Sound of Barra Protected Despite Chief’s Concerns

The Sound of Barra

The Sound of Barra

The Sound of Barra has been designated a site of Special Area of Conservation (SAC) despite opposition from the chief of Clan MacNeil of Barra and local community members. Described as one of Scotland’s “wildlife jewels”, the Western Isle Sound located on the island of Barra has received official protection from the Scottish Government in order to protect the pristine marine environment.

However clan chief Rory MacNeil strongly opposed the SAC plans fearing it would restrict fishing and damage Barra’s economy. He accused government ministers of ignoring local concerns, stating that islanders had worked with the environment for hundreds of years.

“They are not respecting their ability to take care of the environment. Instead both Labour and SNP governments have decided to let a bureaucratic entity run wild and in effect upset what is a very natural existing system.”

Western Isles SNP MSP and Minister for Gaelic, Alasdair Allan, said the long running issue of designation served no useful purpose and had caused a huge amount of anxiety on the island. “The process legally excludes the community from having anything other than scientific arguments considered – meaning the whole argument about the fragility of the island economy is sidelined. I believe more recognition needs to be given to the fact that the Western Isles has the environment it does because generations of islanders have used it responsibly.”

The government’s decision followed an independent review which examined the scientific case for designation, with government ministers also visiting the area to hear community concerns. As a result of these meetings the new SAC will be managed using an “innovative majority community-led approach” drawing on local knowledge. The SAC’s original proposed boundary has also been changed and now no longer includes Barra’s beach airport.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust welcomed the announcement saying the area’s sandbanks, reefs and harbour seal habitats needed greater protection. It added that full protection is needed for significant natural assets such as the Sound as they are imperative to Scotland’s wildlife, economy and international reputation.


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