Author joins protesters calling for plan to build Scotland's biggest fish farm in Orkney to be scrapped

A Scottish author whose book is currently being made into a film in Orkney has joined locals in the islands to protest against what will be Scotland’s biggest salmon farm if it goes ahead.

Amy Liptrot, author of The Outrun – which is currently shooting in Papa Westray with actor Saoirse Ronan – is one of more than 100 people who have objected to a proposed scheme there which would hold 3,850 tonnes of fish.

Other opponents include local MSP Ariane Burgess, of the Scottish Greens, and Orkney Marine Mammal Research Initiative.

Orkney Islands Council has recommended the scheme for approval when it goes before the planning committee this week, despite only one letter of support.

A number of concerns have been raised over the giant new fish farm – put forward by fish farming giant Cooke Aquaculture Scotland – including its impact on protected dolphins, seals and whales and the potential for storm damage to cause escapes of farmed fish into the wild.

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Locals are also worried that waste, chemicals, medicines and parasites from the site could damage the environment and affect a nearby marine protected area.

Protesters from the No East Moclett campaign group have this week staged a demonstraition against the project, which will be considered by the council’s planning committee today.

Protesters from campaign group No East Moclett turned out on the Orkney island of Papa Westray calling for plans to build a giant fish farm there to be scrapped

More than 130 people have signed a petition organised by the Scottish Greens, calling on councillors to reject the plans.

Papa Westray, known locally as Papay, is a small island with a population of around 80 to 90 people.

It already has three fish farms around its coast and the latest scheme would leave it “completely surrounded”, objectors have said.

Ms Liptrot penned the objection after the plans were drawn to her attention by Papay residents.

She wrote: “I think that the significant impact of water pollution, noise pollution and changes to the visual character of the area outweigh the economic benefits the development would bring.

“I have lived on Papay, and what drew me to the island was its rich biodiversity, seabirds, coastal animal and plant species and open seascapes. These things are rare and precious and why visitors come to the island.

“Intensive salmon farming runs counter to the ways the sea should be protected and indeed is legally protected in the Marine Protected Area very close to this site.

“The easterly view from the Papay school and shop across to Eday, which I wrote about in my book The Outrun, is an iconic and beautiful part of life on the island that is currently unspoiled by industry.

“I am worried that the community of Papay are being disregarded as plan s for this farm progress.”

The single backer of the scheme said: “The socio-economic benefits accruing from this proposed development are significant for the local island communities, and should be given substantial weight in considering the proposal. For these reasons I offer my full support for this application.”

Activist Don Staniford, director of fish farming protest group Scamon Scotland, said: “Salmon cages are spreading around the Highlands and Islands like a malignant cancer and must be eradicated, not accelerated.

“Cooke’s reckless expansion must be stopped dead in its tracks.

“If local democracy counts for anything, Orkney Islands Council has no other choice but to say no to East Moclett salmon farm.”

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