Argyll & Bute MP, Brendan O’Hara has written to the First Minister, Humza Yousaf, urging him to ditch the controversial proposals to introduce Highly Protected Marine Areas in the waters off the West Coast of Scotland, saying that the plan would “have a devastating impact …on the future economic viability of our already economically fragile rural and island communities.”
Writing to the First Minister on the day the consultation closed, Mr. O’Hara said, “The loss of what remains of our fishing fleet would have an exponential impact on our economy, as the jobs of fish processors, boatyards, delivery drivers, administrators, marine engineers, and many others, whose livelihoods depend on the fishing industry would all disappear.”
He added, “The loss of these jobs, and the perceived lack of any future economic opportunities for our young people is guaranteed to drive families out of Argyll & Bute, and discourage others from coming, further accelerating what we know is an already critical depopulation crisis. Losing families will lead to the loss of schools and other vital services, which painful experience tells us that once they are gone, they are very, very difficult to bring back”.
In his letter, the Argyll & Bute MP told the First Minister that his opinion had been informed by extensive consultation with skippers, industry bodies, processors, and community groups over the Parliamentary Easter Recess, and what was communicated, was the overwhelming opinion of the people of Argyll & Bute.
In his letter, Mr. O’Hara acknowledged that the preservation of the marine ecosystem had to be a priority but believed the approach being adopted by the Scottish Government currently, was one which would inevitably lead to Argyll & Bute becoming “a retirement home for the wealthy and elderly who wish to see out their remaining years in their rural idyll”, and urged the government to engage fully with the industry and harness local knowledge – accrued over decades – on how best to manage the seas off our West Coast.
He closed his letter by assuring the new First Minister that from his experience in talking to the inshore fishing fleet, that there exists “a genuine willingness on their part to work together with the Scottish Government on a long term, sustainable solution, one which can help restore our marine ecosystem, while allowing the inshore fleet to look forward to a future for them, their children and their grandchildren.”