AN SNP MSP has expressed concern about the impact of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) on coastal communities and called on the government to provide reassurance they will not be imposed without consent.

In a letter to Màiri McAllan, the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition, Karen Adam said some of her constituents felt their concerns about HPMAs were not being heard by the Scottish Government.

The MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast wrote: “As you know, many lives and livelihoods across our country, particularly in the North East, depend on fisheries and the meaningful contribution they make to both the culture and economy of Scotland.

“Although this issue has predominantly been raised to me by industry leaders in the North East, I understand that Highly Protected Marine Areas mainly have a significant impact on coastal communities in other areas across the West of Scotland. Evidently, there is widespread concern for the industry as a whole.

“The twin climate and biodiversity crises pose an existential threat to our way of life, and we know that our efforts to protect precious marine life are a key component of our wider efforts to restore habitats and allow threatened species to recover and return to our coasts.

“If we are to be successful, however, we need to take the key stakeholders of the blue economy with us, and this requires a just transition. It is clear from recent interactions with my constituents that they feel this is not currently the case.

“I urge you to do all you can to reassure them that the Scottish Government is not only listening but acting on their concerns.”

On Thursday morning Adam raised the issue in the Scottish Parliament.

She asked McAllan if she would echo the First Minister’s commitment not to impose the policy on any community that was “vehemently” against it.

McAllan said: “I am happy to reiterate the First Minister's commitment.

READ MORE: Adult Human Female screening in Edinburgh cancelled for second time

“I firmly believe that you don't impose policies on communities. You work hand in hand with them to make them work.

“I want our island and coastal communities to help shape the creation of these areas.”

The Scottish Government’s consultation on HPMAs closed on April 17.

If enacted, it would see 10% of Scotland’s seas designated as HPMAs by 2026.

This would put an end to the vast majority of human activity within these areas, including fishing, aquaculture and oil and gas infrastructure.

While many environmental organisations state that the policy is needed to recover marine biodiversity in Scotland, which the charity Open Seas has described as being in “historically bad condition”, businesses and communities who rely economically on the sea have expressed concern that it could “devastate” livelihoods and result in depopulation of the Highlands and Islands. 

Speaking to The National, Adam said she would be setting up a cross-party group on fisheries and coastal communities in the coming weeks.

She said: “Fishers who I have spoken to in the past few weeks have been clear: they are very concerned about Highly Protected Marine Areas.

“So, I welcome the Cabinet Secretary's reassurance that the Scottish Government will not impose Highly Protected Marine Areas on coastal communities that do not want them.

“In the coming weeks, I hope to set up a Cross-Party Group on Fisheries and Coastal Communities to better understand and represent their views in the Scottish Parliament.”