Highlands and Islands MSP Rhoda Grant is backing the company proposing a controversial kelp harvesting plan off the Western Isles.

Mrs Grant has today (Thursday November 8th) issued an invitation to all MSPs to a briefing meeting with Marine Biopolymers Limited (MBL) next Wednesday, (14th November) ahead of the Scottish Crown Estates Bill, which will have its third and final reading at Holyrood on Wednesday 21st November. In its current form, the bill would ban MBL's business as unsustainable and harmful to the environment.

Directors and advisers from MBL will join Mrs Grant to explain their business, why it will be good for Scotland and why a campaign group, set up specifically to stop it harvesting this kelp, is wrong.

In her invitation to MSPs today, Mrs Grant said: “Sustainable economic development is critical for the Highlands and MBL is at the heart of Scotland's National Industrial Biotechnology Plan and HIE's MaxiMar strategy; its "marine biorefinery" is part of a bigger picture of biotech-based marine business development. 

“Using a revolutionary "green" process, MBL plans to make several biopolymers that have very high value applications in healthcare and food. It will extract these products from the "stem" of Laminaria hyperborea kelp, Scotland's dominant seaweed.”

The campaign group No Kelp Dredging has run a campaign protesting against MBL’s planned harvesting scheme since a pre-licensing application was submitted to Marine Scotland.

They’ve attracted support to their campaign from a wide range of people and organisations including many marine, fishery and tourism businesses in the Western Isles.

Individuals protesting against the plans have ranged from Ullapool schoolchildren to renowned naturalist Sir David Attenborough.

The campaign protests against MBL’s plan to harvest kelp using a mechanical ‘comb’ which pulls kelp up by the holdfast or root and stem. Until now, sustainable hand harvesting has been restricted to cutting the softer fronds, leaving the stem intact.

In a briefing note to MSPs which accompanies today’s invitation, MBL said: “MBL will create a world leading, environmentally sustainable industry for the 21st century using new technology pioneered with Scottish Universities. MBL will NOT be dredging. Its harvesting comb will remove older, larger plants, just like Nature uses storms to thin the forest.”