Welcome Address
Sinclair Young, Chair, Moray Firth Partnership

Welcome everyone and thank you for coming today to the Moray Firth Partnership 2008 Annual Conference where we will be focusing on the challenge of managing development in and around the Moray Firth while sustaining the area’s resources for future generations.

I am pleased to see so many people here to take part in what promises to be an exceptionally interesting conference. We are most grateful to our sponsors for today’s conference – Chevron Upstream Europe, who have been long term supporters of the work of the Partnership.

A little later we will be hearing about the latest developments in both onshore and offshore oil exploration around the Moray Firth and Calum Davidson from Highlands & Islands Enterprise will talk to us about some renewable energy issues.

Before that, however, we are going to take a look at opportunities for increasing marine and wildlife tourism markets, and marina and mooring developments on the Moray Firth. Professor Paul Thompson is then going to talk to us about the potential influences of human activities, such as increasing marine traffic and oil developments, on the firth’s famous bottlenose dolphins. Paul, as many of you will know, is an internationally recognised researcher and lecturer based at Aberdeen University’s Lighthouse Field Station in Cromarty, and I would like to thank him for stepping in at such short notice to talk to us in place of Dr. David Lusseau, who is unfortunately unable to make it today. We wish all the best for Dr. Lusseau and his family and hopefully he will be able to come and address a future Moray Firth Partnership conference.

In the final session today we want to consider how communities and businesses around the Firth can work together to reduce the amount of plastic carrier bags used. During the session we will be reviewing the approach taken by Modbury, Europe’s first plastic bag free town, and other Scottish and local initiatives as we look to plan the next steps for the Moray Firth.

To begin with though, Stewart Fulton from the Whiteness Property Company is going to update us about the latest plans for the new coastal town and marina at Whiteness, highlighting some of the environmental and sustainability issues facing developers. And then continuing the theme of planning for development around the Firth the Highland Council’s head of planning and building standards Richard Hartland is going to take a look at strategic infrastructure issues, including work being carried out on the A96 corridor, providing an outline of recent changes to the planning system.

One of the Partnership’s main priorities is to provide a forum for bringing together a range of stakeholders to discuss their needs and help them resolve any differences. Today’s conference aims to embody that principle, with sessions focusing on new development opportunities, while never losing sight of the need to protect the amenity of the area and its diverse wildlife for future generations.

This is a time of great activity on marine issues in general, with the issue of the draft UK marine bill, and the Scottish Government’s plans for a Marine Bill for Scotland. This will undoubtedly have an impact on the work of the Moray Firth Partnership and other local coastal organisations, and will have implications for all the stakeholders and relevant bodies involved in coastal zone management. 

We had hoped that Richard Lochhead, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and the Environment would be here today, but unfortunately that could not be fitted into his schedule. He has however sent a letter of support and I have been asked to read that to you.

I hope you enjoy the conference today. There are a number of displays both here and in the foyer, so please do take time during the breaks to see what is there.