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Marine Task Force Needs Wider Representation

SCOTLAND - Scottish councillors in the Highlands and Islands region are urging local authorities to be represented on the Marine Task Force.

The Task Force has been set up to design legislation for a new Scottish Marine Bill - laws that will protect Scotland’s marine and coastal environment and manage development sustainably.

Rural Affairs and Environment Secretary, Richard Lochhead said that he wants to see the legislation streamlined and the introduction of a new system of planning for the sea.

"Better nature conservation and improvements to licensing and regulation of the marine environment are needed. I will also look to the Task Force to consider what additional powers need to be devolved to Scotland," he added.
He is pushing for regulations for an offshore zone – an area between 12 and 200 nautical miles from the shore. He would also like to see further devolution, especially for functions such as marine planning and nature conservation.

Mr Lochhead has already invited representatives from 26 different groups, although Councillor Michael Foxley, who has promoted a number of far-reaching maritime initiatives in the Highlands would like to see more organisation involved.

"There is a wide range of organisations represented, but to have a representative from CoSLA for the local authorities is not enough," he stressed.

"Highland Council and the other councils in the North have a track record of taking a strong interest in marine issues. The Highland area probably has a third of the landmass of Scotland and around half of its total coastline. It is unlikely that one representative can make the case adequately for all the issues arising along our coastline," he added.


Councillor Foxley said that Highland Council had invoked many coastal issues which had then been taken up by Government. It was the first local authority, in 1987, to provide a fish farming framework plan and had championed sustainable inshore shellfish fisheries through its proposal for a Regulating Order for inshore waters.

"We have supported shellfish farming and have encouraged sourcing local salmon for our schools. We have co-led, with our colleagues in the Western Isles, the long campaign to protect the Minches from hazardous cargos, and this has led to properly marked shipping lanes and the location of a tug in Stornoway, he added.

A number of other proposals are being worked out and councillor Foxley has written to Mr Lochhead, urging him to widen the representation on the Task Force to ensure all maritime issues are given full attention.