Argyll & Bute MP Brendan O'Hara, the SNP's chief whip at Westminster, contacted more than 10,000 constituents to urge them to take part in a consultation about his party's plan for HPMAs.

SNP chief whip O’Hara welcomes decision to scrap HPMAs

Plan for no-go zones in sea ‘was far too blunt an instrument to tackle what is a very complex range of issues’ says Argyll & Bute MP

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Argyll & Bute MP Brendan O’Hara has “very much welcomed” the Scottish Government’s announcement last week that will not proceed with its proposal to ban fishing and aquaculture in at least 10% of Scotland’s seas by introducing Highly Protected Marine Areas in their current form.

O’Hara, a member of the Scottish National Party that forms the Scottish Government with backing from the Scottish Green Party, has been an outspoken critic of the HPMA plan.

He said: “I argued from day one that the government’s HPMA proposal was far too blunt an instrument to tackle what is a very complex range of issues, and I very much welcome the government’s change of heart.”

Genuine concerns

The MP, who is the SNP’s chief whip at Westminster, recently contacted more than 10,000 of his constituents to urge them to make their opinions about HPMAs known to Holyrood ministers.

He added: “I would like to thank everyone in Argyll & Bute who contributed to the consultation, and to the First Minister (Humza Yousef) and the Cabinet Secretary (Mairi McAllan), for listening to the genuine concerns of our coastal communities and acting accordingly.”

But he sounded a note of caution, saying: “We cannot take this change of heart as a green light to continue with business as usual, and we now have a responsibility to engage meaningfully in the debate on how we best protect our precious marine environment, while promoting balanced, sustainable fishing.”

Deal with Greens

The HPMA proposal was part of the Bute House Agreement between the SNP and the Greens which set out policies the parties could agree on.

Last Thursday, Net Zero Secretary McAllan, who has championed HPMAs, told the Scottish Parliament that the no-go areas “will not be progressed”, and that she would come back with new plans to protect the sea after Holyrood’s summer recess.

The plan to introduce HPMAs was hugely controversial and led to three Scottish National Party MSPs including former Cabinet Secretaries Kate Forbes and Fergus Ewing voting against their party and three others abstaining in a vote on the issue.

Workable proposals

 A consultation about HPMAs prompted 4,000 responses amid fears that the proposas would destroy fragile coastal communities that rely on fishing and aquaculture. Ewing described the consultation document as “a notice of execution” for fishing communities.

A seafood alliance representing the fishing, fish farming, and processing sectors was formed to fight HPMAs, and launched a petition against the proposal.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of trade body Salmon Scotland, welcomed McAllan’s announcement not to progress the current plan, which he said had united coastal communities and MSPs in total opposition.

“We commit to working with the Scottish Government to develop workable proposals that safeguard both livelihoods and the marine environment on which they rely,” said Scott.