OUTLANDER author Diana Gabaldon has supported a petition against plans to transfer oil in a special protected area which is home important marine life, including dolphins and whales.
The writer shared a link to a petition against a proposal by Cromarty Firth Port Authority to transfer oil.
The Change.org petition was launched by MSP John Finnie, a former SNP politician now standing as a Green Party candidate in the next election.
Diana Gabaldon, who books are a worldwide success and led to the global TV hit Outlander series, is a master of science in marine biology.
She retweeted a link supporting the petition to her 145,000-plus follower.
Mr Finnie has called on the Scottish Government for a clear statement on its position in the Cromarty Firth Port Authority’s live application to carry out ship to ship oil transfers in the open seas of the Moray Firth.
In addition Mr Finnie has been writing key decision-makers, including lobbying Councillors across the Moray Firth area.
Responding to Mr Finnie’s request to support the growing opposition to ship to ship transfer on the open seas, Councillor Maxine Smith, Leader of the SNP Group on the Highland Council, who represents the Cromarty Firth Ward, advised Mr Finnie that the application had the support of the SNP Scottish Government and that she had “no concerns at this time” regarding the application.
Mr Finnie said: “This is an astonishing position for the SNP, the Party of Government, to adopt in relation to a highly sensitive live application.
“I would urge the Scottish Government make clear its position on what role it has played the application by the Cromarty Firth Port Authority.
“The communities who will be most affected should the licence be granted and there be any resulting spillages, are very clear that they have grave and pressing concerns.
“We cannot continue to promote Scotland globally for wildlife tourism if we permit activities which not only endanger any potential tourism revenues, but more fundamentally put in danger the health of the wildlife that sustains it.
“Our coastal communities deserve better.”
Councillor Smith replied: “The Port of the Cromarty Firth have applied for a licence to transfer oil ‘ship to ship’ in the waters of the Cromarty Firth.
“This practice has been taking place for over 30 years in the bay at Nigg, with ships being tied up whilst the oil transfers take place.
“I have spoken to the Chief Executive of the Port who assures me that they have been consulting with all major agencies regarding the latter over the last 18 months and have taken on board everything that has been suggested.
“I therefore believe that we will all find when we examine the application in its entirety, with all the attached detail, that we are satisfied with the measures that are being proposed.
“Where there are further gaps identified, of course I want to see these addressed and will have to satisfy myself that every ‘t’ has been crossed and every ‘i’ dotted.”
Councillor Smith said she recognised the need to maintain as many jobs as possible in the Firth.
She added: “Given that the Beatrice oilfield has not stopped using Talisman at Nigg to do oil transfers, we want to retain as many of these skilled jobs as possible.
“It is a really difficult time for Invergordon and Easter Ross, with the oil work having deteriorated to such an all time low.
“We are in a situation where we cannot afford to reject new ideas out of hand, so let’s hope that the consultation with the public now goes well and we can see some hope for the workforce on the horizon.
“We badly need this.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The Scottish Government recognises that ship-to-ship transfer of oil is an internationally recognised practice that is important to the shipping industry and has an excellent safety record in UK waters. However, we remain vigilant to the need for
careful consideration in environmentally sensitive waters to ensure the highest standards of protection for our marine environment. We encourage those with an interest to submit their views to the consultation.
“While regulating this practice is reserved to the UK Government, the Scottish Government is responsible for environmental protection and we have made the very valid case for Scottish Ministers to have a clearly defined role in the consenting process for any programmes of ship-to-ship transfers in Scottish waters.”