CREEL fishermen have taken the Scottish Government to court over access to island waters.

Alistair Sinclair, national co-ordinator of the Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF), says the body is acting “after years of frustration” in dealings with both Holyrood and its Marine Scotland agency.

He said: “Our marine environment continues to be failed by civil servants.”

The SCFF has lodged a judicial review of the decision to refuse an application for a fisheries pilot scheme in the Inner Sound of Skye, which separates that island, Raasay and Scalpay from the Ross-shire coast.

The North West Responsible Fishermen’s Association (NWRFA) had proposed a trial there aimed at establishing the environmental and economic benefits of a “creel only” zone in the area, home to the valuable Nephrops fishery.

The large prawns are the country’s second most lucrative catch.

There have been disputes about the best way to manage the Inner Sound of Skye for years, with creel fishermen calling for long-term restrictions on the use of trawlers they blame for decimating fish populations.

The SCFF says that sector “wields too much influence with Marine Scotland” and the country’s fisheries are managed in its favour.

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This is, it claims, despite evidence that creel fishing has a smaller environmental impact.

The NWRFA proposal was one of several put forward for public consultation. Following feedback, Marine Scotland said the responses “make it clear that there is continuing opposition” to the idea and most of the measures proposed were “strongly opposed by respondents”.

But, launching the judicial review, the SCFF says Marine Scotland was wrong to refuse the pilot based on the consultation results, instead of basing the decision on its own criteria.

The SCFF said: “Consultation responses were dominated by members of the trawl industry who will object, as a matter of course, to any restriction on their freedom to trawl.”

The matter will be heard next month and a protected expenses order has been granted to even the field between the parties, limiting the costs the SCFF will have to pay if it loses.

The Scottish Government said: “We can confirm that judicial review proceedings have been raised. Since these proceedings are ongoing it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Sinclair told The National: “This legal challenge highlights an important concern about the way our inshore fisheries are managed by Marine Scotland and an apparent gap between policy and practice.”

He went on: “We believe this to be a matter of great public concern because our fisheries are one of Scotland’s greatest assets.

“Our inshore fisheries are of particular ecological value as well as being of huge economic significance to coastal communities.”