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Summary

  1. The Environment and Climate Change Committee takes evidence on air quality in Scotland
  2. Topical questions features a question on decreasing farm incomes
  3. The Environment and Land Reform Committee leads a debate on deer management in Scotland
  4. The Rural Economy Committee leads a debate on crofting law reform
  5. Green MSP John Finnie leads this evening's member's debate on ship-to-ship oil transfers on the Cromarty and Moray Firths

Live Reporting

By Craig Hutchison and Colin Bell

All times stated are UK

  1. Green MSP calls on minister to rule out EPS licence for ship-to-ship oil transfers

    Mr Finnie
    Image caption: Mr Finnie

    Mr Finnie says he welcomes the change of tone when the first minister said she was unconvinced of the safety of ship-to-ship oil transfer in the Moray Firth.

    The Green MSP asks the minister to regain the vigour the Scottish government had when the Forth was under threat in 2007.

    He calls on the government to confirm that an EPS licence won't be issued to allow ship-to-ship oil transfers in the Moray Firth.

  2. Scottish government 'disingenuous' on matter says John Finnie

    John Finnie

    Mr Finnie says ministers claim the Scottish government was not invited to comment and was not aware of being approached by the UK government which is "disingenuous".

    The Green MSP says the Scottish government could have brought the environmental concerns to the MCA.

    He says the Scottish government claim it is a matter that is reserved to the UK government and "it is nothing to do with us" which, he says, is no way to treat this matter. 

  3. Green MSP says ship-to-ship oil transfers 'completely unsuitable' in Cromarty and Moray Firths

    Ship-to-ship transfer of oil
    Image caption: Green MSP says ship-to-ship oil transfers 'completely unsuitable' in Cromarty and Moray Firths

    Mr Finnie uses his motion to highlight the lodging of Public Petition PE01637  regarding at-sea ship-to-ship oil transfers in areas such as the Cromarty and Moray firths.

    The Green MSP says the Cromarty and Moray firths to be areas of environmental significance, which are completely unsuitable for operations such as at-sea ship-to-ship oil transfers.

    He says even a minimal spillage would have catastrophic effects for marine life, including the iconic pod of bottlenose dolphins in the Moray Firth, and for coastal communities.

    Mr Finnie congratulates Cromarty Rising on reaching over 100,000 signatures from people across the region and the world for its petition to the UK Secretary of State for Transport.

  4. Background: Cromarty Rising

    Cromarty Rising

    From the Cromarty Rising website: 

    Transfers of crude oil are proposed in the Inner Moray Firth – in exactly the place where the only resident pod of bottlenose dolphins in Scotland lives and breeds!

    There is an existing jetty at Nigg where oil transfers have taken place for over 30 years – why not do it there rather than in the open sea on top of the dolphins?

  5. Green MSP John Finnie congratulates Cromarty Rising

    Green MSP John Finnie
    Image caption: Green MSP John Finnie

    Green MSP John Finnie congratulates Cromarty Rising who are in the gallery this evening.

    Mr Finnie says they have generated over 100,000 signatures to their petition to the UK government.

    He says ship-to-ship oil transfer takes place in the relative safety tied to quay at Nigg.

    The Green MSP says there is no viable application at the moment.

  6. Background: Request on ship-to-ship oil transfers 'standard protocol', says port

    A port authority seeking permission for ship-to-ship transfers of oil has said withdrawing and resubmitting its application is "standard protocol".

    Port of Cromarty Firth has applied for a licence to transfer oil at sea in the Moray Firth.

    A campaign opposes the plan because of concerns that the operations would harm the environment.

    It emerged in January that the port authority had been asked to withdraw the application it made in 2015.

    The Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA), which considers applications for ship-to-ship transfers in consultation with other organisations, requested the withdrawal and resubmission.

    Resubmitting the application meant fresh public consultation on the port authority's plans.

    Tanker

    Bob Buskie, chief executive of the Port of Cromarty Firth, said: "Asking us to withdraw and resubmit our application is standard protocol in this scenario.

    "It is nothing we weren't expecting when we committed to undertaking further public consultation. We will be following the standing application protocol, as directed by the MCA."

    He said "refinements" have been made to the initial application.

    Mr Buskie said: "This detailed package of work is now complete and we will submit our refined application on schedule.

    "We are confident the refined application answers the questions raised and will reassure our stakeholders that we can continue to undertake these operations safely.

    "Further details of public consultation dates and events will be published soon."

  7. Background: Holyrood protest protest opposing Moray Firth ship-to-ship transfers

    MSPs Gail Ross, left, and Kate Forbes with protestors dressed in animal costumes
    Image caption: MSPs Gail Ross, left, and Kate Forbes with protestors dressed in animal costumes

    In January a fresh protest was held outside the Scottish Parliament to raise awareness to opposition to plans for ship-to-ship transfers of oil in the Moray Firth.

    Cromarty Firth Port Authority wants permission to transfer millions of tonnes of crude oil at sea.

    Campaigners around the Moray Firth said the risk of an oil spill would be catastrophic to the marine environment.

    The port authority said it "fully appreciated" the environment it operated in was "extremely special".

    The demonstration outside the parliament building in Edinburgh was supported by Green MSP John Finnie, SNP MSPs Kate Forbes and Gail Ross and Scottish crime writer Ian Rankin.

    Read more here.

  8. Here is the motion to the debate

    Motion
  9. 'Ship-to-ship Oil Transfers in the Cromarty and Moray Firths’ debate

    Protestors gathered outside the parliament building in Edinburgh
    Image caption: Protestors gathered outside the parliament building in Edinburgh

    Green MSP John Finnie will now lead a debate entitled 'Ship-to-ship Oil Transfers in the Cromarty and Moray Firths’. 

  10. A strong population in the Highlands and Islands benefits the whole of Scotland

    Croft

    Ms Ross says it would be a good start to get the definition and decide what we want crofting to be and move forward from there.

    The Rural Economy Committee deputy convener says a strong population in the Highlands and Islands benefits the whole of Scotland.

    She says she hopes the committee report has been helpful and she commends it to the chamber. 

  11. The forthcoming crofting bill should be comprehensive says committee deputy convener

    Rural Economy Committee convener Gail Ross
    Image caption: Rural Economy Committee convener Gail Ross

    Rural Economy Committee deputy convener Gail Ross says this is a very complex and technical area.

    Ms Ross says there are some issues around crofting that can be addressed without legislation.

    She says legislation made in the 1800s is probably not relevant today.

    Ms Ross says the committee came to the conclusion that the forthcoming bill should be comprehensive and try, where possible, to start again.

  12. 'It would be ungenerous to say that the government are not supporting crofters'

    Farm

    Mr Yousaf says it is worth reiterating that there is the croft house grant and other schemes and support available to crofters.

    "It would be ungenerous to say that the government are not supporting crofters," he says. 

    The islands minister says engagement with stakeholders will continue and he looks forward to engaging with crofters. 

  13. Minister says work has already begun on what a new entrants scheme should look like

    Islands Minister Humza Yousaf
    Image caption: Islands Minister Humza Yousaf

    Islands Minister Humza Yousaf says this has been an "excellent debate".

    Mr Yousaf says crofting could help reverse some of the depopulation seen in the islands.

    The SNP MSP says there are a number of issues around crofting and he says the government will be as consensual going forward as possible.

    He says some MSPs are asking for a clean slate approach, with others saying the existing legislation should be tweaked.

    Mr Yousaf says work has already begun on what a new entrants scheme should look like.

  14. Tory MSP calls for a comprehensive crofting bill starting with a clean sheet

    Tory MSP Peter Chapman says: "Crofting is not just a vital part of our rural economy it is an important part of our rural heritage."

    Mr Chapman says: "We cannot duck the question of serious reform any longer."

    Tory MSP Peter Chapman
    Image caption: Tory MSP Peter Chapman

    Mr Chapman calls for a comprehensive crofting bill starting with a clean sheet.

    He welcomes the promise that a new bill will be delivered in the lifetime of this parliament.

    The cost of registration and notification is highlighted by the Tory MSP.

  15. 'A lot of crofters say that they are involved in an expensive hobby'

    Rhoda Grant

    In closing for Scottish Labour, Rhoda Grant says the legislation must be simple and make sense to crofters. 

    Ms Grant says there are still crofts that are un-worked and there is no way of reporting on that. 

    "A lot of crofters say that they are involved in an expensive hobby," she says, adding that the economics must be looked at.

    The Labour MSP says crofters must have business development support. 

    She says consensus must be built around the legislation that is required. 

  16. SNP MSP says whole nation suffers without thriving population in the Highlands and Islands

    SNP MSP John Mason
    Image caption: SNP MSP John Mason

    SNP MSP John Mason says the whole nation suffers if there is not a strong and thriving population in the Highlands and Islands.

    Mr Mason says the committee realised the type of legislation being recommended would be controversial.

    The SNP MSP says it recommended there was a need to move away from the piecemeal legislation in the past and the proposed bill should be comprehensive.

  17. Background: Former Crofting Commission convener not re-elected

    Colin Kennedy was convener of the Crofting Commission
    Image caption: Colin Kennedy was convener of the Crofting Commission

    Colin Kennedy, whose actions at the Crofting Commission were the source of a row, has been unsuccessful in being re-elected after losing by two votes.

    Last year, the commission's board apologised for its handling of a dispute with crofters over the management of common grazing land.

    Counting in the Crofting Commission elections in Stornoway on Lewis
    Image caption: Counting in the Crofting Commission elections in Stornoway on Lewis

    Board members also asked Mr Kennedy to resign as convener. He refused to do so.The count for the commission elections was held in Stornoway on Lewis.

    Mr Kennedy lost out to Billy Neilson in being elected as a commissioner for the constituency of South West Highlands.

    Read more here.