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Pressure mounts on oil firm accused of using virus as excuse to close Peterhead breakwaters

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Fishermen eager to resume position on the breakwaters at Peterhead believe the coronavirus is being used as an “excuse” to stop locals accessing the area.

Peterhead and District Angling Club recently met staff from oil firm Asco on middle ground earlier this month, amid a long-running battle to bring back community access to the breakwaters which form part of the company’s base.

The anglers agreed to halt fishing there while a six-week review of access takes place.

However, other local would-be fishermen are growing impatient for a decision on access to the part of the port which Asco has sealed off.

Recreational fisherman Raymond Jack has now contacted Asco urging them to remove the security gates and guards at both the north and south breakwaters.

He said: “I’ve lived in Peterhead for 40 years and there’s never been any problem fishing on the breakwater, but since the coronavirus problem Asco seem to have used that as an excuse to say no more access to people trying to get on.

“The call was answered by an abrupt, rude guy who informed me ‘as long as there’s boats at the breakwaters there would be no access due to Covid’, effectively meaning never again.”

The Scottish Government eased lockdown restrictions in early July to allow socially distant fishing to return. Since then would-be fishermen have been turned away on the grounds of the firm having a duty of care to anyone on their leased grounds.

Mr Jack, 57, added: “I don’t get it myself, because it’s not like it’s an enclosed space, it’s the width of a dual carriageway.

“You’re in the middle of the sea.  You can do your shopping in the supermarket shoulder to shoulder with others but you can’t go out on a breakwater fishing. There doesn’t seem to be any negotiating on their part.”

The oil firm has entered into consultation with Peterhead and District Angling Club.

The club’s approximately 20 members have agreed not to try and access the breakwaters until a review of the situation concludes next month though they argue that the breakwaters are part of the community and “an important part of Peterhead’s culture and heritage”.

North-east MSP Peter Chapman is also hoping to see a compromise reached.

He added: “I wrote to Peterhead Port Authority to get clarification on who owned the breakwaters and they told me it belonged to themselves.

“I can completely understand the desire to get up and fish but I also understand the health and safety implications to Asco.

“There’s a lot of movement from vehicles in the yard such as forklifts and lorries so to get to the breakwaters can be quite dangerous.

“I await the outcome of the review and I hope both sides can come to a safe compromise.”

Asco’s Peterhead operations manager Duncan Bell said: “We are also currently working with Peterhead Port Authority to review access to the breakwater.”


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