AN SNP PLEA being made to delay a decision over controversial plans to allow ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth is an attempt to “wrong-foot the electorate” according to a Highlands and Moray MSP.
SNP MP Ian Blackford this week tabled a question on the issue in the House of Commons, calling on transport minister David Goodwill to suspend the decision until consultations have been held with Marine Scotland as representatives of the Scottish Government.
Campaigners in Moray have made their feelings known over the issue, pointing to the devastating consequences that beaches in the region would face from any accidents in oil transfers at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth.
Many have been exasperated by local SNP representatives and their unwillingness to speak out against the plans – in particular Moray MSP Richard Lochhead, who waited until the day after consultations were closed before making any comment.
Mr Blackford has said that while there was “informal contact” with the Scottish Government through the Port of Cromarty Firth, they were not contact by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) or the UK Government, with whom the final decision rests.
This week a leading campaigner against the plans, John Finnie MSP, called on the Scottish Government to be “more proactive” in protecting the Moray Firth environment – and accused the SNP of delaying tactics.
He said: “The Scottish Government is responsible for protecting Scotland’s environment – that it would not respond to a consultation with severe environmental consequences because it wasn’t directly asked beggars belief.
“Somehow, despite not being directly asked, many ordinary citizens were able to respond to the consultation ran by the MCA, calling for the application to be denied on environmental grounds.
“The Scottish Government should have been well aware of the application – indeed the SNP Leader on Highland Council said ‘I understand from the Scottish Government and one of our MP’s in the SNP that this licence has the support of the SNP government’.
“For the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Richard Lochhead to keep silent throughout the consultation process and the day after it closed to ask for the decision to be devolved smacks of playground politics. I support all decisions concerning our precious marine environment to be devolved too but that in no way excuses the Cabinet Secretary’s silence.
“Incredibly, the Scottish Government has stated it believes the Cromarty application will transfer the wrong type of oil for it to oppose the application. Sadly, rather than protect our interests, it is clear that this call for a delay is simply an attempt to wrong-foot the electorate ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections, perhaps – as with CalMac and fracking – leaving all the bad news until after May.
“The public have a right to know the Scottish Government’s stance on the application and the SNP should get on with telling us, rather than bleating about how the UK Government dropped the ball by not sending them an embossed invitation.”