Ms McAllan was welcomed to the port by Chief Executive Captain Thomas Hutchison on Monday and received an overview of the thriving business, including recent investment of over £1 million to provide shore power infrastructure to the energy sector — a first for any Scottish port.
But the erosion issue was central to the Cabinet Secretary’s visit, to explore solutions to the challenges it presents, with Angus Council’s latest flood risk management plan highlighting 220 properties in the town at risk over the next 50 years — effects exacerbated by the impacts of climate change and more frequent extreme weather events.
Between 40 and 60 metres of beachfront has already been eroded since the early 1980s, with an imminent risk of 70 further metres of land being lost to the sea over the next 30 years if the current rate of erosion continues.
It is estimated that natural defences such as beaches and dune systems are protecting some £13 billion in built assets across Scotland, many of which are put at increased risk by climate change.
Ms McAllan viewed the impact of coastal erosion first-hand from the harbour’s pilot boat.
Captain Tom Hutchison, port authority chief executive, said: “We were very pleased to welcome Mairi McAllan to see the considerable investment we’re making in decarbonising our own activities and the massive scale of the offshore wind operations which will be run from here.
“But Montrose has major challenges too — with the impact of coastal erosion, exacerbated by climate change, putting properties in this community at risk in the not-so-distant future.”
Ms McAllan said: “We are already seeing our climate warming, with more extreme weather events and rising sea levels. As a nation we must adapt to these changes and prepare for the impacts of global climate change which are already locked in. What is being done here in Montrose is clear evidence of that and I am grateful to Montrose Port Authority for the opportunity to visit.”