31 MSPs pledged to take action on plastic pollution by signing at #CleanBeachesScotland exhibition & event at Holyrood in December 2017. I created the exhibition based on my recent NEO Terra installation shown in both Shetland & Ullapool, to illustrate to MSP’s the scale of coastal & marine plastic pollution in Scotland.
Of the MSPs who signed, 50% ticked all of the pledges demonstrating a personal commitment to backing measures to reduce the amount of plastic that contaminates our beaches and sea. 63% are keen to meet with Littoral Art Project to take a closer look at plastic pollution along their constituency shorelines. We will meet local beach cleaning groups (Marine Conservation Society MCS , Surfers Against Sewage SAS and Harbourmasters to learn more about specific beach litter issues in their constituency and to enrol them in becoming Beach Champions.
Photographs by Alan McCredie
Joan McAlpine MSP joined me at Dunbar in her South Scotland constituency, to examine the particular litter issues concerning the Dunbar Harbour Trust as a multi-use Harbour and to take a sand sample from the regularly cleaned south beach.
The exhibition and event received wonderful cross-party support from MSPs, including Graeme Day convener of the Environment, Climate & Land Reform Committee with interesting conversations with many members of the committee. Environment spokesperson for the SL Claudia Beamish who attended the event, later commented in a Parliamentary Debate on the 20th December that “it was truly inspiring to see what art can do to support communities and others in their work on the issue” Roseanna Cunningham responded in the debate that ‘……The work of the organisations that the member flagged up is incredibly important, and it needs to be backed up by Government and global action…….’
Thanks to Mark Ruskell, Environmental spokesperson for the Scottish Green Party, for his time to hear about Littoral Art Project’s findings and to talk through the value of LAP’s citizen science approach. He outlined his commitment to rigorous debate about plastic pollution and the connection to climate change legislation. I look forward to following up his links to Fife environment and arts education organisations.
I will also be contacting the other MSP’s interested in bringing the LAP to their constituencies ( Joan McAlpine in South Scotland, Rachael Hamilton in the Borders, Kate Forbes in Skye, Liam McArthur and Jamie Halcro Johnston in Orkney ) and to explore the potential of this creative approach to engage their communities in tackling #MarinePlasticPollution as in Shetland and Ullapool where people joined me in collecting and examining beach samples.
The results of this interactive arts-cum science approach formed the photographic evidence shared with MSPs and is available to share with councils and community groups.
Following on from the success of the Holyrood exhibition, the Shetland Amenity Trust and I will be requesting a meeting with Scotland’s Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham. I intend to pass on the LAP research from 120 beaches and the findings of partner organisations, community groups and individuals that took part in the #CleanBeachesScotland event co-hosted by MCS , with major contributers KIMO, SAT, FIDRA, SAMS ). I will be highlighting the extent of plastic pollution originating from the fishing and aquaculture industries, which often makes up to 90% of litter on Northern Scottish beaches and are often under mentioned .
We welcome the recent Scottish Government’s announcement to legislate against environmentally damaging items:
- Single use containers – introducing a Deposit Return Scheme (DRS) for bottles & cans.
- Plastic cotton buds – outlawing their sale & manufacture
- Plastic straws – urging cafes/bars/public outlets to switch to using paper alternatives to make Scotland the first plastic straw-free country in Europe.
- Coffee cups – calling to get 100% biodegradable materials &/or a DRS .
The positive response of so many MSPs during the #CleanBeachesScotland event and the Scottish Governments environmental announcements give hope to all those working to #BeatPollution in Scotland. These are great achievements that need to be actioned and broadened to include the fishing & aquaculture industry’s plastic pollution as soon as possible, so that Scotland can truly be seen to be leading the way internationally towards achieving a cleaner more sustainable environment.
Please follow up with your MSP e.g. suggest helping to bring the project to their constituency. If you/your organisation/group has evidence of plastic pollution on a stretch of the Scottish coastline please leave a comment below or email me so I can include it in the #CleanBeachScotland document that I will present to the Environment Minister.
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Julia has received Creative Scotland awards supported by The National Lottery for the original Littoral Art Project R&D and NEO Terra exhibition that led to this exhibition. The #CleanBeachesScotland exhibition was self-funded by the artist.