Moray Firth oil campaigners have their day at Holyrood

A HOLYROOD DEBATE to discuss plans to allow ship-to-ship oil transfers on the Moray Firth will now go ahead on May 2.

The debate on if the Cromarty Firth Port Authority should be allowed to progress their plans has been raging for 18 months – since the CFPA launched a consultation just before Christmas in 2015.

While the Authority argued that such a plan would pose little or no danger to marine life, that contention was strongly opposed by groups all along the Moray Firth – including in Moray itself, where the original proposals did reveal that beaches from Findhorn to Lossiemouth could also be badly affected from any oil spills.

A petition by campaign group ‘Cromarty Rising’ forced the debate at the Scottish Parliament – however, that had to be postponed as it was due to take place on the day of the Westminster terrorist attack, resulting in all business at Holyrood that day being suspended.

Armed with the new date, Cromarty Rising are planning a protest at Holyrood with a bus travelling to Edinburgh from Nairn on the day of the debate.

A spokesman said: “At this point in time there is no ship-to-ship licence application. The original application was made in December 2015 – it failed at many levels has been withdrawn on the instruction of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

“We will ask the Scottish Government to intervene to stop any new application from being made by a Scottish Trust port under their control.

“We will ask the Scottish Government to use their authority to decide to withhold a European Protected Species licence for Bottlenose dolphins within the SAC, a licence is possibly also required for Minke whales and Porpoises, as protected species.

“The Port of Cromarty Firth oil spill contingency plans include the euthanasia of cetaceans, most likely by lethal injection, if they become stranded during an oil spill and we find this to be completely unacceptable.

“The Consequential Provisions Order signed on March 2015 means all UK public bodies must follow Scotland’s National Marine Plan, including reserved matters. These are key measures available to the Scottish Government.”

Pointing out that the Tourism industry is Moray is valued at around £108million and employs 2600 people, the group have said that bottlenose dolphins are “a major part of the visitor experience”.

The spokesman added: “Bringing the peak sound power levels of tugs propellers, happening repeatedly, brings acoustic disturbance to the inside of an SAC for dolphins and will be combined by engine and pump noise drifting across the Firth – affecting visitors and residents throughout the night as transfers will take 24 hours each time.

“If you were trying to find a place in Europe that posed the maximum risk to a protected dolphin population, this would probably be it.”