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Last Updated: Sunday, 24 June 2007, 13:32 GMT 14:32 UK
Powers could block oil transfer
Oil transfer
Ship-to-ship oil transfer plans have angered environmentalists
Plans to pump oil between tankers in the Firth of Forth could be blocked by Scottish ministers under new powers to be considered at Holyrood this week.

Currently, harbour authority Forth Ports has the final say on proposals to pump millions of tonnes of Russian crude oil between ships.

The legal change would allow ministers to veto developments which threaten protected wildlife areas.

The move has been welcomed by the Green Party and environmental groups.

Under a specially accelerated procedure, a statutory instrument giving ministers extra powers under the European Habitats Directive will be put before the Scottish Parliament.

It is expected to be passed before the summer break.

Fierce opposition

The draft instrument, which was lodged in the parliament late on Friday, provides "new powers for Scottish ministers to call in a plan or project which they consider may have a significant effect on a protected site".

Ministers will also be able to suspend projects if certain conditions have not been met.

The proposals from SPT Marine Services would see about 7.8 million tonnes of Russian crude oil a year pumped between tankers anchored four miles off the coast.

The plan has been met with fierce opposition from local councils, communities and environmental groups.

The Forth marine environment is of world heritage significance and developments must be subject to proper scrutiny
Robin Harper
Scottish Green Party

Last month, Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead asked Forth Ports to freeze plans for the transfers.

He also expressed concern that the harbour authority was both "judge and jury" of the project.

First Minister Alex Salmond has previously called for tighter government controls over the plans.

The Scottish Green Party said the new powers were based on the proposals originally made by them.

The issue was agreed as a priority for action during talks between the Greens and the Scottish National Party immediately after the Holyrood election.

Public interest

Green co-leader Robin Harper said: "Shifting power back to ministers using Habitats Directive regulations is the right way to bring about swift action on this threat.

"It is an absolute priority that the public interest be upheld, and that key decisions of such immense importance are made by the right people and for the right reasons.

"The Forth marine environment is of world heritage significance, is vital to the local economy and developments must be subject to proper scrutiny."

A spokeswoman for the executive said: "Ministers are looking forward to making an announcement on this issue next week."


SEE ALSO
Call to halt oil transfer plans
24 May 07 |  Edinburgh and East
Oil transfer 'breaches directive'
11 May 07 |  Edinburgh and East
Protests over oil transfer plans
24 Mar 07 |  Edinburgh and East
Oil transfer firm 'misled MSPs'
21 Feb 07 |  Edinburgh and East
'Scientific' decision on oil plan
15 Feb 07 |  Edinburgh and East
Forth oil transfer inquiry begins
07 Feb 07 |  Edinburgh and East
Campaigners unveil whale findings
09 Jan 07 |  Edinburgh and East
Bid to block oil transfer plans
11 Oct 06 |  Edinburgh and East
Oil transfer spills risk revealed
12 Sep 06 |  Edinburgh and East
Forth oil transfer gets go-ahead
14 Jul 06 |  Edinburgh and East

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