Residents of a small coastal village have declared victory in their bid to stop potentially harmful transfers of millions of tonnes oil which could have devastated local wildlife, including a pod of bottlenose dolphins.

The plans by The Port of Cromarty Firth Authority involved moving up to 180,000 tonnes of oil, four times a month, between ships in the inner Moray Firth which is home to Scotland’s largest population of bottlenose dolphins.

But it has announced in its latest newsletter that “due to higher priority projects the Port will not be pursuing the re-submission of our ship to ship at anchor application”.

The three-year campaign brought together the population of just over 700 residents with environmental campaigners, politicians and even celebrities such as author Ian Rankin, to an online petition which gained more than 100,000 signatures.

Kate Forbes, the constituency MSP for the Black Isle, who has campaigned against the plans by Port of Cromarty Firth, said that: “The most remote communities in Scotland have great weight.”

Speaking to The Herald, she said: “This has been a huge sigh of relief because there was a lot of heavy campaigning at the beginning, with a petition endorsed by big names and a debate at the Scottish Parliament which I spoke in. 

“From the beginning, the protesters from a tiny little village right on the periphery of the Black Isle, managed to get the support of some of the biggest environmental lobby groups, as well as the First Minister. They really went global and this will be a huge relief for them.”

The Cromarty Rising group, who led the protests and petition, gave a message of gratitude to all those who had supported the campaign: “Thanks to all who gave their support in a hard fought campaign. It is not an admission of defeat by the Port but the nearest we will ever see in print. 

“For whatever reason, it’s great for the communities and environment of the Inner Moray Firth that this project has finally be dropped and testament to the what people can do when we get together for a common cause. In the meantime, Cromarty Rising will remain vigilant to ensure this proposal is never resurrected.”

The plans were described by the Professor Paul Thompson, a leading expert in marine life at the University of Aberdeen, as:  “The least appropriate location on the whole coast of Europe to undertake this activity.”

Despite this, the proposal was submitted to the Marine Coastguard Authority, based in England, which Scottish politicians have no power over since it is not devolved.

Ms Forbes said this was “such a clear illustration of the difficulties of having some powers devolved and some powers reserved”. 

Bottlenose dolphins, of which only several hundred live in British waters, are protected, with the Moray Firth being a conservation area under EU law.

A spokesperson for Scottish Natural Heritage said: “This decision will significantly reduce the risks to the world’s most northerly population of bottlenose dolphins.  

“The Moray Firth Special Area of Conservation is extremely important to this species, and a large proportion of the local population use these waters all year. Even small oil spills could have a harmful effect.”

Drew Hendry, MP for Inverness, Nairn, Badenoch and Strathspey, said: “This is fantastic news. I vehemently opposed this application, as did 98% of the residents of Nairn who responded to my community survey. This is a victory for all the local campaigners who fought so hard to ensure ship to ship didn’t happen here.”