1. To ask the Scottish Government what discussions it has had with the fishing industry regarding compensation arrangements in relation to the impact of offshore wind farm developments. (S5O-03340)
The Scottish Government has been working closely with fishermen and stakeholder organisations to improve relationships between the fishing and renewables sectors. We are absolutely committed to trying to put working relationships between the two on a more positive footing. However, it should be recognised that the Government has no formal role or powers in relation to the award of compensation concerning the impact of offshore wind farm developments on the fishing industry, and no legal remit to participate in compensation arrangements.
Fishermen who work prawn and creel boats from the Fife ports are anxious about whether the compensation from Red Rock Power and EDF will be enough. The huge cables—the width of a motorway—that will criss-cross the North Sea will be located slap bang in the middle of their fishing grounds and will disrupt routes that they have worked for generations. The fishermen feel powerless in comparison with those massive companies. I have met representatives of EDF and will soon meet those from Red Rock Power. What more can the cabinet secretary do to ensure that the fishermen get fair compensation?
I met some of the fishermen in Pittenweem on 15 April, when I listened carefully to their concerns about lack of engagement in relation to cable burial and the route and timescale for the proposed works. At my behest, officials had a follow-up meeting with them on 30 April. I believe that a further meeting of Marine Scotland officials, developers and fishermen will take place tomorrow. I am determined that we will find a solution that will allow both the renewables sector and the fishing sector to thrive and flourish, which will mean considering the cable issue in particular very carefully. I give Mr Rennie—and Stephen Gethins, the member of Parliament for the area, who has also raised the matter with me—an undertaking that I will consider the issues very carefully, working with my colleague Paul Wheelhouse. On safety grounds and with a view to avoiding damage to fishing gear, it is extremely important that burial of cable takes place wherever it is possible and practical to do so. I expect the direct routes for such cabling to be considered extremely carefully indeed—after all, the fishermen were there first.
Given that the fishermen have in-depth knowledge of where the best fishing grounds are, when it comes to the next round of development of offshore wind farms would it not be more effective simply not to site new developments where such grounds have been identified?
I agree that it is sensible that those who are involved in both sectors should communicate closely. After all, as Maureen Watt well knows, the fishermen have extensive and detailed knowledge of the sea bed in their areas. If there were proper collaboration between them and the renewables sector, such knowledge could be put to good use. In identifying areas for future commercial-scale offshore wind developments, the Scottish ministers use the sectoral marine planning process, which considers a wide range of data that illustrates where fishing takes place as part of an overall analysis of opportunities and constraints. Therefore, I believe that such matters are the subject of proper and appropriate consideration during the development process.