Kelp ban branded a ‘chilling’ message for scientists

Picture: Andy Jackson/Subsea TV/PA Wire
Picture: Andy Jackson/Subsea TV/PA Wire
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Banning the mechanical harvesting of kelp would send a “chilling” message to science companies in Scotland, industry leaders have warned.

Tom Shields, chairman of industry body Chemical Sciences Scotland, warned the country risked no longer being seen as a competitive place for science-based businesses.

He spoke out as MSPs prepare to vote on legislation that could ban mechanical harvesting of kelp in Scotland’s waters. Ayr-based firm Marion Biopolymers (MBL) has warned if this goes through, Scotland could lose out on an industry potentially worth up to £300 million. The company wants to harvest 30,000 tones of kelp a year from the waters off Scotland’s west coast, with the firm insisting the nanocellulose that can be produced from this has a range of applications, varying from “invisible armour” slow release cancer drugs to a new alternative to medical mesh. Mr Shields said: “The message this sends to science-based businesses is chilling.

“MBL has taken eight years to build, working with regulators all along the way.

“Now it faces being blocked from operating in Scotland because MSPs have been besieged by a campaign determined to stop MBL before regulators can even consider its plans.” He added: “Businesses need to be confident that government regulatory processes will be upheld.

“Without that confidence, Scotland won’t be considered a competitive place to build a science-based business and we’ll lose future investment opportunities to other countries. In our industry, regulatory certainty is absolutely critical. Chemical and biotech businesses are capital intensive, long-term investments.”

So far more than 20,000 people have signed a petition calling for the mechanical harvesting of kelp to be banned.Ailsa McLellan, founder of the No Kelp Dredging campaign, said: “To allow the industrial removal of kelp would make a mockery of those rules.”