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Protecting our seas

Published: 9 Feb 2016 10:13

Environment Secretary calls for powers to regulate ship to ship oil transfer.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead has renewed his call for decisions on ship to ship oil transfers to be devolved to the Scottish Government.

With an application for ship to ship oil transfer in the Cromarty Firth under consideration, Mr Lochhead has written to Patrick McLoughlin, Secretary of State for Transport. In the letter he asks again for the devolution of powers to ensure decisions can be taken by the Scottish Government in line with European obligations to protect the marine environment. He also insists that should this again be refused, the Scottish Government is consulted prior to any decisions being made.

In his letter, Mr Lochhead also asks that the "worrying" decision to remove the one remaining emergency towing vessel from Scottish seas from March 31 is revisited.

Mr Lochhead highlights a number of concerns about the potential impact the two issues could have on Scotland's marine life, environmental features and, when it comes to the emergency towing vessel, the safety of mariners.

Mr Lochhead said:

"Scotland's seas are a precious and valuable resource and we are committed to protecting them. But our ability to do this is undermined by decisions being taken elsewhere.

"We have a legal obligation to protect Scotland's environment and yet we have no say in whether ship to ship transfer of oil can take place in our waters. That is why I am again calling for the UK Government to give Scotland these powers without delay, given there is an application for the Cromarty Firth being considered.

"If, once again, the UK Government refuse to devolve these powers, they simply must consult the Scottish Government before a decision about the Cromarty Firth application, and any application affecting Scottish waters, is taken. In the meantime we are paying very close attention to the views of SNH and SEPA, which we will consider carefully.

"I have also raised the UK Government's decision to remove the remaining emergency towing vessel from the Scottish coast which is a worrying backward step that does nothing to help protect our mariners, marine wildlife and the industries that depend on our seas.

"We need urgent action to ensure that Scotland's seas and coastal communities are properly protected."