Freedom of Information Request Reveals Peel Ports Has a Direct Line to Minister Responsible for Issuing Decision on EIA For Southannan Sands SSSI

18th January 2020

In August 2019 the FoFoC received the results of a Freedom of Information (FOI) request that was submitted to Marine Scotland (MS) for all correspondence relating to the Peel Ports marine licence application for works at Hunterston.

Read the full account of our FOI to MS here>>>

The response revealed that Peel Ports had submitted an application  in November 2018 for 12 times the amount of dredging they had declared at the Public Pre Application Consultation (PAC) held in Fairlie in August 2018. On the advice of MS this application was withdrawn and a revised version was submitted, this time for three times the volume, which triggered the need for a new EIA Screening Opinion request that was submitted in March 2019. Since this time MS have deferred the EIA Screening decision three times in the basis of the ‘complex and complicated nature’ of the Hunterston Project.

The requests from MS for more detailed information has not been taken well by Peel Ports, who it appears were looking for a quick decision.

Interestingly, the FOI request contained an email from Envirocentre (Peel Ports representatives) to Marine Scotland on 17th July 2019 which can only be described as confrontational stating that they “intend to take up the matter with the minster”. We understand that the minster who will issue the decision on the EIA screening is Cabinet Secretary MSP Roseanna Cunningham who holds the portfolio for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform.

In the email Envirocentre (Peel Ports representatives) state:

“Having spoken to our Clients (Peel Ports) I would summarise their response as follows:

  1. They (Peel Ports) are extremely disappointed at the lack of momentum and consider that there has been adequate time within which to request the additional data, prior to now;
  2. They (Peel Ports) intend to take the matter up with the minster responsible; and
  3. They  (Peel Ports) do not agree that the project is complicated or complex and that the reluctance in making a decision is purely down to ‘public interest’ as noted in your previous correspondence 

Read the full email below:



We have raised the suggestion of influence via the minister with the Director of Marine Scotland, Graham Black who has assured us that, despite being a civil service directorate within the Scottish Government, their work is free from political interference and their decision-making is based on the evidence and guided by the relevant legal framework.

We have no reason not to believe that Marine Scotland is honest in the assertion that they undertake their responsibilities free of political interference.

However, the fact that Peel Ports clearly want MS to know they have a direct line of communication to the minster raises significant questions of transparency about the nature and influence of relationships between ministers and large-scale developers and industrialists such as Peel Ports who are pursuing permission for complex developments in highly environmentally sensitive areas and particularly at Southannan Sands SSSI at Hunterston.

We await announcement of the outcome of the EIA Screening Opinion  which is expected Mid January 2020




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