Oil Leak 155 The Scottish Parliament Debate

We had a great day at Holyrood yesterday….photos below press release. Interesting & well informed debate, not often you can say that, however you can watch it all here at http://www.scottishparliament.tv.

There is also an excellent synopsis on the BBC website: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/live/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-39770234

Also coverage on BBC Scotland Highland News and nationally on Good Morning Scotland and STV. We were particularly pleased to hear cross-party support in the chamber in opposing plan for STS and we look forward to the issue returning to the Public Petitions Committee towards the end of the month. We think that further plans for STS can be stopped by the Scottish Government through their refusal to award a licence to disturb European Protected Species – this was a point raised by John Finnie MSP and directed to minister Paul Wheelhouse MSP and minister for Business, Innovation and Energy. Unfortunately Mr Wheelhouse chose not to answer the point directly and it is an issue we intend to press further. Thanks to all who came down on the bus and those who came from Edinburgh to show their support – special thanks to Ian Rankin who once again took time out of his busy schedule to show his support. We were please to see a representative from the CFPA in attendance in the public gallery and we hope they will pay close attention to the points raised in the Scottish Parliament and drop this plan once and for all.

Below is our press release we put out earlier today:

Cromarty Rising are delighted that the issue of ship-to-ship transfers of crude oil will be debated today (2nd May 2017) in the Scottish Parliament.

It is our assertion that Cromarty Firth Port Authority’s plan to allow crude oil transfers at sea within a Special Area of Conservation for bottlenose dolphins is the wrong plan in the wrong place. We believe the risks from this ill-conceived plan, both to the dolphins and to the local economy, are completely unacceptable.

We have over 100,000 signatures on a petition that are in agreement, and we welcome the First Minister’s statement in the Scottish Parliament at the start of the year that she is “unconvinced” by CFPA’s plan.

Although no vote will be held today, our petition is making its way through the Scottish Parliament and we believe that it is fully within the remit of the Scottish Government to stop the plan.

We are here today to urge the Scottish Parliament to remind Scottish Ministers that:

  1. Although the determination of an application for a ship-to-ship oil transfer licence is a reserved matter, the decision on making another licence application is not. This decision can and should be made in Scotland, in line with Scotland’s National Marine Plan.
  • CFPA withdrew its original licence application last summer, so there is currently no licence application to determine.
  • Any decision to submit a new licence application, or not, is for CFPA to make.
  • CFPAis, like all Scottish trust ports, under the control of the Scottish Government – so we demand that Scottish Ministers play a part in this decision and require CFPA to comply with Scotland’s National Marine Plan, adopted in 2015.
  1. The planned euthanasia of cetaceans is not acceptable under any circumstances.
  • In the event of an oil spill, CFPA’s oil spill contingency plan would come into effect, including procedures to deal with stranded dolphins.
  • The plan says that where dolphins and other cetaceans cannot be re-floated,“euthanasia may be the most humane option”.
  • Oil spills are far less likely if CFPA continue to use Nigg Oil Terminal for crude oil transfers,outwith the area of sea that has beendesignated for the protection of bottlenose dolphins.
  1. Ministers have the power to stop this now, by announcing that they will not issue a European Protected Species (EPS) licence.
  • The day-to-day operations involved in transferring crude oil at this location between ships at anchorare highly likely to cause disturbance to bottlenose dolphin and other European protected species (“EPS”).
  • This would represent an offence under the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended),meaning that, if any transfer operation is to be undertaken legally, a licence under regulation 44 of those Regulations(“an EPS licence”) will be required.
  • It is the Scottish Ministers, in the shape of Marine Scotland, that would issue an EPS licence in this case.
  • We believe that the legal tests for such a licence being awarded cannot be met[3] without breaching the EU Habitats Directive.
  • It is in the hands of the Scottish Government to confirm that an EPS licence cannot be issued, and thereby stop ship-to-ship oil transfers from happening in the Inner Moray Firth.

Cromarty Rising’s message to the Scottish Government today is that now is the time to hold discussions with Cromarty Firth Port Authority, to find alternative funding needed to support the continued use of Nigg Oil Terminal for ship-to-ship oil transfers, and to take this important step (see point 3 above) to remove the threats to protected species and to safeguard the vital tourism income of the region. Cromarty Rising will fully support this process.


[3] The applicant for an EPS licence must pass various tests, including the need to show there is no satisfactory alternative – this can’t be demonstrated in this case as there are several alternative safer sites in Scotland, including the nearby Nigg Oil Terminal. The applicant also needs to demonstrate that there are “imperative reasons of overriding public interest” justifying the threat to European Protected Species – they cannot.