Plans for Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) should be halted until the Scottish Government has agreed new powers for the islands, says Na h-Eileanan an Iar SNP MP Angus MacNeil.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon was in Skye yesterday (Wednesday) where she urged islanders to respond to the consultation on additional powers for the islands – which will be protected in law by an Islands Bill –  and stressed that all views put forward would be considered.

In light of this consultation, Mr MacNeil  is calling on the Scottish Government to listen now to the views of islanders on the issue of MPA management plans.

He said: “I think in light of the Island powers consultation, it would be sensible to delay the process of implementing the management plans for the MPAs until after any new powers for the islands are finalised.”

He has already written to Fisheries Minister Richard Lochhead MSP and Islands Minister Derek Mackay MSP to reiterate the views of the fishing industry on the current MPA management plans and urged the Scottish Government to carry out an economic impact assessment on the proposals.  Despite this correspondence, he remains concerned that the alternative management options and compromises proposed by the industry are being dismissed.

He added: “There remain significant disagreements between the fishing industry and Marine Scotland over the facts regarding current catch recordings and their value; the environmental condition of the sites in question; and also sustainable practices voluntarily implemented by the fishing industry over decades.

“At a time when new powers are being considered, when more control of the marine area could be one of them, it seems prudent that this process is delayed.

“Therefore one aspect of my response to Nicola Sturgeon’s wise call to consult over island powers, is to urge caution on the draconian MPA plans as these will be economically damaging to islands and are an example of something better dealt with in the islands where their effects will be felt.

“I remain very concerned about the possible economic impact of proposed management plans for the MPAs and I think the Scottish Government should take its time in coming to a final decision when so much is at stake.”