ISLANDERS are to camp out at a beauty spot in protest over fish farm plans.

Action at Millstone Point on Arran began last weekend and is set to continue over the coming weeks as the Scottish Salmon Company (SSC) bids for permission to create a 12-cage facility at the area, part of the North Arran National Scenic Area.

The Friends of Millstone Point group says no development should be allowed at the “pristine” site near Lochranza, which is home to bottle-nosed whales, dolphins and harbour porpoise.

The row has been rumbling since 2019, when 20 pens were planned and 200 people gathered for a mass demonstration against the bid, with 7000 signing an online petition. Now SSC – owned by Faroese giant Bakkafrost – has reduced this in a revised planning application which is currently out to consultation.

The Edinburgh-based operator sells around 25,000 tonnes of salmon to 25 countries every year and already runs a facility at Arran’s Lamlash Bay – one of the first fish farms in Scotland – and says a second could support almost 40 direct and indirect jobs and add an annual £5.9 million to the country’s economy.

But Friends of Millstone Point claims North Ayrshire Council must refuse the new bid or risk pollution, contamination and more. It fears acoustic deterrent devices will scare off marine mammals and naturally-occurring sea lice, which can be lethal and are found in high numbers in fish farms, will spread to wild populations, with accidental releases of the farmed produce also putting these at risk.

Last month 50,000 farmed salmon escaped from a facility operated by Mowi at North Carradale, with some of these caught in rivers throughout the Clyde region and in Cumbria.

Meanwhile, the group also warns of the potential release of effluent and chemicals and says “promises of a few jobs appear weak when compared with the long-term health of our environment”.

As well as the Covid-compliant camp-out, which is closed to outsiders and operated on a rota basis to avoid health breaches, it has instigated a community cairn, with objectors asked to add their own rocks to build support.

SSC says it is listening to the community: “The new employment and investment generated by this site will help support the island’s communities in a time of economic uncertainty. We take our stewardship of the local environment very seriously and the proposed site will adhere to the very highest levels of environmental care and management.”