SNP Win European Inquiry Into Ship To Ship Proposals

29 August 2006
The European Commission is to assess whether proposals for Ship to Ship Oil transfer in the Firth of Forth breach EU environmental laws.

The Commission has decided to act after receiving information on the proposals and the environmental significance of the Firth of Forth from SNP MEP Alyn Smith.

Speaking from Edinburgh Mr Smith said

"If this proposal is given the go ahead it would condemn the Forth to potential environmental disaster. This investigation should be a warning to Forth Ports, Melbourne Marine Services and Douglas Alexander that they can not force the proposed Ship to Ship oil transfer in the Forth onto local communities.

"Ship to Ship oil transfer in the Forth poses a major threat to the area. The beaches and wildlife along the Forth attract large numbers of tourists, provide many people with their livelihood and are some of Scotland's cleanest beaches.

"The SNP wants to see responsible decisions taken about the future of the Forth, with real consultation, by the Scottish Executive. Instead this issue has been abandoned by Labour and the Liberals and left to the decision of the coastguard and the London government. That's why we have turned to Europe for help.

"The Commissioner has asked his staff to assess whether any laws have been broken. There are specific rules about developments in areas given special protected status and I can not see how siting a potential environmental disaster in a protected area can fall within those rules.

"Forth Ports sees Ship to Ship as great for profits but for the rest of the region this could be a commercial and environmental nightmare.

"I sincerely hope the Commission can help to bring a stop to this project before it gets started and prevent damage to a vital area of Scotland's habitat. If anyone has any information on this they would like the Commissioner to see I will be more than happy to pass it on"

The letter from Commissioner Dimas states

"The internationally important seabird breeding areas of the Isle of May and the Bass Rock form part of the Firth of Forth Islands SPA and extensive wetland habitat of importance for waterfowl is contained with in the Firth of Forth SPA.

"This additional information raises questions about compliance with the protection safeguards defined under Article 6 of Council Directive 92/43/EEC, which apply to all SPAs. I have therefore requested my services to assess whether there is a breach of this or any other relevant EU environmental law"