IN Tiree, there are good years and bad years. Years when crab and lobster are plentiful, years when they are not.

Small boats work using fixed-line, static gear. Tiree fishermen place their creels with the precision afforded by sonar technology. There is no bycatch. Anything which will not be landed is thrown back alive. Many are voluntarily notching lobsters to ensure future stocks.

Due to Tiree’s relatively unprotected harbour, boats here must be small and are suited only to day fishing. Fishing beyond the 12-mile inshore limit is rare, and the dramatic island weather conditions mean that boats stay tied up more often than their larger counterparts elsewhere.

It could be argued that when it comes to sustainable fishing, Tiree’s creelers, along with many of their west coast counterparts, are already as sustainable as they can be within existing constraints.

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Now, with the government’s proposals for statutory HPMAs, we are being told that our seas must be even more highly protected – from the people who live and work here. From us.

And so, when government minister Lorna Slater posted on Twitter, “A useful guide to understanding the benefits of HPMAs” – the day after the recent debate on the legislation in the Scottish Parliament – it could not have been less useful.

What Holyrood needs instead is a useful guide to understanding how badly thought through consultations are incredibly effective at alienating already endangered communities, because there is not a fisherman on the West Coast of Scotland who would disagree that cleaner, more productive seas are desirable – but it is they who are the experts on how best to make this work.

They, not politicians, are the people who have fished the seas for 20 years, noting times and tides, wind and ground swell. Doing the calculations based on the number of breeding females they know are there. Wondering and waiting each year – hoping that they are right. They are not stupid, or ignorant. Across this island, kitchen table discussions about the HPMAs and seabed recovery have been prefaced by the extensive list of variables to be taken into account in any study.

Their management of their own grounds, their extensive knowledge and often detailed notes, should be celebrated and used to inform policy. But there have been few studies over the years, and fewer conversations with local fishermen. For this particular “consultation”, there appear to have been precisely none.

This needs to change, and fast. Because at stake is whether this island’s economy – and the families who depend on it – sinks or thrives.

Currently in Tiree, twenty full-time jobs rely on fishing. The industry is valued at over £1 million per annum and 25% of island children under eight come from fishing families.

And yet an HPMA as proposed would ban all commercial fishing, no matter how sustainably done. Leisure fishing for tourists? Banned as well. Diversify into wildlife sea tours? Restricted, on top of an already short and weather-dependent season. Watersports? Drowned in regulation. It would decimate an already fragile community.

Proponents of HPMAs are quick to point out that sites have not yet been chosen, suggesting that the locals are kicking up a fuss about nothing. But islanders have been here before.

The steady march of depopulation, the accelerating loss of vernacular Gaelic communities, the ever-increasing paperwork surrounding traditional crofting and the abject failure of the government to produce working ferries has created the perfect storm.

There is no trust left between those who live the daily reality of life in fragile places, and those in power who are seen to be doing no more than make it harder.

Màiri McAllan, the Cabinet Secretary for Net Zero and Just Transition, has repeated more than once that she wanted to consult “widely and early.” Whilst that desire is of course admirable, the execution has been no more refined than chucking some dynamite in the water and waiting to see what happened.

Inevitably, given the poorly thought-out approach what happened was a tidal wave of fury, frustration and fear. The conversation should have started long before proposals or frameworks were generated. Stakeholder participation should have been what drove the creation of the frameworks – what informed the initial proposals – way before the consultation nets were cast.

It’s too late now, and the unfortunate bycatch are the SNP MSPs in Highland and Island seats.

Like Na h-Eileanan an Iar, Argyll and Bute has returned both an SNP MSP and MP since 2015.

Across the West Coast many have been left reeling that the party they have seen as a vehicle to a better future with independence should be considering such damaging legislation. They lay the blame squarely at the door of the Scottish Greens who, by agreeing to go into coalition with the SNP, have made the HPMAs a redline issue.

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Coastal communities are their own complex ecosystems, each with a nuanced understanding of their particular issues and needs. Islanders have a deep link to their seas, and nobody wants their preservation more, but that preservation cannot be at the cost of a community, a culture and a language. It cannot be at the cost of those who have the most to lose.

In these fragile places, HPMAs are their own redline issue. Unless the current proposals are scrapped, and the conversation is started again from scratch, their MSPs may well be the victims of an extremely angry political sea.