CALLS have been made for a Scottish Minister to meet with concerned Galloway fishermen.
It comes after widespread criticism locally of the Scottish Government’s proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs).
Galloway and West MSP Finlay Carson said the plans would lead to restrictions on fishing activity, aquaculture, as well as water sports and swimming.
And he warned of a resulting “catastrophic impact” on the livelihoods of inshore fishers who work in the Solway and Irish Sea.
Meanwhile, South Scotland SNP MSP Emma Harper has this week been explaining her decision to initially support the HPMAs, saying: “I voted with the Scottish Government because I truly believe the commitment from the Scottish Government that it will listen to the voices of Scotland’s fishers and fishing communities, to get these proposals right.”
She stressed she has raised the concerns of Galloway fishers at parliament and she also this week admitted that the proposals in their current form will not work in the interests of the region and will put livelihoods at risk. Ms Harper wants them to be reconsidered and has written to Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan MSP requesting she meets with local representatives soon.
She said: “Having listened to the voices of fishers and those in fishing communities locally, it is clear that the Scottish Government’s proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas, in their current form as stated in the consultation, add unnecessary stress to Dumfries and Galloway’s extremely hardworking fishers and fishing communities.
“The fishing sector have a number of concerns with the proposals described in the Scottish Government’s consultation. These concerns are ever more acute in Dumfries and Galloway as one of the UK Government’s proposed HPMAs is on the English side of the Solway Firth and fishers locally are concerned, should the Solway be subject to a further HPMA on the Scottish side, that it would essentially mean an end to their livelihood and to fishing, an activity which is part of the culture and heritage of Dumfries and Galloway.”
Her comments came after fellow MSP Finlay Carson accused her of a ‘gross betrayal’ of coastal communities.
He had said: “I don’t normally get involved in criticising the actions of fellow MSPs but on this instance I feel it is totally necessary.
“Despite providing lip-service earlier to the enormous anxiety, stress and anger being faced by those involved in the fishing sector, Emma Harper voted in favour to ban fishing off Scotland’s coastline.”
Mr Carson continued: “The day before the vote Ms Harper told how the Galloway Static Gear Inshore Fishermen’s Association, the Clyde Fishermen’s Association and other bodies had approached her to convey their concerns.
“How can she honestly face them in the future having dismissed their fears and voted in favour of HPMAs knowing the impact they will cause?”
Speaking in a Holyrood debate on the matter, the Tory MSP had himself warned that plans to increase limitations on inshore fishing and marine activities would devastate many coastal communities.
He highlighted the enormous backlash to it and said: “One thing is obvious, the SNP-Green alliance won’t be satisfied until even guddling in rock pools is prohibited.
“They are looking to turn the lights off in our coastal communities.”
And he insisted that the Scottish Government had issued a misleading statement by claiming the plans are in line with those of the EU, saying: “The EU target is that 30 per cent of waters should have some protection – similar to our existing MPA which allow some fishing and aim to strike the right balance between conservation and sustainable harvesting.
“Scotland already has nearly 40 per cent of its waters under some protection. So, here we are potentially adding another ten per cent total fishing ban. This has all the signs of being another example of bad policy making.”