Proposals for the potential designation of Sound of Barra as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC) were debated in the Scottish Parliament today (February 8).
In line with EU requirements, Sound of Barra is currently being considered as a possible SAC, as it includes a colony of harbour seals and sandbanks and reefs that are home to many marine species. Scottish Natural Heritage has carried out a consultation and their report and advice to Ministers is now being prepared.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson met with Barra representatives before the debate, to discuss their concerns over possible socio-economic impacts on the local community.
Mr Stevenson said:
“Quite understandably the people of Barra are seeking to protect their own economic and environmental interests and, as such, are concerned by what the possible SAC designation may mean. What I can assure them of is that when I make my decision I will ensure that protecting local interests is a very significant consideration.
“If I bring forward an SAC designation my objective is to do so when three conditions are met. Local people will be invited to participate in a management plan that protects local interests – including ensuring that a sustainable scallop fishery can be maintained in the area.
“Furthermore, any such management plan would need to provide a continuing role for local interests in management of the area. And finally, the proposals progressed must conform to EU rules.
“It is vital that local fishing and community interests engage in the process, so that we can work in collaboration and ensure the best outcome is reached – both for the Sound of Barra and for the wider local community.”