Nearly 3000 members of the public have joined the Friends of the Firth of Clyde, Fairlie Community Council, Fairlie Coastal & Cumbrae Community Council to watch the virtual Hunterston Hustings 2021 and hear the views of MSP candidates about industrial development at Hunterston Peninsula, what they would do to ensure the balance of economic development against protection of the environment and, following on from the recent call from Flora & Forna International, how they would ensure meaningful community involvement at all stages of proposed developments.
Importantly, whilst the debate focused specifically on the area of Hunterston on the Firth of Clyde, it took place against the wider geo-political backdrop of a global climate emergency, post pandemic economic recovery and concern about conflicts of interest caused by lobbying of government by private companies.
An audience poll was undertaken at the start of the event and 58% of the participants responded by saying that developments at the Hunterston Peninsula was an issue that would influence their voting. Indicating there is strong local and increasingly national interest in the topic.
View Hunterston Hustings – Click Play and enter passcode: &Dt^+Y*2
Who Took Part?
An invitation was extended to all 18 standing political parties, 5 parties responded and the following MSP candidates joined the panel:
- Ross Greer – Green
- Katy Clark – Labour
- Kenneth Gibson – SNP
- Jamie Green – Conservative
- David Griffiths – All for Unity
Candidates were asked to provide a personal statement and respond to the following pre-seen questions, which were followed up by a number of supplementary questions from the audience:
Question 1. “£28m (£18m Ayrshire Growth Deal and £10m from Scottish Enterprise) of public funds has been secured for Peel Ports development at Hunterston. Is this single big bet the best way to stimulate job creation for the area?’
Question 2. “Publicly funded environmental regulators are extremely vulnerable to pressure being put upon them by the Scottish Government and Local Councils, especially when they’re sponsoring initiatives which are presented in terms of the Green / Blue / Circular economy. What is your view of this and what have you done or would you do to ensure environmental protection regulations are duly and effectively undertaken?”
Question 3. “Peel Ports is the Harbour Authority for the Firth of Clyde, having board level influence on multiple quangos and being a big industrial developer on the Clyde. What conflicts of interest does this pose and how would you challenge these?”
Question 4. “How have you, or would you, ensure the voice of the community in local planning decisions is fully heard and that local communities and the surrounding land and marine environment are protected against the risks to health and threats to sustainability of proposed and ongoing industrial operations?”
What Did People Say About the Event?
The event has been praised for the quality of the discussion and the degree of agreement from across the political divide on the issue of protection of the marine environment, community involvement and the need for a positive vision for Hunterston.
What do Friends of the Firth of Clyde Say?
We were delighted to be able to work with Fairlie Community Council, Fairlie Coastal & Cumbrae Community Council to bring the Hunterston Hustings debate to the community and give MSP candidates the opportunity to demonstrate their understanding and commitment to safe and sustainable development of Hunterston.
Whilst the panelists represented a wide spectrum of political views, we were especially impressed by the level of consensus that emerged about the urgent need to protect the surrounding marine environment through robust scrutiny of developments by planning and regulatory authorities, along with a commitment to make sure that the views of communities are heard and acted on – including on current local concerns about the massive Valaris Drill ships currently berthed at Hunterston jetty .
Shock and concern was expressed across the whole panel about the potential implications of recently discovered changes to the coal jetty lease between Crown Estates Scotland and Clyde/Peel Ports, seemingly made under the cover of the Cover Pandemic, to now allow the mooring of oil rigs and similar oil related vessels at Hunterston Jetty until 2025 …. more on this to come soon.
Finally thanks to the team for making the event happen, to the panelists for taking the time to take part and everyone that attended, for making it such an informative, interesting … and dare we say enjoyable ?! event.
The bar has been set! and we will be watching the outcome of the elections with interest to follow-up the successful candidates on their pledges!