Barra and Vatersay councillor Kenneth Maclean has warned the Scottish Government that pushing ahead with their Highly Protected Marine Areas plan risks a final wave of Clearances via virtue signalling.
In an open letter he published last night, the councillor said the HPMA plan, if implemented, would finish what the Duke of Sutherland and the absentee landlords began.
He told MSPs: “This seems to be another example of decisions being made by politicians in the Central Belt with no regard to how it will affect the communities further afield. The island bond scheme, ferries, NHS and now this. While I’m sure that this is well-meaning, it has not been thought of in a larger policy context.”
An “apocalyptically angry” Mr Maclean said the designation proposals would not merely harm, damage or decimate island communities. They would destroy them.
“Fishing and the sea have been part of our culture from time immemorial. It is not simply part of our economy or a tradition but an intrinsic part of our culture and who we are. It can be found in the archaeological record; it’s part of our stories and songs,” Mr Maclean wrote.
Island communities had frequently heard from politicians of all parties about how they wanted to protect their culture and language and rectify historical wrongs. But how was that to be achieved when the places where the culture and language are the strongest are being attacked, he pondered.
“How is it to survive if people cannot live on these islands?” he continued. “For a culture and language to survive, it needs its people and communities whole, not another set of cleared islands and abandoned communities.”
Meanwhile David Steele of Uist Sea Tours has urged islanders to participate in the Highly Protected Marine Areas consultation as the implications are far more wide-reaching than people imagine.
Warning that his business, like many others, will have to fold if the controversial proposals get the go-ahead, Steele said: “The HPMAs are not just against fishermen, they are against a wide variety of things such as green energy, interconnector cables, spaceports, harbour developments and a whole list of other things, all added together to show that those behind the consultation do not understand what they are pushing upon us. No one wants this; it is of no benefit to anyone or any organisation.”
He points out several Marine Protected Areas are already in place, and he is not against conservation nor anyone he knows that works on boats. On the contrary, many who work on the water regularly take note of cetacean sightings and send the data to conservation charities to help them keep track of populations.
Asked the boat operator: “Why wouldn’t we do this? It is great information and hugely helps give scientists an understanding of what’s happening in our oceans.
“And as many of you will be aware, we are seeing more and more cetaceans on a regular basis all year round, and this is all happening while families like mine are fishing and catching the same quantity of shellfish that the generations before us have been catching, all because this is our home and we want to continue living here so we are looking after our seas.