Scotland’s Marine Assessment 2020

– in the Scottish Parliament on 13th January 2022.

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Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

2. Thank you, Presiding Officer. I, too, have had some technical difficulties.

To ask the Scottish Government when the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands last met Marine Scotland to discuss Scotland’s marine assessment 2020. (S6O-00609)

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The previous Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform last met Marine Scotland on 10 December 2020, specifically to discuss Scotland’s Marine Assessment 2020 before its publication on 21 December of that year.

I regularly meet Marine Scotland officials to discuss a range of marine issues, which are captured in Scotland’s marine assessment. The Scottish Government is committed to protecting our natural environment and to ensuring that human activity in and around our seas is environmentally, socially and economically sustainable. The measures in support of marine environmental protection that are enshrined in the Bute house agreement clearly demonstrate that commitment.

Photo of Mr Mark Ruskell Mr Mark Ruskell Green

I thank the cabinet secretary for that reassurance. The Bute house agreement includes a whole suite of commitments to strengthen protections for the marine environment by supporting sustainable management of our fisheries. I am encouraged by the news today that the protection for cod spawning in the Firth of Clyde will be reintroduced this year—critically, with no exemptions. Will the cabinet secretary comment on the action’s objectives and the benefits that it aims to deliver?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

In line with the Bute house agreement, we want to restore marine habitats in Scotland’s inshore waters, which is why we have decided to continue the February to April seasonal Clyde cod spawning closure for 2022-23 without exemptions. Unfortunately, despite the seasonal closure having been in place since 2002, the stock has shown very little sign of recovery. It therefore seems sensible to maximise any potential benefit from the closure to assist that stock recovery. We acknowledge that that will have a short-term impact on local fishers, because the closure will be for a period of 11 weeks. However, we believe that it will provide a higher chance of stock recovery and contribute to a more sustainable fishery in the west of Scotland.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

I will take some supplementary questions. Rhoda Grant joins us remotely.

Photo of Rhoda Grant Rhoda Grant Labour

What confidence can the cabinet secretary have in the assessment and implementation of the marine plan when the front-line workers involved in policing it are facing a real-terms pay cut? Marine Scotland’s seafarers are among the lowest paid in the public sector. That leads to a loss of experienced staff and, as a result, patrol vessels are often tied up because they cannot be fully crewed. Will she deliver a fair pay settlement that brings their pay into line with that of other public sector workers?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I will be happy to look into the issues that the member raises and get back to her with a full response.

The Deputy Presiding Officer:

Jenni Minto is also joining us remotely.

Photo of Jenni Minto Jenni Minto Scottish National Party

What is the Scottish Government doing to tackle the persistent problem of marine litter, which has such an impact on water and environmental quality and, crucially, can cause real harm to marine wildlife?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

The member is right about the harms that are caused by marine litter resulting from improper waste disposal on land and at sea. The Scottish Government has developed legislation and policies under its marine litter strategy and the national litter and fly-tipping strategy in order to reduce that form of pollution. That includes bans on many single-use plastic products that are commonly found in beach litter, such as cotton buds, as well as encouraging recycling with a planned deposit return scheme for drinks containers.

Both of those strategies have been reviewed recently, and refreshed versions with new actions are currently open to public consultation. Those consultations are open until 22 March 2022 and 31 March 2022, respectively. I urge and encourage people to take part in a consultation and ensure that their views are known.

Photo of Willie Rennie Willie Rennie Liberal Democrat

The fishing fleet at Pittenweem and other harbours in Fife feel that they are being squeezed out by the increasing number of offshore wind farms in the Forth. Can the cabinet secretary guarantee that further applications for such wind farms will consider the cumulative impact on an important industry?

Photo of Mairi Gougeon Mairi Gougeon Scottish National Party

I thank the member for raising that important point. Having met some of the fishers who are impacted by the issue and having met the member to discuss the matter, I completely appreciate the concerns that fishers have. As a result of the meeting that I had with the member, we are taking away several actions for consideration. As the fisheries minister, it is my responsibility to engage and ensure that concerns that are raised by our fishers are taken into account when such decisions are taken.