Campaign group Southern Hebrides Against Marine Environmental Designations (SHAMED) has raised questions over plans to designate the west coast of the Outer Hebrides – from Barra to southern Harris – as a Special Protection Area (SPA).
Plans to create the new designation – which would aim to protect species including Great Northern Divers and Slavonian Grebe – were published by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in August.
Reacting to the news, South Uist community landlord Storas Uibhist said the proposed SPA would be a matter of “major concern” to islanders. North Uist councillor Uisdean Robertson said the islands were being “squeezed” by environmental designations and might as well be declared “a national park”.
Now SHAMED – which led the fight against the eventual creation of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) at East Mingulay and in the Sound of Barra – has added its voice to the debate over further designations.
In an open letter, SHAMED chair Angus MacLeod asks for clarification on the impact the SPA would have on potential future marine renewable energy developments in the area.
The full letter is re-printed below:
We have known since March 2010 that the Scottish Government was searching for new EU Special Protection Areas in our waters. The result of that search is a proposal for a huge SPA to the west of the islands, running from Taransay to Barrahead.
Surely this community should be discussing the possible impact of this site?
We need to know what will happen to the potential for marine renewables in our local area. The waters west of Barra and Uist were identified for development by the Scottish Government in 2008 as an alternative to the now protected Sound of Barra location. Now the alternative site itself is in danger of being designated.
I think we should also be asking how the “locally-led” Sound of Barra SAC management can possibly work now, since the new SPA proposals will cover most of the SAC waters within the Sound.
I would be happy to hear from anyone who shares these concerns.
Chairman for SHAMED