A CALL has been made for SNP members to back a “resetting of the relationship” with rural Scotland following the controversy over Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs).

A motion has been put forward by the SNP Peterhead branch for debate at the party conference later this year calling for the Scottish Government to “empower rather than impose” policy on local communities.

It welcomes the decision by ministers to halt the HPMA legislation, following a consultation which sparked more than 4000 responses including serious concerns from islanders.

The motion says the proposals should only come back to ­Holyrood once “consensus among key ­stakeholders has been reached”.

Branch members say there were concerns the issue was being “raised on the doorstep” and it is hoped the discussion will “chart a way forward” on how such policies will proceed in the future.

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They say the resolution has been written by Peterhead and Banff branch members, with input from the fishing industry, coastal ­community groups and people working in conservation and it aims to “devolve and empower policy over marine ­protection to coastal communities”.

David Birkett, convener of the SNP Peterhead branch said: “In the North-East there is a feeling that ­government in Edinburgh or London can be equally out of touch.

“When I, a loyal SNP member, ­started to feel that too, well let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant.

“Successive out-of-touch UK ­governments from Edward Heath’s to Boris Johnson’s have let our ­seafood sector down, and I was glad to see the SNP-led Scottish ­Government pull back from the precipice of ­joining that long list of let-downs.

“I’m proud that our branch is ­leading on this important issue and look forward to playing our part in getting this right.”

The motion, which is on the draft agenda for the SNP conference ­taking place in Aberdeen in October, states: “Conference commends the ­Scottish Government for suspending the ­implementation of HPMA’s ­allowing a new pathway and ­timetable ­surrounding any roll-out of similar measures in the future.

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“Conference believes that the ­Scottish Government must remain committed to protecting Scotland’s marine ecosystems, but in such a way that minimises the impact on coastal communities and maximises ­opportunities for all.

“Conference believes that the ­Scottish Government must work ­constructively with all key ­stakeholders including local ­industry and businesses impacted by these 11 proposals, as well as coastal ­communities.

“The process must arrive at a ­position where the marine ­environment and our coastal communities can thrive, which will be in Scotland’s best economic, ­cultural and environmental interests. Any new proposal should only come back to Parliament once ­consensus among key stakeholders has been reached.”

In July, Mairi McAllan announced HPMAs would no longer be implemented by the Scottish Government in 10% of the country’s waters by 2026 as planned. The Net Zero ­Secretary said delaying the date was due to concern raised over the short timeframe ministers had to work with coastal communities to deliver the plans.

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One Peterhead branch official told the Sunday National: “It’s ­essential that when we get things wrong, we hold our hands up and press pause, and on HPMA, we got things very wrong.

“The biggest challenge we face on the doors when it comes to ­independence here is always the ­question of why replace London, which does not understand rural Scotland, with Edinburgh, which does not understand Scotland. It is within our gift to banish this ­feeling in rural Scotland that unwanted ­policy is imposed on rural Scotland by urban Scotland, and that starts here.

The branch official added: “­Passing this resolution in October would be a powerful message that the SNP have pressed reset on our ­relationship with rural Scotland and reaffirm that the SNP are the national party of all of Scotland.”