THE Scottish Conservatives are urging MSPs to join them in calling on the Scottish Government to scrap its ambitious plans for increasing protection of marine environments.

Plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), which seek to severely limit human activity in 10% of Scotland’s seas by 2026, are backed by environmentalists who say that the country’s marine habitats are in “historically bad condition”.

However, because the plans would see fishing, aquaculture and other business activities banned from operating within HPMAs, many coastal communities have expressed concern at the proposals.

A consultation on HPMAs closed on April 17. Since then, Mairi McAllan, the Net Zero and Just Transition Secretary, has promised to visit coastal communities to hear their concerns.

As yet, the Scottish Government has not announced which areas may become HPMAs and is still considering feedback from the consultation.

But the Scottish Conservative will hold a debate at Holyrood on Wednesday calling for the plans to be reconsidered.

The party’s rural affairs spokesperson, Rachael Hamilton, claimed the Scottish Greens were the “driving force” behind the proposals.

She said: “The current proposals put forward in relation to Highly Protected Marine Areas from the SNP-Green government would be deeply damaging for our fishing and coastal communities.

“It is little wonder that the sector and those communities have lined up to oppose these plans in the strongest possible terms. The Scottish Conservatives share those concerns, which is why we are forcing a vote this week in parliament.

“The time has come for MSPs of all political persuasion to row in behind our motion and stand up for our fishermen and coastal communities against these plans, which have been designed without any scientific basis.

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She called on the SNP MSPs who had expressed concern about the plans – Kate Forbes, Fergus Ewing and Karen Adam – to vote for her party’s motion and once again disparaged the Greens as “wine bar revolutionaries”.

“The SNP-Green plans are completely unworkable and must be urgently reconsidered,” she added.

“We have heard SNP MSPs representing Highland and island communities voice their opposition. Now they must back up their warm words and back our motion.

“Make no mistake, the overwhelming influence of the ‘wine bar revolutionaries’ in the Greens – who have no idea about the rural way of life – are the driving force behind this illogical plan.

“The Scottish Conservatives will always stand up for Scotland’s fishing industry and I hope that fellow MSPs will join me and my party in sending the strongest possible message to the nationalist coalition that their HPMA plans cannot go ahead.”

Scottish Greens coastal spokeswoman Ariane Burgess pointed to the “no take” zone at Lamlash Bay in Arran as a successful example of the type of restrictions planned.

She said: “(HPMA) will allow our fish stocks and marine environments to replenish and flourish and to go from strength to strength. These benefits will spill over beyond the protected zones, benefiting nearby fishers and coastal communities that depend on healthy seas.

“Where no take zones have been introduced, they have been successful and have seen real benefits to marine ecosystems and local fisheries. This is what has happened in Lamlash Bay in Arran.”

Burgess said her party wants other coastal communities to reap the same benefits.

She added: “The Tories have betrayed the Scottish fishing industry time and time again, from branding it expendable when haggling over fishing quotas to failing to deliver promises made about the fabled benefits of Brexit.

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“What’s worse, they are happy to roll out HPMAs in England, but when it comes to Scotland they have a very different view.

“It really is no surprise they are failing communities and future generations again in trying to undermine another policy that can help fight climate change and biodiversity loss.”

Net Zero and Just Transition Secretary Mairi McAllan said: “We must be prepared to take action that corresponds with the scale of the climate and nature crisis, but we must do so via a fair and just transition which empowers communities and shares in the benefits of a green economy.

“I recognise there is considerable strength of feeling on this issue, which is why I wanted to consult so early in the process on the principles of HPMAs and the criteria that might constitute site selection. The Scottish Government is not at the stage of having any sites in mind.”