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Last Updated: Monday, 12 September 2005, 14:21 GMT 15:21 UK
Coastline pilot schemes launched
St Abbs (picture from undiscoveredscotland)
The pilot scheme includes the Berwickshire coastline
Three pilot schemes testing ways of improving the management of Scotland's coastline have been announced by Environment Minister Ross Finnie.

The minister said the pilots would be launched in Shetland, on the Firth of Clyde and the Berwickshire coast.

He outlined a three-year strategy to reconcile all of the different uses of the sea from fishing to tourism.

But conservationists criticised the Scottish Executive for not going ahead with a new Marine Act immediately.

National park

A draft Marine Bill was included in the Queen's Speech at Westminster in May.

Mr Finnie boarded an old sailing ship in the River Clyde on Monday to announce his strategy for safeguarding Scotland's marine environment.

The document sets out the timescale for developing a marine and coastal strategy, starting next year with Scottish Natural Heritage reporting to ministers on possibilities for Scotland's first coastal and marine national park.

A decision on that will be taken some time during 2007, followed by legislation if necessary at some point after that year's Holyrood elections.

The park would then be designated during 2008.

Mr Finnie said: "Scotland's coasts and seas could support some 25,000 jobs in fishing, energy and tourism."

Progress on marine issues is desperately slow and inadequate
Robin Harper MSP
Scottish Greens

"The three pilot projects will test new ways of managing different sea areas next to urban, rural and island communities and will help us determine what, if any, legislation is required to better safeguard our seas and coastal communities."

But critics argued that with a Marine Bill now in prospect at Westminster to regulate the management of coastal areas, similar legislation is needed at Holyrood.

Scottish Greens co-convener Robin Harper said: "The real issue here is the snail's pace, and the prospect of Scotland stepping out of line with the rest of the UK. "Progress on marine issues is desperately slow and inadequate."

'Crunch time'

"The laws governing the seas are out of date, uncoordinated and in many cases contradictory - that is the problem."

Calum Duncan, convener of Scottish Environment LINK's Marine Task Force, said it was "crunch time" for Scotland's seas.

He said: "This strategy must be a countdown to delivery - setting clear, measurable, time-bound outputs."

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