THE Scottish Government has officially confirmed that Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) will not be rolled out in Scotland.

In June, Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition Mairi McAllan announced that the proposal to rollout HPMAs in 10% of Scotland’s seas by 2026 would not be progressed.

HPMAs, if implemented, would have put an end to the vast majority of human activities occurring within their borders in an attempt to help boost biodiversity in Scotland’s marine habitats.

Fishing, aquaculture, oil and gas exploration and offshore wind infrastructure would all have been banned within HPMAs.

Before announcing which areas were set to be designated as HPMAs the Scottish Government undertook a consultation with the public.

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However, despite broad support from environmental and conservation charities, many MSPs – including some within the SNP – objected to the plans due to concern from constituents about its impact on fishing and coastal communities.

During the SNP leadership campaign Kate Forbes said she would scrap the policy completely while Fergus Ewing ripped up the legislation in the chamber of the Scottish Parliament.

Now, McAllan has once again confirmed that the policy will not be progressed as the results of the consultation are published, with no plans to rollout HPMAs in any of Scotland's waters. 

Speaking in Holyrood on Tuesday, she said: ““In response to the findings of the consultation, and as I set out in Parliament earlier this year, the proposal to implement Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) across 10% of Scotland’s seas by 2026 will not be progressed.

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“My thanks go to everyone who took the time to respond to the consultation and to those who have continued to engage constructively with me and other ministers over the summer.

“The Government is firmly committed to protecting our marine environment and will continue to work closely with coastal communities and industries to protect Scotland’s seas for the benefit of all.

"As a priority this includes completing management measures for our existing Marine Protected Area (MPA) network and protecting our Priority Marine Features.

“I am determined to protect our oceans in a way that is fair, and to find a way forward that ensures our seas remain a source of prosperity for the nation, especially in our coastal and island communities.”

Phil Taylor, director of conservation charity Open Seas, said: “This consultation shows the majority of people want to see our seas protected from the most damaging forms of fishing, and support given to sustainable fishing methods operating in our communities.

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"It’s heartening to see many respondents calling for the Scottish Government to refocus by safeguarding marine habitats inside protected areas and throughout our coastal zone from the destructive impacts of activities like scallop dredging.

"Scottish SNP-Green Ministers are already delaying on commitments and failing their legal duties to protect Priority Marine Features, so must take more urgent action on this.

"If we look after the seabed, and reinstate protections for nursery and spawning grounds as priority, it will be a huge long-term investment in our country’s environment, jobs and the resilience of our rural economy.”

Calum Duncan, the head of conservation at the Marine Conservation Society Scotland, added that communities must be put at the centre of nature recovery. 

He told The National: "Healthy seas are at the very heart of the history and culture of Scotland, yet assessments by the Scottish Government, as well as internationally, show that our ocean is struggling.

"We urgently need a credible, transformative pathway to set nature at sea on course for recovery by 2030.

"Scientists recognise that areas of strict protection have a crucial role to play in this.

"Done right, with communities at the heart of the process, they can help boost local livelihoods by increasing marine life by up to five times - benefitting low impact fishermen and providing jobs in tourism.

"Government must secure this win-win approach in a fair and just way."