Election 2016: Open water ship to ship transfers a risk too far

James Stockan
James Stockan

It was wonderful to be in Moray earlier this week as I travel the length and breadth of the Highlands and Islands region.

I was in Elgin on Monday where I had a great catch up with a number of local councillors. We had a good dialogue and it was very encouraging to see their support for an Independent candidate.
I think they saw the value that I could bring to Moray if I were elected working with them and fellow MSPs to support or challenge the new government to ensure the people of Moray get the best possible outcomes.

We discussed a number of issues where they thought I could bring experience and independent debate.

Ship to ship transfers in the Moray Firth

I have no hesitation in saying that Ship to Ship transfers (STS) should not take place in the open waters of the Moray Firth.

For many years I have watched STSs taking place safely and successfully in Scapa Flow. This first-hand experience has led me to conclude that in order for STS operations to be safe and efficient quite a number of criteria must be met.

A STS should not take place in open water but in carefully selected, more sheltered areas where the operation can be closely managed. Protection of the environment must be the prime consideration. To protect against oil spills essential services such as pollution control, towage, pilotage should be readily available as required.

The other high risk is the introduction of alien species so in order to protect our fragile environment there is a need for initial Environmental Impact Assessments, robust Ballast Water Management policies and continued careful monitoring of the marine habitat.

Whilst I understand that the Country needs STS, I firmly believe that they should not take place in open water and that the Scottish Government should designate specific sites where such types of operation (STS) can take place safely in managed Harbour areas.

As I spend more and more time travelling around this vast region I see that there are many comparable issues but often compounded by particular local problems.
In many ways Orkney and Moray are very similar and this has meant that our cultures and values are often very alike, values which define me as a person – honesty, integrity and hard work.

Both areas have an economy rooted in agriculture, and also markets where the food and drink sector is very important. Something I have first-hand experience of as I have a strong commercial background having grown up working in the family bakery, Stockan’s Oatcakes, in Stromness, Orkney, before becoming Executive Director of Tods of Orkney Ltd.

I understand the difficulties faced by small businesses in perhaps finding a “toe hold” in the market place or maintaining profitability in these challenging times.

We also share a rich history in our fishing industries. Recent years have seen a marked decline in the scale of the industry as quotas and decommissioning have taken their toll. Going forward we must identify local and unique solutions to safeguard our inshore fishing and the fleets which fish in deeper water to ensure the viability of our small coastal communities.

Get involved with the campaign!

Whilst I was in Moray I also met with representatives from the local press and maybe you have seen articles or adverts in your weekly papers which set out in more detail how I can support the people of Moray.

As I am standing in the Highlands and Islands Region it means you can vote for me on the Regional ballot paper as well as for your favoured candidate for the constituency. If you elect me as a MSP, I would support whoever gets elected in your local constituency to challenge or support government policy as and when situations dictate.

I am still keen to hear from anyone who would like to help with the campaign or who would just like to know more. Please get in touch by email: stockanformsp@outlook.com or through my Facebook page: James Stockan For MSP.

This is the final week of submissions by candidates – all five candidates in Moray who have been providing weekly updates will do so one more time, and then on the day before the Election we will provide a final round-up.