Greens today secured a commitment from newly appointed Deputy Environment Minister Sarah Boyack to consider tougher laws to protect delicate environments such as the Firth of Forth from the dangers of ship to ship oil transfers.
The specific issue of ship to ship oil transfers will now be considered in relation to the EU Habitats Directive, which requires the Executive to protect species such as dolphins and other cetaceans, to determine whether tougher regulations are required to avoid breaching the European law.
The commitment came this morning when Ms Boyack addressed the Environment & Rural Development Committee as part of its marine inquiry. Mark Ruskell, Green MSP for Mid Scotland & Fife, highlighted the case of the oil transfer proposal as one of many areas where Scotland is potentially failing to uphold EU law due to weak regulation.
Mr Ruskell called on the Minister to identify and plug all gaps in current regulations to ensure that Scotland avoids further censure by the European Court of Justice over environment protection. Ms Boyack pledged that the case of ship to ship oil transfers would be given special consideration by the Executive, in consultation with Westminster.
Mr Ruskell said, “Greens cautiously welcome this move by the Minister following some very intense lobbying from ourselves and other groups, including our campaign hotline which proved that protected species such as dolphins are using the Forth. It is high time the Executive took some serious action to recognise the concerns of communities up and down the Firth, hopefully today’s commitment is the start of that.
“Forth Ports, as both a private company and protector of the environment, has a serious conflict of interest and I’m keen that new regulations put the final decision over oil transfer proposals in the hands of publicly accountable ministers, rather than a plc whose priority is, first and foremost, boosting profits for their shareholders.”
Green MSPs recently released the results of a whale & dolphin sightings hotline revealing that there were 99 Firth of Forth sightings of cetaceans in a period of around two months. The data adds further weight to the anti-oil transfer campaign because under EU law the Executive must protect certain species â€“ such as dolphins, whales and porpoises – and their habitats. (1)