The Scottish Seabird Centre, based in North Berwick, East Lothian has formally registered an objection with Marine Scotland to the SSE Renewables proposal to build one of the largest offshore wind developments in the world in the outer Firth of Forth.
The proposal is for an array of 307 turbines that could be capable of generating 4.1 gigawatts energy. It will lie approximately 47.6 km offshore of the East Lothian coastline and 37.8 km from the Scottish Borders coastline at St Abbs.
The Firth of Forth holds breeding seabird populations that are of international importance and attract thousands of visitors each year to witness the wildlife spectacle along the East Lothian and Scottish Border coastline. The area is also an important seabird migration route and foraging area. The proposal overlaps with the Outer Firth of Forth and St Andrews Bay Complex Special Protection Area and seabirds from several island and cliff Special Protection Areas along the East Coast of Scotland and Northern England.
Susan Davies, Chief Executive of the Scottish Seabird Centre said: “Climate change is one of the most pressing issues that needs addressed today and marine renewables are an essential strand of the plan to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels for energy and to achieve net-zero. However, we are also facing a nature crisis and we must ensure that green energy is secured in ways which do not contribute further to nature loss.
“Rather than find a less damaging location, for example further offshore, for their development, SSE Renewables have forged ahead with their proposals. This flies in the face of all their environmental data pointing to this being one of the most damaging places to site an offshore windfarm in Scotland – both directly and in combination with other developments already consented. The evidence presented by the developer predicts that the development will lead to significant annual adult mortality losses of black-legged kittiwakes, common guillemots, razorbills and Atlantic puffin.”
Development potential is informed by the Crown Estate Scotland’s ScotWind leasing options, which have identified an area for development that is already assessed to have reached environmental limits in relation to offshore wind. The policy framework is leading business directly into conflict in areas that are already clearly environmentally constrained.
Stuart Housden, Chair of the Scottish Seabird Centre said: “The leasing process for the seabed for marine renewable developments needs to be overhauled and be better informed by a strategic assessment of the environmental capacity that exists. It makes no sense to offer leases in areas that are clearly environmentally constrained at a time when nature is in crisis.”
As part of their proposal, developers also propose a strategic compensation measure of closing the sandeel fisheries, which is a decision for Scottish Government. Stuart Housden added: “Better spatial management of fisheries, at levels that are sustainable and allow stocks to recover, is supported by the Scottish Seabird Centre as it brings benefits for our coastal communities reliant on fishing for their livelihoods and for nature. Sandeel fishery closure is however a strategic policy decision and should not be used as a smokescreen for consenting a development that is highly damaging to many seabirds at a population level.”
“Other compensatory measures proposed including small scale biosecurity action in the north-west of Scotland and kittiwake cliff ledges and a warden at Dunbar castle, illustrate just how tokenistic some of SSE Renewable’s compensation proposals are.”
The Scottish Seabird Centre is among a growing number of organisations who are calling for this proposed development to be stopped. The National Trust for Scotland, RSPB Scotland and Members of the Scottish Environment Link Marine Task Force have also recently lodged objections with Marine Scotland.
The charity says it stands ready to continue working with marine renewable developers to try to ensure that developments do not cause environmental harm and genuinely meet the twin challenges presented by the climate and nature crises.
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Notes for editors
- The Scottish Seabird Centre is an award-winning marine conservation and education charity whose purpose is to inspire and educate people about the Scottish marine environment and motivate people to care for it by supporting conservation projects.
- The Charity’s work is supported by its 5-star visitor experience which was refurbished in 2019. The Centre now contains a wide variety of story boards, digital interactives, virtual reality and remotely operated cameras that enable people to experience and learn about the spectacular wildlife of Scotland’s marine environment.
- In May 2021 the Charity celebrated the 21st anniversary of the opening of its Visitor Centre doors to the public and over the years has won multiple awards for tourism and sustainability. It leads and contributes to a range of high-profile conservation projects including SOS Puffin and Restoration Forth.
- The Centre’s recent refurbishment was made possible through major funding from the Coastal Communities Fund and Wolfson Foundation, as well support from Scottish Enterprise Foundation, the Hugh Fraser Foundation, the Robertson Trust, the Ellem Foundation, the Dulverton Trust and other generous donors, including the Charity’s own Founding/Life members and volunteer group.
- Follow the Scottish Seabird Centre on Scottish Seabird Centre | Facebook. Twitter @SeabirdCentre and Instagram @seabirdcentre.
- For more information on the Scottish Seabird Centre visit www.seabird.org.
- The Scottish Seabird Centre’s position on marine renewables can be found here.