A SCOTTISH MP has accused the UK Government of being “economical with the truth” over the controversial issue of ship-to-ship (STS) oil transfers in the Cromarty Firth.

The Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA) wants to carry out STS operations off the coast of Ross-shire, but campaigners say they are worried about the effects on the coastline and marine wildlife, including the Moray Firth’s dolphin population.

Ian Blackford, the SNP member for Ross, Skye and Lochaber, yesterday raised a point of order in the House of Commons, and referred to an earlier debate where he had asked about what negotiations had taken place concerning the transfers.

He said he had asked Transport Minister Robert Goodwill specifically if Marine Scotland – representing the Scottish Government – had been consulted, and had received a reply, which stated: “Marine Scotland was directly consulted on 10 December and 8 February, when consultation ended. It has not responded. When it was asked whether it intended to respond it answered ‘no’.” Blackford said he was surprised because he would have expected Marine Scotland to reply, so he went on to check with the Scottish Government.

“The Scottish Government is not aware of being directly approached by the UK Government during consultation on the Cromarty Firth oil transfers,” said Blackford.

“There was informal contact through the Port of Cromarty Firth, but they were not contacted by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency (MCA) or the UK Government.”

He added: “That is a very worrying statement – and opens the suggestion that the Government has been economical with the truth, to say the very least.”

Powers over STS transfers are reserved to Westminster, but the Scottish Government is responsible for environmental protection, including marine and coastal environments.

Scottish Secretary David Mundell said he would investigate the matter.

Blackford last night told The National that he planned to write to Goodwill questioning his reasons for bringing “inaccurate” information to the House. He said: “I’ll be asking him to explain why he thinks Marine Scotland and, as a consequence the Scottish Government, have been consulted and why did he take that view to the House when the Scottish Government have made it very clear they haven’t had any communications from the UK Government.

“This actually holes them below the line, because one of the key determinants is the issue of environmental protection, and you cannot consider a case such as this unless there’s been proper consultation with Marine Scotland.

“We have to take the marine environment seriously and the agency responsible for that through the Scottish Government, has not been consulted. That can’t be right.”

Blackford reiterated his previous call for responsibility for STS transfers to be devolved to Holyrood.

He said: “It’s a disgrace, and it shows some of the shortcomings in the devolution of powers to Holyrood. We are getting enhanced powers through the Scotland Bill, but there are still situations like this that the Scottish Government has no say in. That’s completely unacceptable.”