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.”.



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.”

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



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.