Fishermen raise concerns over new offshore wind projects

The new windfarms would cover more than 2,700 square miles of seabed.

Craig Paton
Monday 17 January 2022 13:44
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has called for engagement with the industry over the projects (Steve Parsons/PA)
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation has called for engagement with the industry over the projects (Steve Parsons/PA)

A fishing industry group has called for “meaningful engagement” after the announcement of 17 new offshore wind projects along Scotland’s coastline.

On Monday, Crown Estate Scotland announced the results of the ScotWind leasing process, which would cover more than 7,000 square kilometres (2,700 square miles) of seabed.

Companies have also pledged to pay almost £700 million in options fees, with hopes of generating an estimated almost 25,000 megawatts of energy.

But the Scottish Fisherme ’s Federation (SFF) has raised concerns about what the projects would mean for their industry.

“In the rush to energy transition, it is vital that our industry’s voice is properly heard and that the fleet’s access to Scotland’s productive fishing grounds is protected,” said SFF chief executive, Elspeth Macdonald.

“In particular, proper scrutiny must be given to developers’ claims that offshore windfarms and fishing activity can co-exist with little change to existing patterns of activity, since our experience to date shows very strongly that the opposite is the case.

“Fish are not uniformly distributed in our seas – the fleet cannot simply move somewhere else. We need genuine and meaningful engagement, mutual respect and an even-handed approach to planning, consenting and licensing.

“Marine renewables are clearly part of Scotland’s transition to net zero, but so is fishing. For this to be a just transition, there must be space for both to succeed.”

The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) also called for a meeting with Nicola Sturgeon after the announcement, seeking assurances over measures to protect seabirds.

“Offshore wind has an important role to play in helping halt climate change.  However, the offshore wind projects already consented in Scotland are predicted to kill hundreds of seabirds like kittiwakes, gannets and puffins every year,” said Aedan Smith, the head of policy and advocacy for RSPB Scotland.

“The potential projects announced today would be many times bigger than those existing projects and would greatly increase those impacts.”

The Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) also pushed for assurances of benefits to the Scottish job market and supply chains.

STUC general secretary, Roz Foyer, said: “Over the past six months, the public relations teams of the prospective bidders have been in overdrive, promising the long overdue, renewables jobs revolution. Now we need to make that happen.

“The First Minister says that we have every reason to be optimistic about the number of jobs that can be created, but our skilled workers in oil and gas need more than words, given the experience over the past decade tells us that jobs in offshore wind are consistently offshored overseas.

“With over 1,000 massive turbines to become operational over the next decade, it would be nothing short of economic vandalism if we fail to build a thriving supply chain in Scotland.”

Meanwhile, the projects have been heralded as a step change in renewable energy for Scotland and the wider UK.

“Today’s announcement marks the start of a new era for the UK’s world-leading offshore wind industry. ScotWind represents one of the country’s biggest ever steps towards net zero,” said RenewableUK’s deputy chief executive, Melanie Onn.

“To put this landmark into context, the 25 gigawatts of new capacity announced today is two and a half times the UK’s entire current offshore wind capacity. It’s also equal to the entire current operational offshore wind capacity for the whole of Europe.”

Environmental group Greenpeace also welcomed the news, but cautioned that money raised from the projects should be used to accelerate the shift to net zero.

Dr Doug Parr, the group’s policy director, said: “New renewable power is vital, but on its own it’s not enough. We need home insulation, upgrades to the energy system, with retraining and support for people working in high carbon industries as they decline.”

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