Tory MSP backs fisheries devolvement proposal

The European Commission is to recommend devolving the management of fisheries to local producers’ associations in its forthcoming green paper on the Common Fisheries Policy (CFP), according to Scottish Tory MEP Struan Stevenson.

Mr Stevenson, who was in Shetland this week with Euro election candidate Belinda Don, said he recently had lunch with fisheries commissioner Joe Borg who told him to expect this radical move when the document is published at the end of this month.

Mr Stevenson said: “We have been clamouring for years to get the bureaucrats to devolve management to the regions. Borg said he agreed and that the green paper would reflect this. It will recommend that fisheries management be handed to the producers’ associations.”

The commission would maintain overall control, but such a radical step would bring an end to the system of total allowable catches (TACs) that currently constrain fishermen.

“It will allow the introduction of individual transferrable quotas,” Mr Stevenson said. “We had been alarmed at that prospect because it might allow the Spanish to come in and buy up all the quota, but Mr Borg said it was not rocket science to guarantee a system whereby traditional rights within a zone are retained. There are huge changes to come in the industry.”

Mr Stevenson, who has been a persistent critic of building windfarms on areas of sensitive peatland, also took issue with the Viking Energy scheme. His concerns were heightened, he said, following a meeting with respresentatives of Sustainable Shetland, which opposes the scheme.

“This is going to be one of the biggest windfarms in Europe. There will be millions of tonnes of concrete, 60 miles of roads, borrow pits. It will destroy huge swathes of peatland by drying out the peat and releasing carbon dioxide. That nowadays is a crime.

“On virtually every windfarm site that I have been involved in, I have heard from the so-called experts how the peat is semi-eroded so it is not viable in the first instance and that they will restore it to a position where it is better than before.

“I invited several independent scientists to Brussels to give papers at a seminar. None of them had met before, but all of them, one after the other, said don’t build windfarms on peat bogs. This is the wrong site.”

Viking Energy project officer Aaron Priest retorted that constructing windfarms did not require peatbogs to be drained, citing the Burradale windfarm as an example.

“The Viking Energy project has engaged one of the country’s foremost peat experts, Olivia Bragg from Dundee University. Dr Bragg’s work is to ensure that any roads, borrow pits and turbine bases are constructed in a way which keeps peat disturbance to an absolute minimum,” Mr Priest said.

“Over and above this, her work will be central to a habitat management plan. That plan should bring stability and potential regeneration to what is currently an eroding landscape. The end result should be peatland areas which are restored rather than damaged.”

Mr Priest said the forthcoming Viking Energy environmental statement would include a full carbon audit. Research by Scottish Natural Heritage showed that the average windfarm would take between two and three years to pay back any carbon released from the peat, he added.


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