IN regards to Michael Fry’s article (Kelp proposals are bang in line with 21st-century economic ideals, December 4) I would just like to issue a few clarifications and corrections on behalf of myself and other campaigners whose grassroots victory in the Scottish Parliament securing a ban on kelp dredging was hard won.

Firstly, there is no “ban on the harvest of kelp”. Legislation that was passed placed a ban on only one method of harvest, the “dredging” of kelp. Hand harvesting and farming are entirely permitted and licensed activities. They are both sustainable practices that have minimal effect on the natural environment.

READ MORE: Kelp proposals are bang in line with 21st-century economic ideals

Part of the social justice of the ban was securing parity between big corporations and small-scale business such as Ailsa McLellan’s. Why should Marine Biopolymers Ltd (MBL) not have to stick to the same strict regulations as the hand harvesters who are at risk of being unable to compete with the devaluing large-scale harvesting of kelp flooding the market whilst also wrecking the environment?

The issue of scale here could have been exemplified if Mr Fry had read MBL’s own scoping report, which had them harvesting 34,000 tonnes (not 30,000 as written in the article) by year five and seeing, and I quote, “significant” kelp dredge industry in Scotland’s future. We would also ask how exactly do you get £300 million to put into the economy from 30,000 tonnes of kelp? As yet, MBL has not put any detailed explanation or plan in place and appear to chase a golden goose.

READ MORE: Picking seaweed with scissors suits me fine, thank you

With respect to the 40 jobs that would be created in Mallaig, Mr Fry omitted the fact that an open letter in support of the ban was signed by over 200 west-coast businesses ranging from marine tourism to fishermen’s associations to scallop divers, representing more than 1000 employees’ jobs.

Further to this Marine Scotland also received more than 2350 objections to MBL’s proposals. Additionally, in MBL’s own scoping report it only shows less than 40 “full-time equivalent” jobs.

Legislating to protect the kelp and committing to a full review of seaweed harvesting was a show of support to the rural business that has managed to survive throughout the tribulations of history. Through the review, we have rightfully passed the question of whether MBL’s methods are sustainable on to independent scientists. I can’t speak for MBL, but in the “no kelp dredge” camp we are incredibly confident the ruling would be in our favour.

On a purely pedantic note, Ailsa McLellan’s petition currently sits in the region of 25,000 signatures (incorrectly reported as 14,000), a herculean task for a truly grassroots community campaign of which surely The National should be applauding. McLellan (herself a Yes voter and regular at independence marches) is exactly the kind of voice we need if we are to build a better Scotland. A Scotland where the people’s voice matters over that of commercial interests and where our natural environment is protected for future generations. It will be no surprise that Ailsa objects to the picture painted in the article of a rather miserable existence.

Perhaps if Mr Fry had done actual research into the historic and traditional hand harvesting economy he would have inclined to agree with Ailsa. Then again he actually failed to even spell her surname correctly. Ailsa alongside other businesses such as Mara Seaweed harvests kelp sustainably to produce high-end products for the market. As we saw with scallop dredging, the introduction of industrial-scale harvesting devalues the product to the point that you need even more of the resource to turn a profit (with devastating ramifications for the environment) and the smaller businesses are priced out.

Finally, the one area where we can seek to agree, Mr Fry is that kelp can hold the key to regenerating our rural economy. Scotland truly can lead the world with an industry fit for the 21st century, but the key is research and development into kelp cultivation – not the progress at any cost methods harking back to the industrial revolution.

Finlay McFarlane
via email

I IMAGINE most journalists take the same view as good scientists, which is that the use of actual evidence when publishing an article is essential. Thorough research is fundamental if a journalist wishes to maintain credibility with their readership. Unfortunately, this has not been the case with Michael Fry’s article on kelp dredging, and his poor research on this subject is very, very evident.

Furthermore, there is also a fundamental cynicism contained within his article which is unattractive to say the least. On the one hand, the title of the article espouses his “at-one-ness” with environmentally progressive economics but at the same time he states that environmentalists are prone to irrational, religious-type fetishisms. He also suggests that these “types” should “vanish back into their burrows”. This strikes me as a form of de-humanising prose.

Lastly, I take issue with any generalisms from journalists, like “which is what most Scots want” and that the Gaels were all “miserable” – apparently. This is just intellectually lazy stuff.

Please, better research Mr Fry and don’t purport to speak for “most Scots”, as we are a rich and varied people with multitudes of views.

Kairin van Sweeden
Yes Edinburgh North and Leith/Leith SNP