Two large areas of Orkney’s seas have been designated as marine Special Protection Areas (SPAs): Scapa Flow and North Orkney, covering an area of 529 square kilometres.
The designation is to protect ‘rare and vulnerable migratory birds’ and is part of the deal between the SNP Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party Parliamentary Group.
Minister for Environment and Land Reform in the Scottish Government Mairi McAllan travelled to Orkney to make the announcement. She said:
“Designations such as these ensure some of the most vulnerable seabird species and their habitats are afforded the protection they need not just for today but for future generations.
“Scotland’s marine environment is also crucial for supporting the sustainable recovery of our maritime industries and these designations will play a pivotal role in it.
“This marks the culmination of a great deal of work and I would like to thank everyone involved for their efforts, for the designations in Orkney, which largely completes Scotland’s SPA network.”
The designation is the result of 10 years of gathering and assessing evidence, jointly undertaken by Marine Scotland, NatureScot and Joint Nature Conservation Committee to identify and support the designation of marine areas critical for 31 species of marine birds. The designation of Scapa Flow as a MSPA has been an ongoing issue since 2014, following formal opposition by OIC.
Commenting on the marine SPAs , Leader of Orkney Islands Council James Stockan said:
“This has undoubtedly been a long-running process – but one which provides a great example of the value of robust negotiation and constructive discussion between the Scottish Government and Orkney Islands Council.
“Having challenged the initial proposals, we worked alongside Government officials to reach a mutually agreeable solution that was more in keeping with Orkney’s needs. We believe that the designations are now more accurate and achieve a dual purpose of supporting future development of our vital maritime industries, whilst also protecting our local ecosystems.”
Orkney’s Green councillor, Steve Sankey has also welcomed the news, announced by Mairi McAllan on 16th February 2022. Councillor Sankey said:
“Scapa Flow is one of Orkney’s most precious assets for very many reasons, not least for its international conservation value. I’m delighted that Ms McAllan has recognised this by announcing this designation today. It will prove important in the years ahead to help ensure that the Flow is managed sensitively and sustainably and balance all future development issues through the statutory planning process.”
Councillor Sankey continued:
“This has had the makings of a classic Orcadian saga, but unlike the sagas the issue has been conducted entirely in secret, and behind closed doors over not one but two administrations. It’s a typical example of OIC’s lack of openness and transparency, such that I was gagged from informing the public about this important issue.
“Orkney’s seabirds such as kittiwakes have suffered a massive 90% decline in recent years, and in the middle of this nature emergency, OIC has chosen to further its own development interests instead of holding an open public debate about the future management of Scapa Flow. Their process was just plain wrong and not why I was elected.”
OIC Councillor John Ross Scott, Vice-Chair of OIC’s Planning Committee, and who will be contesting May’s local elections as an Orkney Green agreed. Councillor Scott said:
“The Council complains regularly about its treatment by the Scottish Government, and now we begin to understand why some friction occurs. OIC has deliberately held up this designation for several years and the worst of it is that the Orkney public don’t know why.
“There’s no reason why the Scapa Flow MSPA should prevent important sustainable development in the Flow, and the recent publication of the draft National Planning Framework 4 underlines this. The Minster knows this, we know this, but the clandestine OIC doesn’t.”
To view Special Protection Areas click on this: Site Link Nature Scot