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Last Updated: Thursday, 28 June 2007, 16:59 GMT 17:59 UK
MSPs approve oil transfer control
Oil transfer
Transfer plans have met with a number of objections
New powers enabling Scottish ministers to freeze plans for controversial oil shipments have been approved.

The change will allow the government to call in plans which may affect protected sites, including ship-to-ship transfers in the Firth of Forth.

The transfer plans have met with fierce opposition from local councils, residents and environment groups.

Harbour authority Forth Ports has the final say on the proposals, which come from SPT Marine Services.

They would see 7.8 million tonnes of Russian crude pumped each year between tankers anchored four miles off the coast.

Our actions will amount to securing an important piece of environmental legislation
Richard Lochhead MSP
Environment secretary

Forth Ports have said the authority had been thoroughly assessing the proposals, looking at safety and environmental considerations.

The amendment to the European Habitats Directive, approved by the Scottish Parliament, would also enable ministers to suspend projects until their compliance had been validated.

Despite the approval, Labour environment spokeswoman Sarah Boyack pointed out that the powers could not directly block ship-to-ship oil transfers.

And Mike Rumbles, the Liberal Democrat environment spokesman, raised concern that a tighter regulatory regime could affect the ability of ports in Scotland to compete with others.

Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead told MSPs that the Scottish Executive would now put pressure on the Westminster government to use their powers to control transfers in the Firth of Forth.

"Our actions will amount to securing an important piece of environmental legislation and providing the spur for essential action elsewhere that many of us all over the chamber believe is long overdue," he said.

Mr Lochhead also assured MSPs that areas where ship-to-ship transfer took place unopposed, such as Scapa Flow, would not be adversely effected.

The Greens said: "This is one more step towards improving the management of Scotland's seas and protecting the environment from threats."


SEE ALSO
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24 Jun 07 |  Edinburgh and East
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

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