Scotland’s Seas Under Threat from Massive Oil and Gas Exploration

As revealed in today’s Sunday Herald, almost all Scotland’s seas are
being offered up for oil and gas exploration by Westminster in the
largest ever move of this sort. (1) Contrary to some reports, UK
Ministers have not withdrawn plans to allow drilling and seismic
testing in the protected waters of the Moray Firth – those plans are
still under consideration alongside the latest moves.

Scientists and marine conservation organisations have come together to
campaign on this issue, and the Greens will work through the Scottish
Parliament to block this irresponsible scheme, starting with a motion
to be put down tomorrow. (2)

Robin Harper MSP said:

“These proposals by the UK Government represent the most substantial
threat to Scotland’s seas in the modern age. Practically every mile of
our coastline could see drilling and seismic exploration, putting
marine ecosystems and wildlife at risk. This amounts to exploitation
of the crudest sort, and undermines every improvement in marine
conservation since the 1970s.

“What’s more, at a time when reducing emissions should be at the top
of Ministers’ priorities, it seems they are determined to take us in
exactly the wrong direction. Have they forgotten that their dependence
on fossil fuels is what has led to the threat of climate change in the
first place?

“UK Ministers must abandon these unacceptable plans, and the SNP must
say whether they intend to put Scotland first or whether they will let
Whitehall blunder in unopposed.”

Erich Hoyt, Senior Research Fellow for the Whale and Dolphin
Conservation Society, added:

“The sheer scale of the oil and gas development offered by the
Government could have very significant effects on all whales, dolphins
and porpoises all around our coasts.

“However, we know that some groups such as the Moray Firth bottlenose
dolphins are particularly at risk. As a small, unique and isolated
population these dolphins desperately need strong and urgent
protection measures. The UK government designated a Special Area of
Conservation in 2005 seemingly for this purpose. Yet their oil and gas
licensing plans could now render this protection almost meaningless.

“Licensing must not be allowed within any Special Areas of
Conservation protecting dolphins, or indeed in any of the areas they
regularly use.”

Calum Duncan, Scottish Conservation Manager for the Marine
Conservation Society, said:

“Ministers in London and Edinburgh have promised legislation to
provide better protection for our vulnerable seas. However, the Marine
Conservation Society is concerned about the massive expansion of oil
and gas exploration in those same waters and believe that the impacts
of oil & gas should be planned and assessed alongside all other marine
activities, not managed in isolation.

“We have to ask: how much cumulative pressure from oil and gas and
other human activities can our vulnerable marine wildlife, from
whales, dolphins and basking sharks to coldwater corals and sea lochs,
withstand? Human exploitation of our seas must be managed within
environmental limits.”

Notes

1. See http://tinyurl.com/2hz9xd

2. Tomorrow’s motion to be lodged as follows: That this Parliament
notes the commitments made by Scottish Ministers to protecting
Scotland’s marine environment; recognises the international
significance of the bottlenose dolphin population which lives in and
around the Moray Firth, given that they are a European Protected
Species; further notes the decision by UK Ministers to open up almost
the whole of Scotland’s near-shore waters for oil and gas exploration;
understands the concerns that marine conservation organisations have
about this plan; further recognises the significant level of public
support, shown in the 7,000 letters already sent to UK Ministers
opposing plans for exploration in the protected habitat of the Moray
Firth; and urges Scottish Ministers, when in discussion with the UK
Government, to make clear their opposition to the indiscriminate
opening up of our seas to oil exploration, and to work to protect some
of Scotland’s most famous natural assets.

James Mackenzie
Media and Communications
Scottish Green MSPs
Scottish Parliament
Edinburgh EH99 1SP

Tel: 0131 348 6360
Mob: 0790 99 33 074
Fax: 0131 348 5972

Contact: James Mackenzie
Phone: 0131 348 6360 or 0790 99 33 074