An SNH consultation to protect birds will not close the Pentland Firth to marine development - that's how Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson summed up a recent consultation by SNH into 31 Special Protection Areas (SPA's) around Scotland.
Mr Gibson felt compelled to set the record straight after following recent comments from prominent Caithness Councillors.
Mr Gibson, who has already held informal talks with SNH Chairman Andrew Thin and is due to have further discussions in the near future, said....
"It really irks me to read these reactionary quotes which fail to understand the consultation or inform the public. I am happy to set the record straight.
"The Scottish Government asked SNH to look into extending the current 31 marine SPA's. SNH did their job identified the sites and the consultation followed. The Government has made it clear that they want to know about the constraints on developments that the extension to an SPA would have. The consultation is advice for the Scottish Government it is not an instruction. It is clearly stated that the final decision will be taken by Scottish Government Minister. "
" Perhaps the vocal critics should put a submission into the consultation before claiming that the Pentland Firth will be closed to development."
"The Scottish Government unequivocally backs the development of renewable energy. Indeed it sees the Pentland Firth as the ideal place to do it. Last week the First Minister welcomed the latest marine development. The new Scottish Government has done more to push forward the reality of marine power than 8 years of the last Lib/Lab Executive's."
"I don’t wish to pre-empt the findings of the consultation or the decision of the Scottish Government but I would be greatly surprised if the Pentland Firth was to be closed for marine energy production. Marine spatial planning will be enshrined in the new Marine Bill so the SPA around Dunnet Head will not be extended to the detriment of potential tidal development grounds."