The Scottish government has scrapped its controversial plan to restrict fishing in 10% of Scotland’s waters following an uproar from coastal communities.
Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan confirmed the plan to introduce highly protected marine areas (HPMAs) by 2026 will no longer go ahead on Thursday.
Instead, she said a new way forward will be developed with a view to making Scotland “nature-positive” by 2030.
Groups representing fishing industries were strongly opposed to the HPMA proposals and some SNP MSPs joined in the criticism.
Ms McAllan told MSPs on Thursday: “I have listened intently and am in no doubt of the strong views both for and against.
“But if there has been one consistent point of consensus, it is that doing nothing is not an option.
“In fact, we know from a recent government-funded survey that 85% of Scottish respondents consider protecting the marine environment as important to them.
“I can confirm today that the proposal as consulted on will not be progressed.
“This means we will no longer seek to implement HPMAs across 10% of Scotland’s seas by 2026.”
Elspeth Macdonald, chief executive of the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation, welcomed the move to scrap the “flawed” HPMAs.
She said: “Ministers will now need to reassure people that they are not simply intent on introducing the same policy by the back door.
“The seafood sector has set out a clear pathway on how we can work with government to strike the right balance between nature conservation and sustainable use, and the test for government now is to deliver upon that.”
A spokesman for the charity Open Seas said: “Although Open Seas support the stated aims of HPMAs, we have maintained serious concerns about the approach taken so far to implement them.
“The Scottish government are now learning a hard lesson that deep community engagement and participation is fundamental to taking action for the environment.
“The HPMA debate has diverted some attention from the routine environmental damage to Scotland’s coastal seabed caused by scallop dredging and bottom-trawling.”