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Last Updated: Thursday, 30 March 2006, 10:33 GMT 11:33 UK
Concerns surface over marine park
Coastal area
Some communities have fears about the potential impact
People in coastal communities are voicing concerns about whether the creation of a marine park in Scotland would bring them any benefits.

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), which has been looking for the most suitable sites, said more than half the country's coastline would fit the bill.

Board member Hugh Raven said it would not go ahead unless the park was going to bring real benefits to an area.

However, some people in the Highlands fear more restrictions and red tape.

They are worried that the designation could affect fishing, farming and even house building.

Any community that is denied the opportunity to make the most of the natural resources on its doorstep is bound to fail
Ian MacKinnon
Fisherman

The Scottish Executive asked SNH to investigate the possible aims, powers and running costs of a marine park.

Last year it drew up a list of 16 possible sites, with the three favourites being the Argyll coast and islands, Lochaber and Skye and the Western Isles.

A further report is due to be submitted to ministers this week.

Mr Raven, the chairman of the steering group, said it was up to the executive to decide on the principle of creating a marine and coastal park.

He said: "We have had a full survey of the whole coast and the good news is as a consequence of that survey we have advised that more than 50% of Scotland's coastline is good enough to be considered as a coastal and marine national park.

Action committee

"That is what we will be telling the minister at the end of this week," he said.

However, there has been some local opposition in coastal communities.

About 100 people attended a meeting in Mallaig to voice opposition to any such plan in their area, setting up an action committee.

Sand dunes (picture by Lorne Gill/Scottish Natural Heritage)
Several sites around Scotland's coastline have been assessed

Farmer Kirsty McLeod said: "Here we have got yet another level of bureaucracy and red tape.

"What a national park in any form would mean would be giving up a lot of rights, right down to household level, giving them up to a park board which would be largely appointed by the government.

"So you are really talking about a downgrading of your democratic rights."

Ian MacKinnon, a fisherman and shellfish farmer from Morar in the west Highlands, predicted that everyone would be affected by the creation of a marine park.

"Any community that is denied the opportunity to make the most of the natural resources on its doorstep is bound to fail," he said.

The Scottish model of national parks is very explicitly designed to ensure that the social and economic development needs of the community are respected
Hugh Raven
SNH board member

"We really don't need another level of bureaucracy like the national park authority, and that is why I believe it will lead to another level of restriction."

James Colston, manager of the neighbouring Arisaig estate, said he could not think of any benefits which a national park could bring to his life.

However, Mr Raven said a park would not get the go-ahead unless it would bring real benefits to the local community.

"The Scottish model of national parks is very explicitly designed to ensure that the social and economic development needs of the community are respected and to promote those needs.

"Unless it can be proven through the consultation process that that will happen then the designation will not take place. Communities need have no fears on that account."


BBC NEWS: VIDEO AND AUDIO
See why the residents are concerned



SEE ALSO:
Front-runners in marine park race
23 Dec 05 |  Scotland
Views sought on new marine park
04 Aug 05 |  Scotland
New marine park proposals floated
16 Jun 05 |  Scotland


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