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MPAs, endangered species and the Tiree Array

In December of this year a progress report on the development of the Scottish Marine Protected Area network will be presented to Scottish ministers. This will contain options for MPAs (Marine Protected Areas) and also, where further work is necessary, to assure the network of MPA’s.

Following presentation of this report, the minister will then decide on which options for MPA/SPA (Special Protection Area) accreditation will be developed, and which will be dropped.

The decision to classify lies wholly with the Scottish ministers in charge of Rural Affairs and the Environment: Richard Lochhead MSP ( a recognized champion of renewable energy); his offside, Stewart Stevenson MSP (‘There is no doubt that offshore wind energy will become more and more popular in the coming years’); and the First Minister Alex Salmond (enough said).

These are the gentlemen tasked with a decision that could ultimately decide the fate of the Argyll – aka Tiree Array – or, alternatively the fate of an area stated by SNH and JNCC (Joint Nature Conservation Council) to be ‘most natural/least damaged’.

This is an area populated by endangered species whose numbers are of international concern and are internationally protected from ‘harm or harassment.

These include the Great Northern Diver in winter and the awesome basking sharks of summer that habitually visit the JNCC proposed MPA/SPA locations within the Array location.

Both species are especially sensitive to disturbance.

A damage limitation exercise (mitigation) is, as yet, to be proposed, echoing RSPB’s statement: ‘As a consequence, it will be challenging to deliver a development on this site that does not cause significant environmental impacts’.

A massive clash of interests here is obvious and the decisions the ministers will take will be an equally massive test of their integrity.

It is important to note that the Array off the SW of Tiree is neither necessary for Scotland to meet its 2020 EU renewable based obligations or for the SNP’s to comply with its own aspirations.

One therefore has to ask the realistic question: ‘Will the array go ahead for commercial and economic reasons or will the array be dropped on the obvious environmental impact grounds?

Environmental NGO’s and governmental agencies will be watching this test of integrity very closely – and so will the No Tiree Array Campaign.

Karl Hughes, No Tiree Array Campaign