THE wood hyacinths are coming into bloom at the moment. It is against the law to pick them. Equally the trees that shade them are sacrosanct. The birds that are nesting in them and their nests are protected. The animals that live in the woods are in various ways free of unreasonable harm.

But below the tide line there is no such protection. Every prawn, crab, fish and algal growth it seems is there to be taken. And when the Scottish Government try to protect them there is an outcry. This is savagery. The herring has been swept from the North Sea. The cod has vanished from the Newfoundland Banks. The example of the whales and basking sharks being protected at the last moment is not acknowledged.

READ MORE: Highland Council voices 'strong opposition' to HPMAs

The role of fish in the health of the Scottish people is ignored. Fish stocks must be conserved to feed the nation with the protein and oils they need to be well in the soon-to-be-worsening climate. The population will in the near future be increased by incomers who are even less used to such low sunshine levels and who will have even greater needs.

The tiny area of Lamlash Bay that is protected, and is already producing four times as many lobsters, is remarkable. But even more remarkable is that by example it produced the leading photographer in the recent David Attenborough programme. Who could have seen that scallop protection could lead to such a useful outcome?

The protection of the enormous Scottish marine biome is key to all our futures.

Iain WD Forde

THE Scottish Government’s proposals for Highly Protected Marine Areas have generated a lot of comment. Not many are endorsing them right now. It is to be expected that many fishers will take a negative stance, even if the consultation proposals do not at this stage identify any location for the increased level of protection proposed. Those inclined to seek more protection for our seas also have criticisms of the detail and the lack of differentiation between the likely impacts of the different methods of fishing.

The debate, if you can call it that, begs a number of questions. What is the state of Scotland’s marine habitats? Are they flourishing or just getting by? Or are they sorely depleted? Similar questions can be asked about our fish stocks. In addition, how do we assess their health? Is it against their state over someone’s lifetime, or back at a time before steam trawling started? How many folk are aware that the existing Marine Protected Areas for the most part have no fishing management stipulations?

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Does anyone believe that there should be no management of fishing? Is it the case, as some contend, that because fishers depend on the seas for their living, they naturally have the best interests of the marine environment in mind when carrying out their endeavours? (Given that folk are prepared to drive through 20mph zones at closer to 40mph in public view, this may be a bit of a stretch – out at sea, and out of sight).

Is it not the case that for centuries, without proper management of fisheries, those with greater fishing capacity (more powerful engines and gear) have displaced those with less capacity? If you agree that is the case, is some degree of management, monitoring and enforcement not necessary?

Unless the parties on both sides of the issue can agree about the answers to these basic questions, I doubt that the future health of our seas will be in good hands.

Roddie Macpherson

READ MORE: SNP MSP Fergus Ewing rips up HPMA plan in Holyrood chamber

ON what planet is Fergus Ewing living? A Highly Protected Marine Area is an effort to prevent the industrial scraping of the sea bed. This practice kills everything. It does nothing to encourage fishing. It does the opposite. Imagine removing all the topsoil from every farm, park and garden in Scotland. No animal or insect would survive such an onslaught. It’s vital for all our futures that the Scottish Government doesn’t go down the same path as the madmen in Westminster.

Time’s running out for the planet. The likes of Fergus Ewing are shortening what time we have left.

Tony Kime

3.6 MILLION women born in the 1950s had their state pension age increased without their knowledge, as highlighted at PMQs last week by Labour MP Rebecca Long-Bailey. This appalling situation is ongoing and has caused no end of additional poverty, hardship and even the loss of homes in some cases as a result of maladministration by the Department for Work and Pensions.

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The plight of those women has been to the courts, has cross-party support in the House of Commons and is currently with the Parliamentary and Health Service Ombudsman. The PM was asked if he will commit to the fast and fair payment of any compensation recommended by the ombudsman. He expressed no remorse or justice for the women affected.

How has this injustice been allowed to continue? Just imagine if this was happening in France, where there have been riots in the streets about the increase from 62 to 64 in the state pension age!

Catriona C Clark