Greens welcome confirmation of a move to give Ministers new powers over controversial ship to ship oil transfer proposals for the Firth of Forth, now published as a draft Statutory Instrument by the Scottish government and lodged with the parliament for consideration and approval before the summer parliamentary recess.

This will effectively give Scottish Ministers “call-in” powers on plans which may affect protected sites, a process which will go before parliament for approval later this week and will then come into effect immediately. It is based on the proposals made by the Scottish Green Party, and agreed as a priority for action during their political agreement talks with the SNP immediately following the Holyrood election.

It puts the final decision-making powers on such projects into the hands of Scottish Ministers.  Amendments to the Habitats Directive will enable the Scottish Executive to properly fulfill its obligations under European environmental law, and to suspend projects until compliance has been validated.

Robin Harper MSP said: “I am delighted that the government has agreed with us. Shifting power back to Ministers using Habitats Directive Regulations is the right way to bring about swift action on this threat.

“It is an absolute priority that the public interest be upheld, and that key decisions of such immense importance are made by the right people and for the right reasons. The Forth marine environment is of world heritage significance, is vital to the local economy and developments must be subject to proper scrutiny.

“It is a pity that the previous Libdem and Labour Executive did not address this over the last two years and I am pleased that the new government has agreed to move much more quickly on our proposed course of action.

“Scotland ultimately needs a full Marine Bill so that we can properly address environmental protection and responsible stewardship of our seas and coasts.  There remains a great deal of work to do. But this is a first step to ending the perceived conflict of interest and threat to the environment which has been rightly named the Farce of the Forth.”

Under the current chaotic legal mix of responsibility, there is no robust consenting regime for ship-to-ship (STS) oil transfers.  The Forth bid has been the subject of fierce criticism for the way it has been conducted, and has been condemned by the public, politicians, environmental agencies and local authorities as posing unacceptable pollution risk to the area. Because of its twin role as plc and harbour authority, Forth Ports is both promoter and regulator of the scheme, and stands to benefit from the proposed activity.