Monday, March 2, 2015

British government denies it has doubled exclusion zone in sub testing area off Scotland

By David Ross/Herald Scotland
The Ministry of Defence (MoD) strenuously denies it has already unilaterally doubled the size of a restricted sea area off Wester Ross where submarine testing is conducted, ignoring local communities and fishermen.
The British Underwater Test and Evaluation Centre (Butec) works in the Inner Sound between the Island of Raasay and the Applecross Peninsula on the mainland. It is used to evaluate the sensors and aural emissions of British submarines and is operated on behalf of the Royal Navy and the Ministry of Defence by QinetiQ. During the 1970s the range was used to test torpedoes.
Fishing is currently banned in the range over an area six miles by three miles and to a depth of 656ft 200m deep, but the MoD want to significantly increase it.
Rob Gibson, SNP MSP for Caithness, Sutherland and Ross said:
"Local static and mobile gear fishers in Wester Ross and around the Inner Sound are up in arms. There are channels of consultation that have been completely ignored by the MoD. We want a meeting on site in Shieldaig, Kyle of Lochalsh and Portree so that local fishers can quiz the defence minister. We have written to the MoD to seek this early meeting to open up a dialogue so that local fishing interests are not swept aside by Westminster diktat."
Meanwhile his neighbour Dave Thompson, SNP MSP for Skye, Lochaber and Badenoch said he understood the area was to be doubled and continued:
"Any changes to MoD restricted areas must be fully consulted on and no decisions taken until all interests have had a chance to have their say. We live in a new Scotland and the MoD must realise that the days are gone when they can just steamroller over Scottish interests."
But an MoD spokesman said:
"It is absolutely not true to say that the MoD has already doubled the size of the protected areas of Raasay Ranges. Consultation with local sea-users regarding the proposed expansion of the protected area is due to begin in June 2015 as part of the MOD Byelaw Review, led by the Ministry of Defence's Defence Infrastructure Organisation (DIO), and no final decisions will be made before then."

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