Devolution give Scotland 200-mile limit

Scotland should look to taking control of its seas up to 200 miles offshore, according to a report. An advisory committee set up by the Executive yesterday called for the creation of a Scottish marine management organisation, along with a planning system to control human activity at sea out to the boundary with international waters.

The report, welcomed by Ross Finnie, the environment minister, comes days before the publication of a white paper by Ben Bradshaw, the Westminster fisheries minister, which could outline a similar structure.

Currently, the Executive controls most issues concerning the sea out to 12 miles but, apart from fishing, the seas out to 200 miles are controlled by the UK parliament.

The Scottish Executive has been negotiating with Westminster to secure what has been called “devolution of the seas” in any future act of parliament.

The Advisory Group on Marine and Coastal Strategy also recommended that ministers “should explore improvements to our system of marine nature conservation for protecting Scotland’s biodiversity”.

Mr Finnie said : “I want to ensure the long-term sustainability of Scotland’s marine environment, which supports a huge variety of economic activity.”

Dr Richard Dixon, director of the conservation agency WWF Scotland, said he was delighted the report suggested that Scotland should get greater control of the seas.

“It is clear from the work of the [advisory group] experts that the forthcoming UK Marine Bill should extend the Scottish Parliament’s control out to 200 nautical miles from the coast, so that powers over fishing, planning and nature conservation all sit with Scotland.”

Richard Lochhead, the SNP’s environment spokesman, said yesterday: “It is absurd that the EU, the UK government and international agreements have more say over our seas than Holyrood, when Scotland is a marine nation with one-quarter of Europe’s waters.”