Oil Leak 205 Where next?

That’s maybe what Bob Buskie will be asking himself after today when the petitions committee revisited the Cromarty Rising petition. We were very happy with the way things went – the petition is continued while the committee write to the Scottish Government to seek clarification regarding the STS process. John Finnie, Ed Mountain and Angus MacNeil all deserve credit for the points they raised – in relation to the Marine Scotland failure, the accountability of Trust Ports, the failure to consult the residents of Nairn and to take forward an alternative process for awarding the license. This reflects Cromarty Rising’s proposals to the PPC:

1.  Current Scottish Government guidelines for Scottish trust ports are not binding in law, this is reviewed and at the same time, bring greater Scottish Trust port accountability to Scottish Ministers.

2. Marine Scotland reports contain comment on herring stocks, salmon and sea trout fishing, we note that local river boards were not included in the consultation process. Review the decision taken not to respond to consultation and develop protocols to ensure key scientific and socioeconomic evidence is always maintained in the consultation process.

3. Change the sequence of steps in the licencing process. Introduce a pre-submission step where compliance with Scotland’s National Marine Plan, European Protected Species Licencing, Habitats Regulations and independent financial assessment is conducted prior to a STS licence application being submitted to the Maritime and Coastguard Agency.


These MSP may wear different political colours but it is good to see them working together for the common good which is to see this licence application killed stone dead. You can see the committee proceedings here (its the last 10minutes):  http://www.scottishparliament.tv/20170622_public_pets

There was also  a significant article in the Herald today (not online yet) – it showed that contrary to what we believed initially, that MCA took this application very seriously and not only that were highly critical of a number of elements. The MCA’s “briefing note” on the application has now been released – it runs to 8 pages and makes some very significant points and not only backs up many of Cromarty Rising’s assertions and arguments but goes further in its criticism of the previous application. We will be looking at this in much greater detail in coming oil leaks (once we’ve finished with the Scottish Government’s failings) but in the meantime, here’s the Herald’s leader from today which will give you a flavour:

“THE case for ship to ship (STS) oil transfers at the Cromarty Firth – never very strong to begin with – has been weakened further by the release of Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) papers.

Earlier this year, it told local port officials to resubmit an application which appears to have been lacking.

It failed to pay sufficient heed to the potential risk to Scotland’s only resident pod of bottlenose dolphins. It failed, indeed, to explain why such oil transfers were necessary, particularly given a safer alternative exists at Nigg terminal’s jetty. Oil spill modelling failed to reflect the full range of weather, wind and tidal factors. Even its worst case scenario appears to have been minimised.

We may take on board the views of some experienced seamen that STS risks are minimal – in general – but a comprehensive case regarding all contingencies in this most sensitive of maritime areas must be provided. This is a project that would involve 48 transfers, 576 vessel movements and 8.6 million tonnes of oil a year.

Given that scale of the operation, the revelation that responding to any spill in the firth could take four hours, during which oil might reach an important bird colony, is deeply worrying. This application needs to be properly thought out. As it stands, it’s unsurprising community campaigners and environmental organisations want it thrown out.”