A MOTION from the Scottish Conservatives calling on the Scottish Government to "reconsider" its Highly Protected Marine Areas proposals has failed to garner majority support in Holyrood

Conservative MSP Rachael Hamilton brought forward a motion calling on the government to “fundamentally reconsider its HPMA proposals and the timeframe for their introduction”.

At present, the proposals would see 10% of Scotland’s seas designated as HPMAs by 2026.

This would prohibit the vast majority of human activities within their borders, including fishing and aquaculture.

However, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition Mairi McAllan's amendment to Hamilton’s motion, which stated that HPMAs would not be imposed on communities “that are vehemently opposed to them” and claimed that the “real threat to the Scottish fishing industry is the continuing adverse impacts of Brexit and the UK Government’s immigration policies” was agreed by a majority of MSPs.

The motion was then passed, effectively scrapping Hamilton’s call for a reconsideration. 

But SNP MSPs Kate Forbes, Alasdair Allan and Fergus Ewing rebelled and voted against the amendment, while Annabelle Ewing, Christine Grahame and Ash Regan abstained. 

On social media following the debate, Allan described the current proposals as "clearly unworkable". 

Despite including pilot HPMAs in their own 2021 election manifesto, the Tories claimed the Scottish Government’s proposal had “no scientific backing” and described the 10% goal as “arbitrary and unevidenced”.

Hamilton said: “The arbitrary figure of 10% of Scottish waters for Highly Protected Marine Areas designation by 2026 has been plucked from the sky with no scientific backing or ecological justification to underpin it.”

Holding up the consultation document, Hamilton then claimed there had been no consultation with coastal communities.

“This document is a paper exercise that is an online process that has had no consultation with coastal communities at all,” she added.

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The consultation on HPMAs closed on April 17, with many fishing and coastal communities expressing concern at the proposals.

However, marine conservation charities support the proposals and state that protecting parts of the sea from damaging activities such as fishing are a proven way of helping to improve biodiversity.

McAllan defended the proposals and emphasised the early stage at which the legislation currently sat.

She said: “It’s an unavoidable truth that we are in the middle of a climate and nature emergency – this parliament recognised that when every party proceeded to pass some of the world’s most ambitious climate targets into law.

“As we take the action that we have to take to respond to the climate emergency we have to do it in a way that’s fair, that’s just and that leaves no community behind.

“That is why we have approached this really complex and emotive topic with as much democracy as we possibly can.

“It’s why, being so early in the process, the Scottish Government has held no less than 40 stakeholder meetings – both in the development in the consultation and since then to assist stakeholders in completing their statements.”

Later in the debate SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan, Karen Adam, called on the government to alleviate the concerns of her coastal constituents and criticised the Tories for their “politics driven by popularity”.

Adam wrote to McAllan last week to state that many of her constituents felt their concerns were not being heard by the Scottish Government.

“Fishers have lost trust in politicians to deliver for them and quite frankly I don’t blame them,” she said. “This is the sorry result of being used as a political football for so long and having their priorities consistently politicised.

“That brings me to the motion in-front of us in the name of Rachael Hamilton.

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“Are we really supposed to believe that after everything the Tories have done over the last few years to bring our rural industries to the brink and our economy to its knees that they are trustworthy custodians of our farms, fisheries or natural environment?”

Referencing the actions of fellow SNP MSP Fergus Ewing, who ripped up a copy of the consultation in the chamber on Tuesday, Adam said she would not be engaging in any “theatrics”.

“The Cabinet Secretary will be reassured that I do not intend to tear up any motion in a fit of theatrics today.

“The Scottish Parliament is not a place for amateur dramatics. It is a place where we debate and discuss as reasonable representatives the genuine needs of our constituents and our country.”

Following the debate, Adam said: “Clarity on HPMAs, where they will be placed or within what timescales was not given today.

“The Scottish Government needs to define the communities affected and tell us how the government will gauge their opposition.

“We need clarity on these points urgently. But I say this: I will not vote for something which will decimate the coastal communities I represent.”