Scotland’s Net Zero Secretary has defended her proposals to ban fishing in designated coastal zones as six SNP MSPs failed to back her motion in favour of the plans.

The Scottish Government, despite its amendment to a Tory debate being backed by a majority of MSPs, saw three backbenchers vote against it, while another three abstained from voting.

Former SNP ministers Fergus Ewing and Kate Forbes, along with Western Isles SNP MSP Alasdair Allan voted against the Net Zero Sectary's amendment to a Tory motion.

Meanwhile, SNP backbenchers Annabelle Ewing, Christine Graham and Ash Regan abstained from voting.   

Fishing groups and opposition MSPs have reacted with fury to the Scottish Government’s initial consultation to roll out Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) for at least 10 per cent of Scottish waters.

The UK Government is rolling out three specific HPMAs this year and will explore additional sites for consideration, while the Scottish plans are yet to be drawn up or sites identified.

Read more: Raging former SNP minister rips up HPMA plan in Holyrood chamber

In March, UK Government Environment Secretary Therese Coffey, said the HPMAs "are a vital step forward in enabling our ecosystems to thrive, increasing climate resilience and ensuring we have a healthy and productive marine environment for generations to come”.

Scottish Conservatives rural affairs spokesperson, Rachael Hamilton, when pressed over the plans south of the Border, indicated that the difference was the amount of consultation involved.

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Speaking in Holyrood, Ms Hamilton warned fishing communities were ”contending with a fishing ban that threatens their livelihoods for good”.

She appealed to the Scottish Government that it was “never too late to start listening, admit your mistakes and go back to the drawing board” to avoid “an existential threat, not just to their jobs, but to their way of life”.

Read more: SNP minister says fishing ban 'will not be imposed' on communities

Appealing to SNP backbenchers who are upset with the proposals, Ms Hamilton said: “This is not about siding with me and my colleagues on these benches, it’s about siding with the Scottish fishing industry.”

She accused SNP ministers of “not only failing to listen to concerns” but also moving to “turn their back on science and certainty”. 

Ms Hamilton said: “There is no explanation for the problem that these proposals are trying to address.”

Pressed over the difference between the English and Scottish plans, Ms Hamilton said: “The difference between the way that your government is approaching it is that you are not bringing coastal communities with you.

“The difference between the UK Government approach is that Defra consulted coastal communities. The fishermen even agreed on the sites that were proposed.”

But in response, the SNP Net Zero Secretary, Mairi McAllan, pointed to the environmental need to better protect the seas.

Read more: SNP to target cleaning up housing and transport in new climate plan

The Marine Conservation Society has called on the UK Government to match the ambition of SNP ministers by expanding the allocation of three sites in English waters.

Ms McAllan warned MSPs that “recent research shows that the oceans are reaching their capacity to help us”.

She added: “If we don’t protect our seas they won’t be able to protect us for much longer.

“The Scottish Marine Assessment of 2020 shows that a number of species are in decline.

“Across the UK, 11 out of 15 indicators of good environmental status are being missed.”

Ms McAllan said: “As we take the action that we have to take to respond to the climate emergency, we have to do it in a way that is fair, that is just, that leaves no-one and no community behind.

“That’s a task that I’m committed to, that’s a task that this government is committed to and it’s one that we take very seriously indeed.”

Ms McAllan told Holyrood she has taken part in “40 stakeholder meetings” including with fisheries groups, while the proposals have not yet been drawn up.

She added that her government will “look very closely at the thousands of consultation responses that we have received”.

SNP MSP for Banffshire and Buchan Coast, Karen Adam accused the Conservatives of “astonishing” levels of “hypocrisy”, given the plans south of the Border.

Tavish Scott, chief executive of Salmon Scotland, said: “Following this week’s parliamentary debates, the government can be in no doubt about the strength of feeling about proposed HPMAs which have simply not been thought through.

“Rarely has one policy united so many different sectors and communities across the Highlands and islands in opposition.

“Ministers must do two things: keep the promise not to impose HPMAs on any community opposed to them and bring forward revised proposals based on scientific evidence."