A SMALL island community has united against plans for what would be Scotland’s largest salmon farm amid pollution concerns.

The locals of Papa Westray (also known as Papay) in Orkney, which has around 70 residents, have banded together to oppose a prospective 3850-tonne “organic” salmon farm off East Moclett – which has been proposed by Canadian firm Cooke Aquaculture.

Orkney Islands Council is set to hold a vote on the proposal for the farm today, after around 110 objections were filed which cited fears over pollution, wildlife and the farm’s visual impact.

A delegation is flying to Kirkwall to voice the concerns with the planning committee before today’s vote, but has been told representatives will only have five minutes to make their case on behalf of local residents.

The National: Campaigners are protesting what would be the island's seventh fish farm. Pic: No East Moclett GroupCampaigners are protesting what would be the island's seventh fish farm. Pic: No East Moclett Group (Image: unknown)

But James Stockan, leader of the council, said of the hearing: “The time given is at the discretion of the chair and committee and equal time is given to both applicant and objectors. Most of the evidence will normally be in the report before the committee.”

If the proposal is successful, the farm would not only be the largest in Scotland but the seventh Cooke Aquaculture farm on the small island.

Salmon farming production in Orkney has more than trebled from 6369 tonnes in 2011 to a projected 23,104 tonnes in 2021 – an increase of 263% within a decade.

Speaking with The National, Catherine Chattington of the No East Moclett protest group said residents felt “ignored, disrespected and disregarded” by Cooke Aquaculture.

She added: “Because we’re out of the way, it’s like it’s out of sight and out of mind for the rest of the world.

“We’ve been working day and night reading documents and responding to them, it’s taken over our lives, to be honest.

“We’ve been disregarded, we’re not being respected at all …”

Chattington said she felt the response of the local council was particularly disappointing, claiming it had “tried to trip us up every step of the way”.

She said: “We want the council to come out and listen to us before they make a decision, but we’ve been told it’s a foregone conclusion.

“We thought we would have their support but it’s all tied up in bureaucracy.”

She went on: “We just want to live here as we have done for years and years.”

The National: Ariane Burgess has been a vocal supporter of the protest against the planned salmon farmAriane Burgess has been a vocal supporter of the protest against the planned salmon farm

Meanwhile, the Scottish Greens have backed the protesters, launching a petition against the proposed farm. MSP Ariane Burgess has been a vocal opponent of Cooke Aquaculture’s proposal, saying the environmental impact is “not a price worth paying”.

She added: “People living locally already have to work year-round clearing salmon farm waste and debris from their beloved beaches and shores so you can understand why they are desperate not to lose their last stretch of shoreline where they can currently swim or enjoy the beach without noise or the fear of pollution.

“They are also rightly concerned about the impact on local creel fishermen and on tourism given how visitors, drawn by the beautiful natural landscapes, are so crucial to their local economy.

“The community, nature and local economy must come before shareholder profit.”

The protest has even caught the attention of famous author Amy Liptrot, who is currently on the island while her novel The Outrun is being turned into a film.

She contacted Orkney Islands Council to lodge her objection on grounds of water and noise pollution as well as “changes to the visual character of the area”.

She wrote: “I have lived on Papay and what drew me to the island was its rich biodiversity, seabirds, coastal animal and plant species and open seascapes. These things are rare and precious and why visitors come to the island.

She added: “Intensive salmon farming runs counter to the ways the sea should be protected and indeed is legally protected in the Marine Protected Area very close to this site.”

Cooke Aquaculture has been contacted for comment.