Regular readers who are paying attention to the proposed ship to ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth may wish to pay attention to comments recorded in Hansard (the Journal of the House of Commons).
In a debate secured by Ian Blackford MP in the House of Commons on the 22 February 2016 entitled "Emergency Tug Vessels (West Coast of Scotland)" the member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber asked the following:
"Let me deal with the issue of vessels in the constituency of Ross, Skye and Lochaber. This wanton disregard for marine safety takes place at a time when the MCA is considering an application for ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Cromarty Firth. Here again, the Government seem to be coming up short in discharging their responsibilities to consult effectively and take environmental considerations seriously. It is environmental concerns that demonstrate the need for our marine safety to be taken seriously, and our communities need the comfort of knowing that emergency towing vessels are there as part of the Government’s responsibility.
The Scottish Government are responsible for marine safety yet, incredible as it sounds, we do not know whether Marine Scotlandwas consulted as part of the process. The application for the ship-to-ship transfer dated 5 November states that the MCA confirmed that the main consultees would be the local government authority, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage, with the appropriate wildlife non-governmental organisations. There was no mention of MarineScotland. Why not?
That is why I tabled a question to the Minister dated 9 February, which was answered on 15 February, stating that Marine Scotland was consulted. I have not been able to clarify whether this was the case or not. Perhaps the Minister can do so this evening. Why was Marine Scotland not listed in the consultation document? Was it consulted? In the interests of transparency, will he publish any related correspondence?"
A little later into the debate The Minister of State, Department for Transport (Mr Robert Goodwill) was to reply:
"Let me develop my argument, and I will return to that point. Scotland is not only a stunning landscape but the home of important industries such as agriculture and fishing, which are economically important to Scotland and the whole United Kingdom. Protecting the environment and safety at sea are our top priorities. The hon. Member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber mentioned the Cromarty firth oil transfer licence. Marine Scotland was directly consulted on 10 December, and on 8 February, when the consultation ended, it had not responded. When it was asked whether it intended to respond, the answer was no. I hope that that clarifies that point."
Fergus Ewing MSP in a recent letter to constituents worried by the S2S oil transfers in the Moray Firth, said that he would be meeting with Roseanna Cunningham, Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, in connection with the role of Marine Scotland. Perhaps we will receive more information soon about Marine Scotland's role or lack of it in the consultation process for the application by the Cromarty Firth Port Authority.