An independent review of the scientific case for the proposed designation of Sound of Barra as an SAC is to be carried out, as part of the decision making process.
Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have completed their final advice on whether Sound of Barra in the Outer Hebrides should be designated due to the important marine species it supports. The advice, which recommends designation, has been received by Environment Minister Paul Wheelhouse, alongside a report on the public consultation exercise.
Given the wide range of responses received, including a high number of individual objections, the Environment Minister has decided that an independent expert review of the scientific case for designation is to be conducted. It is expected the review will be completed before the end of 2012.
Mr Wheelhouse said: “Sound of Barra is home to important colonies of common seals as well as reefs and sandbanks that support many species. That’s why we are considering taking steps to designate the area as a Special Area of Conservation.
“However, the proposed SAC has resulted in a wide range of views, some of which take issue with the scientific assessments carried out. So that I have a complete picture on which to base my decision, I’ve asked for an independent review of the scientific case to be completed.
“I would like to thank Scottish Natural Heritage for their comprehensive report and I have asked them to make it available to interested parties. Once the independent expert review of the scientific case has been completed I will consider all the information, including the consultation responses, before coming to a final decision.
“There are many key considerations in reaching a decision and I’m confident that the final decision will be fully informed and based on sound science. I can assure the communities involved that if I choose to designate we will ensure the right balance will be reached between environmental conservation and their social, economic and cultural requirements.”