Humza Yousaf has defended his government’s plans to ban fishing in large sections of Scotland’s seas despite a rebellion from several prominent SNP members in a Scottish Parliament vote on Wednesday night.
At First Minister’s Questions, Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross challenged the SNP leader over “extreme” plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas that could “devastate coastal, fishing and rural communities”.
Three senior SNP MSPs, all former government ministers, voted against their party when the Scottish Conservatives held a vote on the anti-fishing plans.
During a debate on Tuesday, Fergus Ewing, said: “This will haunt the Scottish Government.”
Alasdair Allan MSP said: “I have never known my constituency to be so unanimously opposed to any single policy in all my time as an MSP.”
Former SNP leadership candidate Kate Forbes also said: “The rarest species in our coastal areas and our islands will soon become people if these proposals go ahead as planned.”
Humza Yousaf has claimed the plans wouldn’t be imposed on communities that are vehemently opposed to them – but refused to define what constitutes “vehement opposition”. As a result, Douglas Ross said it’s clear the SNP leader is “out of touch” with the views of those communities.
The Scottish Fishermen’s Federation said the plans could have a “catastrophic effect”.
One fisherman from the Outer Hebrides said it “will be absolutely devastating and you’ll see a loss of population in these areas akin to the Highland Clearances.”
The Tiree Community Development Trust said: “It will be the end of our community.”
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross said: “These reckless SNP-Green plans would ban fishing across much of our seas. They would put thousands of jobs at risk. They would devastate coastal, fishing and rural communities.
“Humza Yousaf is out-of-touch with coastal communities and he’s even out of touch with many members of his own party.
“It took eight years for Nicola Sturgeon to face a major SNP rebellion. It’s taken Humza Yousaf less than eight weeks.
“He’s losing his grip on his own party because he insists on pursuing an extreme policy that’s opposed by the very communities he wants to impose it on.
“Instead of arrogantly dismissing valid concerns, Humza Yousaf should do the right thing and scrap these anti-fishing plans.”