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by Chris Marshall
10 May 2023
Rishi Sunak calls on SNP to re-think 'potentially damaging' plan for Highly Protected Marine Areas

Rishi Sunak calls on SNP to re-think 'potentially damaging' plan for Highly Protected Marine Areas

Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has called on the Scottish Government to re-think “potentially damaging” plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas.

The prime minister was responding to a question from Lib Dem MP Jamie Stone at PMQs who called on the UK Government to “step in” to help resolve the issue.

The policy is part of the Bute House Agreement with the Scottish Greens and is designed to protect biodiversity by banning fishing, aquaculture and construction at certain areas on the coastline.

Amid a backlash from coastal communities, the Scottish Government has said HPMAs will not be “imposed” on areas which do not want them.

Stone told the Commons: “This proposal is deeply controversial all over Scotland and has even led to it being compared with a second Highland Clearances. Is this not now the time for the UK Government to step in and work with the devolved administrations to come up with a scheme that works and is acceptable in our fishing communities all around the UK?”

In response Sunak said concerns had been raised not just by the fishing community but by members of the SNP itself about the “potentially damaging” impact of the plans.

“I would encourage the SNP government to continue working with the Scottish fishing industry and coastal communities to understand their concerns. And as we’ve seen them recently U-turn on other poor thought-out decisions, hopefully they can re-look at this one too.”

Last week, SNP backbenchers including Fergus Ewing and former leadership candidate Kate Forbes voted against an SNP amendment on HPMAs.

Ewing had earlier torn up a consultation document on HPMAs during a speech in Holyrood.

Despite Sunak’s criticism, HPMAs are also being introduced by the UK Government in England, with the first three sites expected to be designated by the start of July.

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