Harper warns over threat to Scotland’s seas

As revealed in today’s Sunday Herald, almost all Scotland’s seas are being offered up for oil and gas exploration by Westminster in the largest ever move of this sort. (1)

Contrary to some reports, UK Ministers have not withdrawn plans to allow drilling and seismic testing in the protected waters of the Moray Firth – those plans are still under consideration alongside the latest moves.

Scientists and marine conservation organisations have come together to campaign on this issue, and the Greens will work through the Scottish Parliament to block this irresponsible scheme, starting with a motion to be put down tomorrow. (2)

Robin Harper MSP said:

“These proposals by the UK Government represent the most substantial threat to Scotland’s seas in the modern age. Practically every mile of our coastline could see drilling and seismic exploration, putting marine ecosystems and wildlife at risk. This amounts to exploitation of the crudest sort, and undermines every improvement in marine conservation since the 1970s.

“What’s more, at a time when reducing emissions should be at the top of Ministers’ priorities, it seems they are determined to take us in exactly the wrong direction. Have they forgotten that their dependence on fossil fuels is what has led to the threat of climate change in the first place?

“UK Ministers must abandon these unacceptable plans, and the SNP must say whether they intend to put Scotland first or whether they will let Whitehall blunder in unopposed.”

Erich Hoyt, Senior Research Fellow for the Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, added:

“The sheer scale of the oil and gas development offered by the Government could have very significant effects on all whales, dolphins and porpoises all around our coasts.

“However, we know that some groups such as the Moray Firth bottlenose dolphins are particularly at risk. As a small, unique and isolated population these dolphins desperately need strong and urgent protection measures. The UK government designated a Special Area of Conservation in 2005 seemingly for this purpose. Yet their oil and gas licensing plans could now render this protection almost meaningless.

“Licensing must not be allowed within any Special Areas of Conservation protecting dolphins, or indeed in any of the areas they regularly use.”

Calum Duncan, Scottish Conservation Manager for the Marine Conservation Society, said:

“Ministers in London and Edinburgh have promised legislation to provide better protection for our vulnerable seas. However, the Marine Conservation Society is concerned about the massive expansion of oil and gas exploration in those same waters and believe that the impacts of oil & gas should be planned and assessed alongside all other marine activities, not managed in isolation.

“We have to ask: how much cumulative pressure from oil and gas and other human activities can our vulnerable marine wildlife, from whales, dolphins and basking sharks to coldwater corals and sea lochs, withstand? Human exploitation of our seas must be managed within environmental limits.”


1. See http://tinyurl.com/2hz9xd

2. Tomorrow’s motion to be lodged as follows: That this Parliament notes the commitments made by Scottish Ministers to protecting Scotland’s marine environment; recognises the international significance of the bottlenose dolphin population which lives in and around the Moray Firth, given that they are a European Protected Species; further notes the decision by UK Ministers to open up almost the whole of Scotland’s near-shore waters for oil and gas exploration; understands the concerns that marine conservation organisations have about this plan; further recognises the significant level of public support, shown in the 7,000 letters already sent to UK Ministers opposing plans for exploration in the protected habitat of the Moray Firth; and urges Scottish Ministers, when in discussion with the UK Government, to make clear their opposition to the indiscriminate opening up of our seas to oil exploration, and to work to protect some of Scotland’s most famous natural assets.