Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has questioned the Environment Minister over proposed special protection areas for seabirds for Cape Wrath.
Mr Gibson asked Michael Russels in chamber last week if the decision to extend the 31 special areas was based on sound science and if the health of breeding seabirds could be monitored in one of those areas, Cape Wrath, which is part of a live bombing range?
Mr Russell l responded that proposals were based on robust scientific areas and that idea of extending the Cape Wrath protection area by 2 KM was part of Scottish Government's commitment to protecting wildlife. He ended by saying that the bombing could be undertaken more sensitively—if he said 'bombing can ever be undertaken sensitively'.
Speaking after Mr Gibson said…
"I was interested to see that Cape Wrath had been included as one of the 31 special areas. Whilst marine spatial planning can accommodate the protection of seabirds and marine energy devices it seems more difficult for a live bombing range and a special protection area to co-exist."
"The Minister indicates that at present the situation regarding bombing could be more sensitive of that is possible. I would urge him, the community, conservation bodies and the MoD to work closely together so that a balance can be wrought to protect one of the wild places of Europe which has a true bio diversity."
"However this will balance will need to come about by dialogue a bit of give and take from all parties. In my experience the one organisation which has been the most intransigent is the MoD I hope that they will be willing to discuss the matter and compromise."
Note to editor:
Copy of exchange from last week (13/11/08)
Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): Is the decision to extend 31 special protection areas into sea areas based on sound science? Can the health of breeding seabirds be monitored in one of those areas, Cape Wrath, which is part of a live bombing range?
Michael Russell: The proposed boundaries of the extended areas are based on robust scientific data, but it is obvious that there must also be a justification that local people accept and understand. In all the work that I and my colleague Mr Lochhead have done with communities on such issues, we have been determined to ensure that proposals are acceptable and have support, because the health of the local environment should be important to every citizen. The proposals on Cape Wrath were endorsed in the context of the science by the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and Scottish Natural Heritage. The proposed 2km extension for Cape Wrath is part of the Scottish Government's commitment to protecting seabird populations. I have communicated with the member many times about bombing activities at Cape Wrath, which I think could be undertaken more sensitively—if bombing can ever be undertaken sensitively.