3. To ask the Scottish Government what socioeconomic impact assessments it has carried out of the new marine protected areas and how many jobs will be lost on shore and at sea in these locations as a result of their designation. (S4O-05256)
Protecting the habitats and species that exist in our seas is vital if we want to see sustainable futures for the industries that operate in them and realise the wider societal benefits that our ecosystems deliver, for example through carbon capture and storage, coastal defence and, of course, the conservation of fish stocks. The Scottish Government has undertaken detailed impact assessments covering our network of marine protected areas and they show that the long-term benefit for Scotland is very positive.
Will the cabinet secretary listen to the concerns of fishing communities? They have protected the marine environment for generations—had they not, nothing would be left to designate—and they are concerned that designation will pose the biggest threat to the fishing industry and fragile communities for decades. Will he ensure appropriate compensation for workers who are affected by job losses at sea and on shore? Will he set up a partnership action for continuing employment team in each affected area to help the workforce that will be displaced?
Rhoda Grant speaks of the fishing industry. I point out to her that there are many sectors in the fishing industry, of which some believe that we are not going far enough with our proposals and some believe that we are going too far.
I have listened very closely to the concerns that have been expressed, which is why we have had substantial consultation over many months on the proposals, as have the Parliament’s committees. I announced a three-point plan covering environmental monitoring, including £500,000 of support for vessels to participate in that monitoring over three years. We are also monitoring the economic impact and taking other mitigation measures.
The minister will be aware that the proposed marine special protection areas are even more challenging because restrictions on activity are imposed as soon as draft areas are selected for consultation. In Orkney, the areas that have been selected are disproportionately large, offer little scope for mitigation through the relocation of activity and risk sterilising huge areas that are of strategic economic importance to the local community and the country.
Will the cabinet secretary commit to amending the proposals for Orkney waters to address concerns that have been raised by the local council, Orkney Fisheries Association and others?
Although I do not agree with all the language that Liam McArthur used in his question, I recognise that there are concerns about the forthcoming consultations on the SPAs. However, we have European obligations to fulfil and I believe that the people of Scotland want to protect our waters and marine environment. We therefore have to strike a balance between protecting the social and economic interests of our island communities and fulfilling our obligations to protect the marine environment. I will listen closely to representations from Orkney and our other island communities.
Does the cabinet secretary share my disappointment with the Labour Party because it appears not to be interested in protecting the marine environment? Does he agree that, far from costing jobs, marine protected areas will boost jobs by helping to ensure sustainable fisheries and will deliver additional jobs in tourism, angling, marine research and so on?
As is the case with many issues, we have had different messages from different members of the Labour Party. I commend the Labour spokespeople for being supportive of the Government’s direction of travel in marine protection, but other members have perhaps taken a slightly different view.
The cabinet secretary will be aware of the concerns of the Clyde Fishermen’s Association about the South Arran Marine Conservation Order 2015 (SSI 2015/437) on the recovery of maerl beds. The order prohibits fishing with gear and certain other types of fishing. Does he agree with the Clyde Fishermen’s Association that that level of protection is unnecessary and unwelcome, that the consultation period was inadequate and too short, and that Clyde fishermen’s incomes and livelihoods will be put at risk as a result of the order?
I assure John Scott and others that we undertook 20 weeks of consultation on the management measures and, as I said, parliamentary committees also undertook around eight weeks of consultation on them. I point out that many parts of the fishing industry support what we are doing and wish that we were going further. We have also had a lot of support from local communities, whose voices we must listen to when we consider the future of Scotland’s marine environment.