By Jenny Fyall - News Scotsman
Historic shipwrecks that have been out of bounds to divers are to be opened up for the first time.
Currently it is illegal for scuba divers to visit eight protected sites – such as the HMS Campania in the Firth of Forth – without a license from Historic Scotland.
However, under the Scottish Marine Bill, currently going through parliament, the restrictions will be lifted.
Divers have long argued that there should be greater freedom to visit wrecks on a "look but don't touch" basis.
Wrecks where restrictions would be lifted include the remains of a warship called The Swan in the Sound of Mull, which sank in 1653 and the Kennemerland in Out Skerries, Shetland – an armed merchant vessel belonging to the Dutch East India Company that sank in 1664, while loaded with a cargo of treasure and jewels.
The eight sites are currently designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, which instated a blanket ban on visiting them without a license.
However, the Scottish Marine Bill will see them turned into Historic Marine Protected Areas, and access will be permitted.
If it is deemed necessary to restrict access, Historic Scotland could slap a Marine Conservation Order on the site. However, even then there would be some flexibility to allow visitors – such as divers who had special training at dive centers.