THE Scottish Tories will try to drive a wedge between the SNP and Greens tomorrow by forcing a Holyrood vote on controversial marine conservation plans.

The Scottish Liberal Democrats will also try to highlight concerns over Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) in a debate at parliament this afternoon.

A Scottish Government consultation on HPMAs, which have been compared to the Highland clearances, closed last month after enraging coastal and island communities.

Under the proposal, which is a key plank of the SNP-Green joint government deal, around 10 per cent of Scottish inshore waters will be designated HPMAs by 2026, with a ban on fishing and curbs on aquaculture and sport to help improve bio-diversity.

READ MORE: Yousaf in Highly Protected Marine Area 'u-turn'

Local fishermen have warned of an existential threat to their way of life, while Argyll and Bute, Orkney, Shetland and Western Isles councils have all strongly opposed the plan.

Many SNP MSPs, including Fergus Ewing - who recently called the Greens “wine bar revolutionaries” - and leadership runner-up Kate Forbes, also oppose HPMAs. 

First Minister Humza Yousaf has said the areas will not be imposed on communities, but it is unclear how that could be achieved while upholding the SNP-Green deal.

As part of a broader focus on dividing lines between the governing parties, the Tories will hold a debate attacking HMPAs and force a vote calling for a fundamental rethink. 

Separately, Shetland LibDem MSP Beatrice Wishart will stage a vote-free member’s debate calling for more research and greater community involvement around HPMAs.

Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton said the “deeply damaging” proposals must be reconsidered and accused the Greens of havingg “no idea of the rural way of life".

She said: “The time has come for MSPs of all political persuasion to row in behind our motion and stand up for our fishermen and coastal communities against these plans, which have been designed without any scientific basis.

“The SNP-Green plans are completely unworkable and must be urgently reconsidered. 

“We have heard SNP MSPs representing Highland and island communities voice their opposition. Now they must back up their warm words and back our motion.” 

Ms Wishart said her debate sought to give a voice to communities depending on the seas and “who fear HPMAs will cause serious harm to their lives and livelihoods”.

She said: “Protecting stocks and the biodiversity of our waters is obviously vital, but the Scottish Government is taking an overly rigid approach to HPMAs. 

“They.. appear to be a one-size-fits-all policy which makes absolutely no distinction between environmentally damaging and environmentally sustainable practices.”

READ MORE: Humza Yousaf says he won't impose HPMAs. So are they dead in water?

Salmon Scotland chief executive Tavish Scott added: “HPMAs have united the fishing sector, salmon farmers, and a whole host of other industries in opposition to the proposals which would ban any sort of human activity. 

“Either the Scottish Government needs to drop these proposals, or work with marine users to develop a clear consensus on how we balance the need to protect our marine environment and safeguard the tens of thousands of jobs that rely on it.”

Green MSP Arianne Burgess defended the plans. 

She said: “In Scotland and across the world nature is in crisis, with many species facing extinction. At the same time, fisheries, and the coastal communities that depend on them, have been in long-term decline too. Urgent action is needed to turn things around, and HPMAs, or no take zones, are a critical part of this.

"They will allow our fish stocks and marine environments to replenish and flourish and to go from strength to strength. These benefits will spill over beyond the protected zones, benefitting nearby fishers and coastal communities that depend on healthy seas.” 

SNP Net Zero Secretary Mairi McAllan last week said she would visit coastal communities over the summer to discuss HPMAs and work with them “hand in hand”.