The Court of Sessions rules the Scottish Government’s current approach to licencing of scallop dredging, and bottom-trawling is “unlawful”
The Court of Sessions in Scotland has ruled that the Scottish Government’s current approach to licencing of scallop dredging, and bottom-trawling is “unlawful”.
Lord Braid ruled in favour of the environmental charity Open Seas who brought a legal challenge to the Scottish Government’s current licencing system.
Open Seas argued that the Scottish Government has a duty to take into account the marine environment and sea life when issuing licences for scallop dredging and bottom-trawling.
Lord Braid said that in his opinion that the Scottish Government’s legal duty “expressly requires (it) to take authorisation decision in accordance with the National Marine Plan unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise. Open Seas claims successfully argued the National Marine Plan requires the activities do not cause significant impacts to Priority Marine Features.
Summing-up Lord Braid said, “For all these reasons, I have concluded that since the respondent did not consider the NMP in making the licensing variations complained of, the decision of 30 December 2022 is unlawful at least to that extent. Since the Notice also dealt with other matters, which I was told are the subject of a separate challenge for different reasons, I shall put the case out By Order to discuss the precise terms of the order to be made.”
On the Court of Sessions opinion, Open Seas’ Director Phil Taylor said “This decision is a major win for environmental justice and everyone who has campaigned to protect our seas for many years. But it is a hollow victory, because whilst it shows we were right to make this challenge, it reveals that Scottish Ministers have been unlawfully neglecting their legal duty to protect our seas for the last eight years.”
Open Seas claims that this is not a victory as they will fight on as they claim they have been presented recent evidence of damage to vital seabed habitats caused by scallop dredging all around Scotland’s coast: around Flotta in Orkney, Handa in the north west Highlands and Islay in Argyll. “Since then, we have had reports of other similar incidents,” they said in a statement.
Their statement concluded by saying, “This damage is the result of the Scottish Government’s failure to take these habitats into account when licensing scallop dredging and bottom-trawling.”