Scotland Office Minister John Lamont has pledged to make sure a “spacial squeeze” in the North Sea is “effectively” managed amid fishing industry concerns over offshore wind farms.
Fishing chiefs have repeatedly voiced fears about the many wind energy developments planned for Scottish waters.
Traditional fishing grounds and livelihoods are at stake, they claim.
They were also up in arms aboout proposals to introduce highly protected marine areas, making a vast swathe of sea off-limits to most fishers, before the Scottish Goverment did a U-turn on the controversial policy earlier this year.
North-east MP intervenes on behalf of fishers
Banff and Buchan Conservative MP David Duguid has now called on the UK and Scottish governments to ensure the impact of offshore wind farms on the fishing industry is considered whenever new developments are assessed.
He wants to see considerations placed on a more obligatory or statutory footing rather than the voluntary basis that currently exists.
Energy Minister and West Aberdeenshire MP Andrew Bowie has agreed to meet Mr Duguid and the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation (SFF) over the issue.
The concerns were also raised during Scottish Questions in the House of Commons.
Mr Duguid asked what discussions there had been with the Department for Energy Security and Net Zero, as well as the Scottish Government, to make sure impacts of offshore wind on the fishing industry and coastal communities are “adequately addressed”.
Mr Lamont said it was a shared ambition on both sides of the border to protect the marine environment, while ensuring the “increasing spatial squeeze on our sea is managed effectively”.
The minister added: “We also note the legitimate concerns from the fishing industry and continue to engage with stakeholders, other UK Government departments and the Scottish Government through the Scottish Seafood Industry Action Group.”
Mr Duguid said: “There are serious concerns from the fishing industry about the impact offshore wind and marine protection may have on the security of our food supplies.
“Neither myself nor the industry want to stop renewable energy or marine conservation – far from it – but I believe these can be delivered, while also preserving the fishing industry and our coastal communities.
“Voluntary codes and guidance are all very well but they have proven insufficient, which is why the industry and I are seeking a more obligatory or statutory process to ensure livelihoods and sustainability can be maintained.”
The MP added: “The full impact on our fishing grounds and marine life of offshore wind farms and subsea cables needs to be better understood. As new developments move ahead, we cannot risk the future of fishermen or threaten the sustainability of our stocks.”
SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald. Image: Kath Flannery/DC Thomson
SFF chief executive Elspeth Macdonald said: “Along with our colleagues in NFFO (the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations), SFF has taken every opportunity to press the significance of the spatial squeeze on (UK) fisheries.
“In Scottish waters, the planned expansion of offshore wind farms will bring real impacts for our fishing fleet. I welcome David Duguid’s support and the minister’s commitment to meet with us to discuss the very pressing issue of impacts and reparations for our sector, and look forward to doing this at the earliest opportunity.”