SHIP TO SHIP TO BE DEBATED IN SCOTTISH PARLIAMENT

John joined campaigners from Cromarty Rising at the Scottish Parliament’s Public Petitions Committee today (16/03/2017) calling for proposals for ship to ship oil transfer in the Cromarty Firth to be thrown out.

John, who has been campaigning against ship to ship oil transfers for some time was delighted to speak in support of the petition.

The Public Petition’s Committee have agreed to write to the Scottish Government and relevant stakeholders seeking their views on the petition and will return to the issue in a future session.

John has submitted a parliamentary motion on the issue, which will be debated in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday (22/03/2017).

John said:

“I was pleased to have the opportunity to contribute to the Public Petitions Committee’s session on Cromarty Rising’s ship to ship petition. The petitioners should be commended for the articulate case they made before the committee. The committee have agreed to write to the Scottish Government, and relevant stakeholders and I will be interested in hearing what they have to say on the matter when the issue returns to the committee in due course.

“If ship to ship oil transfers are allowed to go ahead in the Cromarty Firth the consequences for marine life, including the iconic pod of bottlenose dolphins, could be catastrophic.

“The overwhelming majority of communities in the area, who would be in the front line of any oil spill, are opposed to ship to ship oil transfers, as are thousands across the country as the 103,000 signatures on Cromarty Rising’s petition demonstrates.

“The potential impact on the tourism sector, so important to the local economy, cannot be overstated. I am therefore glad that my motion has achieved cross party support, and I look forward to leading a debate on ship to ship oil transfers in the parliament next week.”

John warns on ship-to-ship oil transfer impact on Moray Firth orcas

SaveOurDolphins_800x450 John has warned the pod of orcas that enchanted Moray Firth ocean-watchers last week could be put at risk if controversial plans to allow ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Firth are given the go-ahead.

John, who has been campaigning to stop the proposal, pressed the Scottish Government for details of the dangers posed to the orcas by oil transfers. He urged the new Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, Roseanna Cunningham MSP, to make the Scottish Government’s position clear.

Cromarty Firth Port Authority has applied for a license for the risky ship-to-ship procedure, in which oil is transferred between vessels in the open sea rather than secured in a harbour. The application is presently being considered by the UK’s Maritime and Coastguard Agency.

The orca pod, known as the Northern Isles community, migrates between Iceland and the Moray Firth each year. It would be vulnerable to any oil spill in the Firth resulting from ship-to-ship transfer operations.

The Scottish Greens have a strong track record in protecting coastal communities from ship-to-ship plans. A three-year campaign by Green MSPs to halt similar plans in the Firth of Forth ended in victory when Forth Ports PLC dropped their proposal in 2008. John Finnie launched the Save Our Dolphins campaign in response to the Moray Firth plan in January this year; his petition at http://bit.ly/SaveOurDolphins has received over 3,700 signatures.

John said:

“The sighting of these extraordinary animals is a reminder of how precious the environment of the Moray Firth is, both for its wildlife and for its people.

“Oil transfers are already carried out safely in the relative shelter of Nigg harbour; there’s no need to put our Firth in danger with risky ship-to-ship transfers in the open sea.

“I’m trying to find out whether the Scottish Government understands the threat to the orcas and the whole Firth ecosystem. If it does, I hope new Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham will break the silence that her predecessor inexplicably maintained on the issue, and join the opposition to the proposal.

“The Moray Firth is one of Scotland’s most important marine habitats. As well as orcas and our iconic bottlenose dolphins, it is an important area for seabirds, wading birds, seals and otters. It’s a vital fishery and a centre for the production of shellfish. It’s an excellent location for windsurfing, kayaking and other water sports. All that is in danger if we allow oil transfers to go ahead.

“Greens MSPs have beaten ship-to-ship plans once before, in the Firth of Forth. With your help we can do it again: please sign the petition at bit.ly/SaveOurDolphins.”

John Slams Scottish Government Inaction On Ship-To-Ship Oil Transfer

 

John called on the Scottish Government this week to end its silence over the application for ship to ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth.

Following calls by the SNP MP Ian Blackford for a decision on the application to carry out ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth to be delayed so that the Scottish Government may be consulted, John has expressed his disbelief that Scottish Government was not proactively protecting Scotland’s environment.

Commenting John said:

“The Scottish Government is responsible for protecting Scotland’s environment; that it would not respond to a consultation with severe environmental consequences because it wasn’t directly asked beggars belief.

“Somehow, despite not being directly asked, many ordinary citizens were able to respond to the consultation ran by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency, calling for the application to be denied on environmental grounds.

“The Scottish Government should have been well aware of the application; indeed the SNP Leader on Highland Council said ‘I understand from the Scottish Government and one of our MP’s in the SNP that this licence has the support of the SNP government’.

“For the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment Richard Lochhead to keep silent throughout the consultation process and the day after it closed to ask for the decision to be devolved smacks of playground politics. I support all decisions concerning our precious marine environment to be devolved too but that in no way excuses the Cabinet Secretary’s silence.

“Incredibly, the Scottish Government has stated it believes the Cromarty application will transfer the wrong type of oil for it to oppose the application.

“Sadly, rather than protect our interests, it is clear that this call for a delay is simply an attempt to wrong foot the electorate ahead of the Scottish Parliamentary elections, perhaps – as with CalMac and fracking – leaving all the bad news until after May.

“The public have a right to know the Scottish Government’s stance on the application and the SNP should get on with telling us, rather than bleating about how the UK Government dropped the ball by not sending them an embossed invitation.”.

WRONG TYPE OF OIL TO OPPOSE PROTECTING ENVIRONMENT

 

Last week (11th February) John poured scorn on the statement of the Cabinet Secretary for the Environment that the oil proposed for ship-to-ship transfer in the Moray Firth is a different type of oil to that involved when the Cabinet Secretary was a vocal opponent of ship-to-ship transfer in the Firth of Forth.

At General Questions in the Parliament last Thursday, following a question from Dave Thompson MSP on the Scottish Government’s position Cromarty Firth Port Authority’s application for ship-to-ship oil transfer in the Cromarty Firth, Mr Finnie posed a supplementary question to push the Scottish Government on the issue.

In his response Richard Lochhead MSP said: “Unlike the situation with Forth Ports a few years ago, when a different type of oil was being proposed and different circumstances applied”.

Commenting after the question time John said:

“Firstly, I am amazed to discover that Cabinet Secretary believes that the application is merely an “extending an existing activity.” Whilst it’s true to say exchange between ships takes place within the relative safety of the harbour what’s proposed is vastly different and, if granted, would see the transfer of oil between ships on the open saes of the Moray Firth.

“Back in 2007 when it was proposed to carry out oil transfers in the Firth of Forth Richard Lochhead was an outspoken critic of the practice, indeed said “even a scintilla of environmental risk is unacceptable.”

I don’t believe Mr Lochhead’s unacceptable silence on the proposal is in his own back yard, is credibly explained by his astonishing assertion, “ .. a different type of oil was being proposed and different circumstances applied.”

“SNP Councillors in the Highlands are on both sides of this debate and the opportunity existed for the Scottish Government to clarify whether it supported these transfers, and repeatedly it has refused to do so; offering only mealy mouthed platitudes and promises to keep a close eye on proceedings.

“It cannot be the case that what was deemed too risky for the Forth is acceptable for the Moray Firth, unless the Port Authority plans to switch to transferring Cod Liver oil.”

Ship to Ship Oil Transfer Petition Hits 3K

John has today (8th February) submitted a more than 3200 signatures strong petition (figure includes signatures to online change.org petition and paper copies) and formal objection calling upon the Maritime Coastguard Agency to refuse the oil transfer licence made by Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA).

This follows weeks of campaigning by John and the coastal communities to block risky ship to ship transfers of oil across the Moray Firth on the basis that they are unsafe and unnecessary.

Ahead of the submission of his letter of objection and the petition John said:

“The idea of transferring oil across the Moray Firth – a spectacular marine area of international significance – is outrageous. I’m not in the least bit surprised at the strength of feeling across the world against this proposal, and I urge the Maritime and Coastguard Agency take note of the significant public opposition when making a decision.

“I am encouraged by the way in which the immediately affected community have mobilised against CFPA’s proposal and I am proud to have campaigned with them on such a critical issue. In particular I would like to note the actions of Cromarty and District Community Council who have exerted a great deal of time and energy in thoroughly opposing these plans.

“The sheer number of mistakes and omissions throughout CFPA’s application is remarkable and I am astonished and dismayed that in spite of these slip ups, the SNP Government is in support of these risky plans.

“Within the application there is no thought given to what might happen if ships were to collide, the impact of ballast water and the oil spill modelling goes no-where near the worst case scenario. It doesn’t even mention whether these plans are to be instead of or in addition to existing oil transfers in the area. How could the MCA make a competent assessment of this application when they only have half the detail?

“This application is now in the hands of the Maritime and Coastguard Agency and I hope they make the right decision. There is far too much at stake for us to simply sit back, cross our fingers and hope for the best.”

You can see a copy of John’s letter here:

STS Letter Page 1STS Letter Page 2

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Today is the last day to object to the application: You can see the details of how to do so here: http://www.cfpa.co.uk/News/Oil-Transfer-Licence-Application.aspx

Why have the SNP U-turned on ship-to-ship oil transfers?

#SaveOurDolphins – sign John’s petition against risky ship-to-ship oil transfers

SaveOurDolphins_800x450John Finnie has criticised the SNP Government’s apparent support for the proposal to carry out risky ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth, which contrasts with their vocal opposition to similar plans in the Firth of Forth nine years ago.

In his first speech as Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment, Richard Lochhead said:

“Many members of the public and members across the Parliament consider that even a scintilla of environmental risk is unacceptable…

“I believe that the Parliament – and, indeed, Scotland – desires to be able to prevent ship-to-ship oil transfers and proposals that could pose a threat to our precious marine and coastal environments in the Firth of Forth or elsewhere. That is what I intend to achieve.”

Yet, as the consultation about the proposed plans by Cromarty Firth Port Authority to transfer oil between ships at the mouth of the Cromarty Firth draws to a close, the response from Richard Lochhead and the SNP government has been bewildering.

Unlike with the Firth of Forth plan, Mr Lochhead has refused to comment on the Cromarty application, leaving it to an anonymous Scottish Government spokesperson to say that “ship-to-ship transfer of oil an internationally recognised practice that is important to the shipping industry.” Meanwhile, the leader of the SNP Group on Moray Council, Cllr Maxine Smith, said that the application had the support of the SNP Government and that she had “no concerns” about it.

John said:

“For the Government to have made such a drastic U-turn on this matter is of deep concern for all those with an interest in protecting the marine and wildlife of the Moray Firth. Now, in contrast to his vocal opposition to ship to ship transfer in the Forth, Richard Lochhead’s silence is deafening.

“There is clear and serious concern from local communities around the Moray Firth who have mobilised in opposition to the plan, about the environmental risks associated with this proposal.

“With oil being pumped at the rate of two tonnes per second, and it taking a maximum of forty seconds to shut down any spillage once it has been noticed; the extent of any leakage would be disastrous.

“The number of risks that the Cromarty Firth Port Authority have simply opted not to take into account in their application is extensive; heightened emissions from the large tankers, the risk of collision between ships, the impact of such a plan on tourism and the local economy; the list goes on.

“It really wasn’t that long ago that Richard Lochhead said that “even a scintilla of environmental risk is unacceptable” and I wholeheartedly agree. So why is his government – who claim to offer the highest standard of marine protection – now supporting this perilous proposal?

“This operation is unsafe, unnecessary and undesirable. In my view, and the view of the affected communities, it simply must not go ahead.”

John calls on Scottish Government to come clean on oil transfers

SaveOurDolphins

 

John has reiterated his call for the Scottish Government to give a clear statement on its position in the Cromarty Firth Port Authority’s live application to carry out ship to ship oil transfers in the open seas of the Moray Firth.

Earlier last week, John launched a campaign to block risky plans to carry out ship-to-ship transfers of oil in the Cromarty Firth with the campaign petition, Stop Ship to Ship Transfers Of Oil Across The Mouth Of The Cromarty Firth, attracting worldwide support.

In addition to the petition John had written to key decision-makers, including lobbying Councillors across the Moray Firth area.

Responding to John’s request to support the growing opposition to ship to ship transfer on the open seas, Councillor Maxine Smith, Leader of the SNP Group on the Highland Council, who represents the Cromarty Firth Ward, advised Mr Finnie that the application had the support of the SNP Scottish Government and that she had “no concerns at this time” regarding the application

Commenting on Councillor Smith’s email, John said:

“This is an astonishing position for the SNP, the Party of Government, to adopt in relation to a highly sensitive live application. I would urge the Scottish Government make clear its position on what role it has played the application by the Cromarty Firth Port Authority.

“The communities who will be most affected should the licence be granted and there be any resulting spillages, are very clear that they have grave and pressing concerns.

“We cannot continue to promote Scotland globally for wildlife tourism if we permit activities which not only endanger any potential tourism revenues, but more fundamentally put in danger the health of the wildlife that sustains it. Our coastal communities deserve better.”

In today’s Inverness Courier (26/01/16) a Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “The Scottish Government recognises that ship-to-ship transfer of oil is an internationally recognised practice that is important to the shipping industry and has an excellent safety record in UK waters. However, we remain vigilant to the need for careful consideration in sensitive waters to ensure the highest standards of protection for our marine environment.”

Commenting on the Scottish Government statement John said:

“This bland set of platitudes from the Scottish Government do not address the central concern of the communities that will be affected by this application. Nor does it address the claim of the Leader of the SNP on Highland Council that the Scottish Government supports the application by Cromarty Firth Port Authority to carry out oil transfers in the Cromarty/Moray Firth.

“The highest possible standard of protection for this precious marine environment is simply to block any plans to carry out the oil transfers, anything short of that is putting private profit ahead of protecting our environment.

“Ahead of the Cromarty and District Community Council meeting tomorrow the Scottish Government must make clear where it stands on this application.”

The Cromarty and District Community Council will be held in the West Church Hall on Wednesday, 27 January at 7.30pm.

Please sign and share John’s petition against the plans.

https://www.change.org/p/cromarty-firth-port-authority-maritime-maritime-and-coastguard-agency-stop-ship-to-ship-transfers-of-oil-across-the-mouth-of-the-cromarty-firth