I WAS disappointed to read Michael Fry’s lazy article on kelp dredging in yesterday’s National in which he patronisingly calls me the “modish Maclennan” (spelling, Mr Fry – please). It must be trendy to not want the bottom of the food chain ripped out.

I do enjoy picking seaweed with my scissors and my bucket, thanks very much – not all of us get our sole satisfaction from pleasing shareholders. My Scottish ancestors would be pleased that I am keeping my money, that it is staying in the local economy, and that I am not handing it over to a Lairdy overlord like they had to do.

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Mr Fry’s view seems to be that Scotland’s natural assets need to be taken at any cost to get the money that we need for independence. I am a keen independence supporter myself (as are many involved in the no kelp dredging campaign), but I for one would rather anything than the barren wasteland that Michael Fry’s sort of independence would bring.

Given what we know about kelp as a carbon sink and the battle we face with climate change, Michael Fry’s views are out of date to say the least. He has lifted his “facts” from MBL’s briefings and has done no research of is own. The eternal question – how do you get £300 million from 30,000 tonnes of kelp? – has yet to be answered.

Our kelp habitat is the bottom of the food chain. Those who live on the coast understand that we need it, it already supports employment, absorbs carbon and protects coasts from erosion, yet this seems to be a moot point to Mr Fry, whose primary concern is MBL’s bank balance.

Ailsa McLellan
(Modish, fetishistic, cave-dwelling Gael)

READ MORE: Arguments in favour of kelp dredging don't add up​

HAVING read the article by Mr Fry in The National I felt that I had to respond. This level of journalism has no place in the 21st century. Personal insults are the last resort of an argument being lost and certainly unsuitable for national newspapers.

Before answering some of Mr Fry’s comments, I have to ask if he read the scoping study or the amendment before writing, or simply relied upon the Marine Biopolymer Ltd press release. I would have hoped, before insulting not only Ailsa but the west coast of Scotland, and more than 25,000 signatories to the petition, that he at least tried to garner some facts.

Do those 25,000, many reliant on a healthy west-coast marine environment, really deserve the insults? I would think not. Far from “enjoying the sort of standard of living enjoyed by that half-starved generation of long ago”, I would suggest that the residents of the west coast enjoy a good standard of living with thriving communities and an economy based on small businesses.

We can call the proposed form of harvest dredging, combing, or whatever. The method is the important one and that used in Norway is referred to there as “dredging” but I am happy to call it something else if that is more appropriate to Mr Fry’s sensitivities. This method has never been used in Scotland, where licences ensure that the habitat formed by the kelp is not damaged, and the amendment ensured that current environmental standards are maintained. A level playing field for all, in other words.

Mr Fry is correct in that kelp does not have roots per se, but I have not seen many references to “roots” in the objections. The kelp have a holdfast which anchors, or roots, the plant to the rocks. Currently harvesting practices must ensure that the holdfast is not damaged, and that sufficient stipe is left to enable the plant to regenerate. Within the scoping document, MBL stated that the plants would be pulled up by the holdfast, the holdfast removed (obviously not required) and returned to the water to rot. This is contrary to licensing requirements and in any other industry would require a discharge consent.

Kelp, and the holdfast, provide habitat for – or provide food for – a number of commercially important species. When we are independent and reliant on our resources, to paraphrase Mr Fry, these will be important. Perhaps more so than kelp? Certainly the 1000 or so jobs within the fishing, tourism and seaweed harvesting industries already based around the west coast will not be fully replaced by 40 jobs in Mallaig. I am sure that they will be welcome, but not by the fishermen already based in that town.

Kelp is removed by wave action, but not in neat strips. The Norwegians have found that kelp does not always regenerate after mechanical removal, and certainly the timescales mentioned in the scoping report do not allow the communities associated with the kelp to regenerate. The 30,000 tonnes of kelp per annum proposed, although this is given as about 36,000 by year six in the scoping document, will be removed from a relatively small area not across the range of the plant, and is likely to also include other species. In addition, will it stop there? Surely economics will require an ever-increasing harvest? Not necessarily by MBL, although they will grow, but by a range of companies. I am no economist, but can understand that. The extinction of L. hyperborea on the west coast of Scotland is, therefore, conceivable.

I welcome the review of seaweed harvesting proposed by the Scottish Government and only hope that it is conducted by an independent researcher. Many countries are now moving towards seaweed farming, and this should form part of the review. More expensive to develop initially than removing from the wild, this may well be the answer to a sustainable, consistent source of the alginates required. However, an independent review will address the many aspects of this industry with science and facts and without insult.

Shona Marshall