SNP-Green deal includes curbs on fish farming

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Nicola Sturgeon

The power-sharing agreement agreed today between Scotland’s SNP Government and the Scottish Greens includes a commitment to ban all fisheries and aquaculture from at least 10% of Scottish waters.

The deal, which follows weeks of negotiations between the two parties, falls short of a full coalition although two Green MSPs will be given junior ministerial posts. The parties have agreed to differ on a range of issues from aviation and international relations to independent schools and the regulation of sex work. In other areas the Greens will support the SNP, including on a call for a second referendum on Scottish independence within five years.

A shared policy platform has been hammered out, which has been published as Working together to build a greener, fairer, independent Scotland – otherwise known as the Bute House Agreement.

The Agreement specifically addresses aquaculture, and pledges:

  • An independent review to consider the effectiveness and efficiency of the current regulatory regime for fish farming – this had previously been announced by the Scottish Government;
  • A vision and strategy for sustainable aquaculture “that places an enhanced emphasis on environmental protection and community benefits”;
  • An immediate programme of work to better protect wildlife and the environment, including a response to the Salmon Interactions Working Group in September 2021, consultation on a “spatially adaptive” sea lice risk assessment framework for fish farms by the end of the year, and strengthened controls on sea lice, wrasse and fish escapes in the course of 2021/22; and
  • A commitment to ensure “that fish farming contributes more to support communities and recreational fisheries, to promote innovation and to support services such as fish health and welfare inspections and monitoring”.

In addition, the Agreement commits to a “step change” in marine protection, including the introduction of a new category of “Highly Protected Marine Areas” (HPMAs), for inshore and offshore locations, which will cover at least 10% of Scottish waters.

Within the HPMAs there will be no permitted aquaculture or fisheries of any kind, or infrastructure developments, but limited tourism and recreational activities would be allowed.

A recommendation that HPMAs should be introduced for English waters was set out in the Benyon Review, commissioned for the Department of the Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) and published in 2019.

The SNP-Green policy programme also states: “The Scottish Government and Scottish Green Party believe that Scotland should have a sustainable, diverse, competitive and economically viable aquaculture industry. It must operate within environmental limits and with social licence and ensure there is a thriving marine ecosystem for future generations.”

Announcing the deal, First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said: “I hope that we will work together in the years ahead to secure the greener, fairer, independent Scotland that we know is possible.”

The draft agreement will now be subject to scrutiny by both of the parties concerned.

Patrick Harvie, Scottish Greens Co-leader