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Background Info

The Council of Europe Diploma

“The European Diploma of Protected Areas is a prestigious international award granted since 1965 by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe to natural and semi-natural areas and landscapes of exceptional European importance for the preservation of biological, geological and landscape diversity and managed in an exemplary way.”

(http://www.coe.int/t/dg4/cultureheritage/nature/diploma/default_en.asp)

There are stringent qualifying requirements and the number of European Diploma sites is just 70. Five of these are in the UK of which two in Scotland:- Beinn Eighe and Fair Isle. Diploma designation involves an initial evaluation undertaken by the Council of Europe’s Group of Specialists. A further evaluation follows every five years and is conducted by independent scientists on behalf of the Council of Europe. Renewal of the Diploma depends on their recommendations. Fair Isle has held the Diploma continuously since 1985.

The renewal reports are accompanied by a series of pointers towards maintenance or enhancement of the site. These are presented in the form of resolutions. However, if the Council of Europe’s Group of Specialists considers that the resolutions are not being met it raises the level of the issue to a condition. Renewal reports are signed off by the Council of Europe Committee of Ministers representing all participating states. Whereas resolutions are for guidance, failure to meet a condition risks the loss of the Diploma at the next renewal. Following the 2010 Fair Isle renewal, the Committee of Ministers placed the following condition on further renewal:

“In recognition of the internationally important seabird colonies and associated marine environment currently experiencing severe pressure, the United Kingdom and Scottish Governments should use the powers invested in them through the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 and the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 to establish the protected marine area which has been called for in successive diploma renewals. A new protected marine area should be in conformity with the Fair Isle Marine Action Plan.”

Without action to meet this condition, Fair Isle risks losing the Diploma at the next renewal in 2015. The community is proud of its Diploma status as a measure of its good husbandry of its environment, but it also brings major social and economic benefits to the isle, as its natural and cultural values attract visitors from many countries. This brings added value not just to Fair Isle but to Shetland and Scotland as a whole; as does the prestige the Diploma brings to the nation. Fair Isle would like to think that Scotland, too, is proud of its Diploma sites and committed to seeing them maintained. The community is acting now to highlight this condition and to ensure that Scotland does not see Fair Isle stripped of its prestigious Diploma award.

The petition

- The community chose to limit the petition to Fair Isle residents.
- Every adult on the isle signed.
- Children were initially excluded but several expressed the wish to sign, and thus were allowed. A healthy marine environment is, after all, their birthright.
- Consensus and unanimity are surely mandates for political recognition. Yet the isle has made its case over and over without success. No wonder, then, that the isle feels disenfranchised and is turning to the Petitions Committee.
- Further information, including the MPA proposal, the Fair Isle Marine Action Plan, various FIMETI newsletters and the publication Safeguarding Our Heritage can be accessed through the FIMETI website www.fimeti.org.uk

OVERALL RATIONALE

Our community prospects depend on a simple equation superb natural resources + a flow of visitors = socio economic stability. A healthy marine environment is vital for the long-term well-being of the island community and for Scotland.

Council of Europe Diploma sites demonstrate good stewardship and high environmental values which bring prestige to the nation and should not be lost through default.