SNP accused of ‘hypocrisy’ over Moray Firth oil transfer position

Richard Lochhead - remains silent over ship-to-ship transfers on the Moray Firth
Richard Lochhead – remains silent over ship-to-ship transfers on the Moray Firth

MORAY’S MSP HAS been accused of ‘hypocrisy’ along with the SNP Scottish Government over their position on an application to allow ship-to-ship oil transfers on the Moray Firth.

According to SNP sources in Highland Council, opposition to the plans by the Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) to extend existing ship-to-ship transfers into the outer harbour area on the Moray Firth would fail – because it is supported by the Scottish Government.

That has caused anger amongst campaigners calling on rejection of a plan that they say would bring a serious and potentially catastrophic danger to marine life all along the coastline – including the iconic bottlenose dolphin population.

Now John Finnie MSP has slammed what he says is the hypocrisy of the SNP Government in relation to the subject – having revisited the first speech delivered by Moray’s MSP Richard Lochhead in his capacity as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment on May 24, 2007.

At that time the Firth of Forth Port Authority was seeking to establish ship-to-ship transfers when Mr Lochhead said “many members of the public and members across the Parliament consider that even a scintilla of environmental risk is unacceptable.”

The Moray MSP then added: “I believe that the Parliament – and, indeed, Scotland – desires to be able to prevent ship-to-ship oil transfers and proposals that could pose a threat to our precious marine and coastal environments in the Firth of Forth or elsewhere. That is what I intend to achieve.”

John Finnie - SNP 'hypocrisy' over ship to ship position
John Finnie – SNP ‘hypocrisy’ over ship to ship position

Plans to establish the method on the Firth of Forth were ultimately rejected – and the system introduced whereby any port in the future desiring to establish or expand the process had to apply for a licence – which is what the CFPA is now trying to do.

According to Mr Finnie the prior position of the Moray MSP makes it “bewildering” why there is currently a “deafening silence” on the issue from his office.

Mr Finnie said: “For the Government to have made such a drastic U-turn on this matter is of deep concern for all those with an interest in protecting the marine and wildlife of the Moray Firth.

“Now, in contrast to his vocal opposition to ship to ship transfer in the Forth, Richard Lochhead’s silence is deafening. There is clear and serious concern from local communities around the Moray Firth who have mobilised in opposition to the plan, about the environmental risks associated with this proposal.

“With oil being pumped at the rate of two tonnes per second, and it taking a maximum of forty seconds to shut down any spillage once it has been noticed; the extent of any leakage would be disastrous.

“The number of risks that the CFPA have simply opted not to take into account in their application is extensive – heightened emissions from the large tankers, the risk of collision between ships, the impact of such a plan on tourism and the local economy – the list goes on.

“It really wasn’t that long ago that Richard Lochhead said that ‘even a scintilla of environmental risk is unacceptable’ and I wholeheartedly agree. So why is his government – who claim to offer the highest standard of marine protection – now supporting this perilous proposal?

“This operation is unsafe, unnecessary and undesirable. In my view, and the view of the affected communities, it simply must not go ahead.”