Shetland’s existing regulatory authority over salmon farming is in danger of being lost when the Marine Bill is debated in the Scottish Parliament on Thursday.
The final stages of the bill include a Labour amendment that would take powers away from Shetland Islands Council and give them to the government in Edinburgh.
MSP Tavish Scott, who has worked with senior SIC members and officials to oppose the proposals, said Shetland had managed the enormous growth of salmon farming, mussel farming and other sea farms over the past 25 years.
Mr Scott said: “The islands’ ability to take responsibility for these developments, while recognising the environmental impact, has been shown over many years. Our marine industries are vital for the future prosperity of the islands.
“There are already plenty of Scottish-wide bodies such as SEPA and SNH which have a legitimate and central role in considering new and existing fish farm developments. So I cannot see why centralising more powers in Edinburgh with a central government department makes any sense. I am pleased the Scottish Government does not want this change.
“So at this stage I have suggested that the council convener and his colleagues make Shetland’s position clear to Highlands & Islands MSPs of all parties. I also know that the Shetland industry itself wants to retain the existing regulatory arrangements fearing that another Edinburgh-based body to deal with will mean delay, prevarication and extra costs.”
Mr Scott added: “Thursday’s vote is important for Shetland. I want to see decision-making powers retained in the islands – not lost to central government. I’ve suggested that the council makes this case to MSPs and we can but hope that common sense will prevail.”