A debate sparked by Jamie McGrigor MSP’s motion, opposing the designation of a Special Area of Conservation in the Sound of Barra, will be heard in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday.
The motion is supported by LibDem leader Willie Rennie, MSP and independent MSP Margo MacDonald. Yesterday Rhoda Grant, Labour MSP for the Highlands and Islands, lodged a motion with the Parliament calling on the Scottish Government to halt the designation until further information can be given including the possible socio-economic impact on local communities
SHAMED (Southern Hebrides Against Environmental Designations) will hold a demonstration outside the Parliament on the 8th. Angus MacLeod, Chairman of SHAMED, will lead members of the local communities which will be affected by the proposed designation, including children from the communities whose future is being put at risk, and representatives of Western Isles fishing groups, in the protest. The centrepiece of the protest will be a large banner showing hand-prints of many of the Islands’ children in opposition to the SAC.
The cross party Parliamentary motions come on the heels of opposition to the proposed designation from the Comharlie nan Eilean Siar and all 31 individual councillors, as well objections from more than 40 scientific bodies and individuals.
Angus Campbell, Leader of the Council, said: “The show of unity demonstrates the strength of feeling across the Outer Hebrides to this unwanted and potentially economically devastating designation. It would appear that Scottish Natural Heritage have been highly selective and arbitrary in choosing the Sound of Barra. It is nothing short of scandalous that the views of our community, our economic representative bodies, and that of Comhairle nan Eilean Siar can be ignored and that these unwanted, unnecessary and highly-damaging designations can be foisted on our community against their express will.”
The proposed SAC accounts for some of the most productive shellfish grounds around the Western Isles, providing long-term employment for the crews of over 25 small locally-based vessels, employing 40 fishermen who have pioneered self-introduced conservation schemes to help preserve the future of these traditional fishing grounds. Four local companies, Aurora Shellfish, Kilbride Shellfish, Barratlantic and Kallin Shellfish, are also dependent on shellfish from this area. Those companies provide employment for 60 employees in the processing sector, plus additional spin-off jobs for haulage and engineering services. The area also holds great potential for offshore wind and wave energy. Based on the SNH’s past record of bureaucratic and unsympathetic micro management of designated areas, a designation for the Sound of Barra is certain to have a severe negative impact on both the community’s current economic lifeblood - fishing - and its future potential - offshore energy in the form of wind and wave power.