Coastal Communities

Part of the debate – in the Scottish Parliament on 3rd February 2022.

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Photo of Carol Mochan Carol Mochan Labour

I thank Ariane Burgess for bringing the debate to the chamber.

Across the UK, we are deeply fortunate to live on a spectacular and unique island furnished with an incredible coastline that, for centuries, has provided us with food, employment and leisure. The environmental wealth that is present across Scotland’s coast is abundant and, without it, our entire culture would be altogether different. I am immensely thankful for that and, from speaking to my constituents, I know that it is perhaps the thing that they love most about the South Scotland region.

However, in order to maintain that environmental wealth, we have to begin to see the coast as a delicate ecosystem with varied needs and challenges, from erosion to the loss of seagrass. We need a thriving coastline to preserve not just the local environment, but the environment of our whole country. That is a weighty responsibility, and I am sure that all of us in the chamber take it very seriously.

Whether it is the work that is mentioned in the motion or the efforts to reintroduce oysters to the Firth of Clyde in my region, every step requires diligent planning and the encouraging of new generations to understand that the coast is a natural resource that we must protect. Part of doing that requires making our coastal communities economically prosperous. That will serve as a strong foundation from which further environmental work can be done. The decline in fishing in so many of Scotland’s coastal communities has broken our economic link with the shore and, with that, poverty has followed.

South Scotland is home to some of our country’s most beautiful and vibrant coastal communities—communities that for many decades were holiday resorts and getaways for families from across Scotland. The way that people travel and take holidays might have changed over time, but for many of those brilliant towns and villages, income from tourism is vital to their continued prosperity. That tourism must be encouraged and incentivised in a sustainable way, and I hope that one of the few advantages of Covid has been that the public has been shown just how wonderful a time they can have at home, on the cliffs and beaches of my region and many others across Scotland.

With that tourism, however, comes increased pollution and, in particular, littering. The South Ayrshire clean-up campaign picked up one million pieces of litter last year alone, with a great deal of it being found in coastal towns, including Ayr, Prestwick and Troon. Much of that litter ends up on beaches and, inevitably, in the sea, where it continues the cycle and is often deposited elsewhere. That is on top of the sewage that is pumped into the sea, creating further ecological problems for wildlife that is often already struggling. Birds and marine life in particular are adversely affected by such build-up and, over time, it leads to loss of habitat, food sources and, inevitably, life.

As Ariane Burgess’s motion details, a key facet of solving the problem is to provide volunteers and organisations with the means to set up community-led nature restoration projects that are both economically viable and environmentally sustainable. Only when that happens will we be able to much more directly tackle pollution and environmental decline. That cannot be entirely top-down, but the private companies that create so much pollution must be held financially responsible. Without that financial support, it is left to well-meaning groups that are reliant on very limited fundraising and the good will of volunteers. The Government and big business must do more.

Our coastline is one of Scotland’s greatest natural assets. It is home to all manner of flora and fauna, and for many people it is also the place that they are from and where they have raised their families. During this parliamentary session, I would like to see a much greater emphasis placed on the key role that such areas play in our nation and, as such, I reiterate my gratitude to Ariane Burgess for bringing this important debate to the chamber.