for a local referendum as part of the process for designating a Park area. That would ensure that the local community would have to be kept informed of all that a CMNP will mean. We have had no real answers so far. We want to make sure the CMNP goes in the right place, with local support and that it doesn’t disadvantage local communities.”

He added: “Everyone says that a Park can only go ahead with the support of the local community but as far as we can see, there is no way of gauging that support. There were 25 stakeholders mentioned in the Executive handouts, but most of them are either Executive agencies or the Executive provides their funding. There were no community representatives, no one from the construction, hotel, catering or food processing industries and no one from the utility companies. There was no one from crofting or farming interests and no one from Caledonian MacBrayne, which for a proposed west coast marine park in unbelievable. I have gone to the expense of attending half a dozen meetings and there has been no local support for a CMNP at any of these.” is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publishes, FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.