A HIGHLAND campaign group is calling for all the region’s councillors to spell out their position on controversial moves to carry out ship-to-ship [STS] crude oil transfers in the Cromarty Firth.

Cromarty Rising said a survey of community councils in the area had found that all those in the Black Isle, with one exception, either opposed the transfers plan or had serious concerns.

The group’s call came as attempts were being made to form a coalition of community councils in Nairn on the south shore of the firth, whose views have not been considered by Cromarty Firth Port Authority (CFPA).

A spokesman for the coalition told The National: “We were deemed not to be consultees because we were not co-joining the Cromarty Firth boundary. But the seabed is still the same and we have a major problem with our beaches.

“There a number of initiatives currently being explored to promote Nairn as a high value health and wellbeing destination exploiting our unrivalled natural assets of beaches, golf courses and distinctive micro climate.

“This crazy application by the port authority is nothing less than corporate recklessness and sitting in their bunker seven miles across the firth on the other side of the Black Isle, it’s a classic case of out of sight out of mind.”

CFPA last week issued an update on the STS plans, claiming that three out of nine community councils – representing 17 per cent of the local population – had confirmed they were against the licence application.

However, Cromarty Rising said it canvassed those with a marine border and found 20 had signalled their opposition. The four nearest CFPA’s Invergordon HQ made no comment, despite being sent the survey several times.

Jacquie Ross, chair of Cromarty and District Community Council said: “It did not surprise me that the overall response was that of opposition.

Unprecedented levels of concern have been expressed to our local community council.”

Cromarty Rising said the CFPA update paid no attention to community councils just outside their limits. “The port authority are so disengaged they don’t deem Dingwall or Maryburgh as being worthy of consultation just because they are outwith their statutory limits, not to mention all the other communities on the Moray Firth and Dornoch Firth coasts that will be affected by this proposal,” said the group.

“All communities with a marine border will be severely impacted. In fact, in the event of a significant spill it is all Highland Council taxpayers that will foot the bill.”

A spokesman added: “The port continues to refuse public consultation on their revised application; the last one went on their website for all to see. Instead it has finally offered a public meeting but only under their imposed conditions for a handful of people.

“The CFPA seem determined to press on with this proposal which could cause serious and irreversible damage to local environment and the jobs that depend on it. They are showing complete contempt for coastal communities.”

CFPA was holding its AGM last night and a spokesperson said they had already responded to comments from Cromarty Rising.