CAMPAIGNERS HOPING TO end plans to establish a ship-to-ship oil transfer facility on the Moray Firth are claiming a major victory in handing over a petition signed by 100,000 people.
That, they hope, will prompt a debate at the Westminster parliament over the proposals by the Cromarty Firth Port Authority.
Citing the petition as a key milestone in their campaign, Cromarty Rising handed a copy over to the Highland Council yesterday morning, the result, they say, of a very successful partnership between themselves, 38 Degrees Scotland and London solicitors Bindmans LLP – and the people of communities all along the Moray Coast.
Craig Fraser has been a prominent member of the campaign from its outset, the Highland councillor saying that it demonstrated more than anything else the strength of feeling against proposals that had the potential to devastate the marine environment.
He said: “This is community empowerment a very strong Cromarty and Moray Firth response to the Port Authority, Scottish Government and UK Government that this ship to ship at sea oil transfer is not wanted.
“[In total] 27 Community Councils around the firths and people from many walks of life that have respect and affinity with the marine environment have spoken very loudly the STS is not wanted.
“This is and always has been the wrong plan in the wrong place. Will the Port Authority now listen and totally withdraw this application and also unreservedly apologise to the communities for putting them through the stress of having to fight this application for the past 15 months?”
A Cromarty Rising spokesman added: “Cromarty Rising has recently been made aware that Cromarty Firth Port Authority Solicitors see no legal impediment whatsoever to the continued use on Nigg Terminal for ship to ship transfers.
“The Secretary of State Transport (Westminster) also confirmed, after a month long detailed review, that there is a perfectly valid ship to ship licence still in place for Nigg Terminal. Nigg Terminal remains fully approved.”
The group are calling on the Port Authority not to renew any application in the face of growing opposition to their plans, the spokesman adding: “The application submitted in December 2015 has been withdrawn. The Maritime and Coastguard Agency have no current involvement – there is no application to consider.
“This means any future decisions on submitting a new application are entirely down to the Cromarty Firth Port Authority as a Scottish Trust port and Scottish Ministers.
“In discussions in recent weeks we are getting a clear message that at least one major tourist related business along the Moray coast has significant concerns over further investment. Rusting tankers which produce fumes and visibly damage the Moray Firth do absolutely nothing for investment confidence.
“We urge Scottish Ministers to take heed of community empowerment and act to protect our natural resources and the regions wider business interests.”
Last night regional Green MSP John Finnie welcomed the news, saying: “The Moray Firth is one of Scotland’s most important marine habitats and the proposal for ship to ship transfers would put this at risk.
“It has been clear for some time that the public are opposed to these plans and the submission of this petition today, with over 100,000 signatures, demonstrates an overwhelming desire to see these proposals thrown out.
“I understand that a petition will be brought before the Scottish Parliament’s Petitions Committee next week and I am sure that the issue will receive the robust scrutiny that it merits.”