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Scotland's National Marine Plan: Interim SA Report


3 Environmental Context and Baseline

3.1.1 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires that the Environmental Report include an outline of the relationships between the Plan being assessed and the environmental objectives within other relevant plans, programmes and strategies. There is also a requirement to provide a description of the relevant aspects of the current state of the environment and its future evolution in the absence of the Plan.

3.1.2 Some of this information was provided in the scoping report. However, to reflect further progress made since the scoping report was published, this section considers the key aspects of the baseline environment in more detail. It is anticipated that this will provide stakeholders and the wider public with an early opportunity to comment on the aspects of the baseline which they consider to be most relevant to the appraisal.

3.2 National Baseline overview

Climatic Factors

Effects of Climate Change

3.2.1 Climate change is predicted to lead to an increase in water temperatures, sea level rise, changes to the coastline and wave heights. Observed long term increases in salinity and acidification, as a result of CO 2 emissions, also raise issues for the marine ecosystem. The UKCIP09 scenarios include details on sea-level rise which is predicted to be in the range 12-76 cm by 2095, not taking into account the uplift of land during the scenario period. Lower probability scenarios suggest this could be greater. Information on storm surges is also provided in the recent scenarios, and further information on the marine environment will be made available over the coming months. Sea temperature increases are also predicted, with potentially significant implications for marine ecosystems.

Climate Change Mitigation

3.2.2 The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases in Scotland by at least 80% by 2050. As an interim target, the aim is to reduce greenhouse gases by 42% by 2020. There are also now EU targets to deliver, both in terms of the 2020 targets and, in the longer term, an 80% cut in greenhouse gas emissions by 2050 compared to 1990 levels. Increasing use of renewable energy is expected to play a key role in reaching these targets and reducing reliance on fossil fuel combustion. The UK has signed up to the EU Renewable Energy Directive which includes a UK target of 15% of energy from renewables by 2020. Scottish Ministers have set their own ambitious targets for renewable production: aiming to generate the equivalent of 80% of Scotland's gross annual electricity consumption by 2020, with an interim milestone of 31% by 2011 2. At present renewables provide approximately 35% of the total annual domestic electricity consumption in Scotland, 4% of which is from marine renewables. However it is estimated that there is potential for marine renewables to contribute up to 19%.

3.2.3 Emissions from the transport sector were 14.5 MtCO 2e in 2006 3 , which is approximately 25% of total greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland. Of these, the largest component is road transport. Emissions from international and domestic shipping were 2.2 MtCO 2e. Just under half came from domestic navigation, including from the oil, gas and fishing industries as well as ferries. Based on the 2008 greenhouse gas emissions inventory, since 1990 emissions from transport have increased by 7% (excluding international aviation and shipping) and by 20% in terms of aviation and shipping.

3.2.4 A recent report by the House of Commons Environmental Audit Committee urged the shipping sector as a whole to take action on reducing climate change inducing and other emissions 4. This can be achieved partly through the further development and deployment of technological solutions, operational measures, investment and fiscal measures. At a broader scale it will require further internationally co-ordinated action if climate change mitigation targets are to be met.


3.2.5 As well as climate change mitigation (reducing emissions), the Scottish Government is committed to adapting to the impacts of climate change which will arise regardless of the success of future action. The second consultation on a Scottish Climate Change Adaptation framework 5 states that there will be greater pressure on the marine environment arising from increased service demand as global shipping routes open. At the same time, the natural marine environment will be changing, with adaptation required to minimise the loss of some species and habitats. The framework notes the need for further information gathering, and refers to work undertaken by the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership as an example of this. This research has highlighted important evidence about the ways in which the marine environment is, and will in the future be changing as a result of climate change 6.

3.2.6 Climate change presents a major challenge for the marine environment as a whole. In particular there is a continuing need to adapt to the impact of climate change. Changes to sea levels, increased wave height and storm surges could have repercussions for the wider coastal environment not to mention industries operating within it. Climate change is already impacting on the marine environment, increasing the vulnerability of some habitats and species to future pressures.

Key issues relevant to the Plan:

  • Effects of sea level change, increased wave height and storm surges.
  • Targets for emissions reduction and renewable energy generation.
  • Requirements for climate change adaptation in response to impacts on the marine environment.

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

3.2.7 Scotland's seas are among the most biologically diverse and productive in the world, containing over 40,000 species and internationally important populations of marine mammals and birds. Of the 605 priority species and 60 priority habitats listed that are found in Scotland, 74 and 72 respectively are marine 7. Scotland has 34 coastal Special Areas of Conservation ( SACs) covering 7 habitat types (sandbanks, sea caves, estuaries, mud flats, coastal lagoons, shallow inlets and bays and reefs) and three species (bottlenose dolphin, grey seal and common seal). 97% of protected features on these sites were recorded as being in favourable condition. There are four Marine SACs beyond the 12 nautical mile limit, two of which are in unfavourable condition: the Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh Reefs SAC and the Loch Creran SAC. Twenty nine SACs with marine habitats have been identified in Scottish waters. Figure 3.1 shows the spatial distribution of these.

Figure 3.1: Marine Special Areas of Conservation (Source: Scottish Natural Heritage)

Figure 3.1: Marine Special Areas of Conservation (Source: Scottish Natural Heritage)

3.2.8 The Scottish coast and marine environment includes many areas which are internationally important for bird species including seabirds, waders, ducks, geese and swans. Estuaries and coastal plains are used by large numbers of migratory birds, whilst the cliffs in the east and north of the country accommodate colonies of seabirds. Coastal Special Protection Areas ( SPAs) range from extensive areas such as the Lewis Peatlands, Mull Coast and Hills and Rinns of Islay in the west, to smaller but significant areas along the east coast including the Firth of Forth, Montrose Basin and Ythan Estuary. There are several SPAs around the Caithness and Sutherland coast and, like SACs, clusters of sites around the Northern Isles. Marine Scotland are working with SNH and JNCC to identify possibly important inshore aggregations of waterbirds around the Scottish coast. Such SPAs would recognise the important feeding areas in the open sea used by aggregations of waterfowl during the non-breeding season that are essential for the individual species survival. It is expected that further strategic and regional level data collection will be progressed in response to issues raised by the development of the Plan for Offshore Wind in Scottish Territorial Waters. JNCC is also undertaking analyses to identify important offshore areas for seabirds.

Figure 3.2: Special Protection Areas (Source: Scottish Nature Heritage)

Figure 3.2: Special Protection Areas (Source: Scottish Nature Heritage)

3.2.9 Of the five World Heritage Sites in Scotland, St Kilda has a coastal element and has been designated for its biodiversity value, as well as its cultural heritage and landscape value. The high cliffs and sea stacks at St Kilda support important marine and bird life.

3.2.10 Until recently, conservation activity in Scottish waters has focussed on the implementation of the EC Bird and Habitats Directives. The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 have introduced new powers to designate Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs) to protect features of conservation importance in both inshore and offshore waters adjacent to Scotland. This will provide protection for features beyond those which are of European significance. Work is currently underway to implement these powers and more information is included in the Marine Environment section of the National Marine Plan.

Key issue relevant to the Plan:

  • Protecting marine species and habitats from impacts of human activities.


3.2.11 In general Air Quality Management Areas ( AQMAs) are located inland within Scotland's urban areas, and they largely result from transport emissions. However, mapping of air quality for the UK8 shows that there are concentrations of certain pollutants including SOx, NOx and particulates in and around key shipping transport routes around the Scottish Coast.

3.2.12 An AQMA at Grangemouth in the Falkirk Council area was declared in November 2005. The AQMA was necessary due to a potential breach of the sulphur dioxide 15-minute mean objective, as specified in the Air Quality (Scotland) Regulations 2000. Monitoring since the declaration has shown that the 15-minute objective is being breached. The area covered by the AQMA is in the vicinity of the Grangemouth Petrochemical complex.

3.2.13 Recent research has suggested that emissions from large container shipping globally may be significant, with secondary issues arising for human health given that a large proportion are emitted relatively close to land. As a result some governments have elected to introduce buffer zones around their coast from which large vessels are excluded to minimise the effects of emissions on coastal communities 9.

Key issues relevant to the Plan:

  • Concentrations of air pollution from onshore development associated with marine industries and associated with the shipping sector.

Soil, Sediments and Geology

3.2.14 Coastal geology is diverse and often highly visible on exposed cliffs and along open shores. Sediments range from boulders to fine muds and silts. There are 256 geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSI) around the coast of Scotland which have the potential to be affected by changes in coastal processes.

3.2.15 Scotland's coastline is already subject to erosion and this is likely to increase in future. Coastal erosion is estimated to be affecting around 12% of Scotland's coastline 10. There is a strong interaction between the energy within coastal seas, in the form of waves, tides and currents, and the processes of erosion and sedimentation. Climate change could see an increase in the frequency of storm events which in turn could impact associated wave heights and the energy within coastal seas. Erosion and sedimentation of sandbank structures are expected to increase. Engineered sea defences, built as part of any future climate change adaptation strategy, can have adverse effects on the coast. As a result, softer solutions including managed realignment may become increasingly important in the future.

3.2.16 In general, the sediments around Scotland are sandy or gravelly and originate from deposits during the Quaternary glaciation. Strong currents and wave action may also have prevented deposition of recent muddy sediment or have winnowed it to leave a coarse-grained lag deposit. Muddy sediments occur principally nearshore or, further offshore, in depressions on the sea floor, where currents may be relatively weak. They also occur beyond the shelf break (200 m water depth) to the west of Scotland. The concentration of calcareous material varies greatly in seabed sediments reflecting the amount of shell material in different areas; locally, they can be very high 11.

Key issues relevant to the Plan:

  • Impacts of marine activities on seabed sediments and natural processes and their ability to support habitats and species.


3.2.17 Marine water resources support important industries such as fishing and tourism and the marine environment is the source of important energy resources including the oil and gas industry and increasingly, renewable power generation from wave, tide and wind. In very simple terms the offshore and coastal water residual water movement is northwards on the west coast (Scottish Coastal Current) and southerly in the North Sea as a result of the inflow of mixed coastal and oceanic water of the Fair Isle Current ( FRS 2008). The tidal range varies around the Scottish coastline with a low tidal range at Shetland and off Kintyre and high tidal ranges at the heads of the Firths ( e.g. up to 7m in the Solway Firth). Tidal currents can be strong and intensified in localised areas, often where the flow is constrained by topography or in constricted bedrock channels e.g. between Orkney and Shetland, the Pentland Firth and off the Mull of Kintyre.

3.2.18 Scottish coastal waters are monitored by SEPA to measure performance and compliance with targets for coastal water quality status. 99% of coastal waters in Scotland are classified as excellent or good condition (grade A or B), with a significant improvement having been achieved in the period between 2000 and 2006 12. However, some coastal water bodies and a particularly high proportion of transitional waterbodies (76%) 13 remain at risk of not meeting the objectives of the Water Framework Directive by 2015, and of this around a third are affected by pollution from transport. This has arisen from the use of anti-fouling paint on hulls which generates contamination which can be toxic, although more recent regulatory controls over the use of these substances have already led to an improvement in coastal water quality. Other pollution risks arising from shipping include the release of oil in ballast water or through accidental spillage. Dredging also raises environmental issues and marine litter is an ongoing concern 14.

3.2.19 In the 'Scotland' river basin 94% and in the 'Solway-Tweed' river basin 7 out of 8 water bodies (88%) of coastal waters were classified as 'Good or better' status under the Water Framework Directive in 2008. This generally high status reflects a lack of sources of pollution and good flow and water exchange. Poorer quality was generally found in areas with significant fluvial influence and/or poorer mixing such as the Firth of Forth and Firth of Clyde.

3.2.20 Figure 3.3 presents the Water Framework Directive water quality status. The mapping shows that much of the north coast, north east, east, north west, the Minch and west of the outer Hebrides is classified as High water quality. Waters in the Little Minch and south to the southern extent of the Mull of Kintyre are generally classified as Good quality, as are waters south of Argyll, around northern Orkney and the Shetland Isles, parts of the east coast and the outer Forth area. These would also be sensitive to any degradation in water quality but may have a greater capacity to withstand effects without it compromising quality status. Waters in the Inner Firth of Forth, Inner and Outer Firth of Clyde, Loch Linnhe and the Sound of Mull, Solway Firth and off Fraserburgh are classified as of moderate quality. Impacts on these and other waterbodies of poorer quality may significantly reduce their capacity to achieve good ecological status.

Figure 3.3: Water Framework Directive Surface Water Status (Source: SEA of the Draft Offshore Wind Plan)

Figure 3.3: Water Framework Directive Surface Water Status (Source: SEA of the Draft Offshore Wind Plan)

3.2.21 The Water Framework Directive identifies water-related Protected Areas which require achievement of standards. In Scotland, 78 coastal waters are designated 'shellfish growing waters' under the European Community Shellfish Waters Directive (2006/113/EEC). In 2008 all of Scotland's shellfish waters complied with the minimum environmental quality standards set therein ( SEPA, 2010).

3.2.22 The quality of Scotland's bathing waters has steadily improved. In 2009, 75 of Scotland's 80 bathing waters at that time met EU standards, and of these 56% also met the guideline standard. Of the 80 official bathing waters in Scotland, 77 are in coastal locations. Most recent data on bathing waters show that increased incidents of heavy rain adversely affected overall levels of bathing water quality.

Key issues relevant to the Plan:

  • Contamination of the water column as a result of marine activities.
  • Ensuring a high quality water environment to support habitats and species.
  • Achieve and/or maintain good ecological status or potential in Scottish waters.

Cultural Heritage

3.2.23 Scotland's coasts and seas are an integral part of our cultural identity. The seabeds and inter-tidal areas contain the remains of important historic assets of all periods from prehistory to the recent past. These include artefacts and structures deposited on the seabed, structures built on the seabed or in inter-tidal areas and submerged sites and landscapes that were once above sea level. Although the numbers of heritage assets within the marine environment is significant there are relatively few that have been afforded statutory protection through designation. At present Scotland has 34 statutory designated sites wholly within the marine environment. These include eight designated wreck sites around the coast, nine scheduled monuments including seven wrecks in Scapa Flow, four listed lighthouses and 13 sites designated under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986. A map showing the location of coastal and marine historic environment features is included in the relevant section of the State of Scotland's Seas Atlas 2010.

3.2.24 In addition to sites which lie wholly within the marine environment there are many more unprotected sites of interest on and around Scotland's coast. It is estimated that there may be around 38,000 historic features around the coast, including St Kilda and the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Sites, scheduled monuments, gardens and designed landscapes, archaeological remains, listed buildings and those within conservation areas. Other World Heritage Sites in the wider UK may also have a relationship with the coastal and marine environment, including the Hadrian's Wall Site. For these sites the sea can be an integral part of their setting, a key element in how they are experienced, understood and appreciated. The sea can also form an important element of the setting of sites and features outwith the immediate coastal zone.

3.2.25 There has been a growing interest in, and awareness of, marine archaeology. The combination of seawater and sediment provides an important setting within which the preservation of archaeological remains is supported. However, the wash from vessels, anchoring, dredging, construction of port facilities and bridges have the potential to adversely affect these resources. Piers, wharves and breakwaters can result in changes to exacerbate erosion and have secondary effects on the marine historic environment.

3.2.26 The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 provides for the designation of Historic Marine Protection Areas ( MPAs). The designation process will include a review and transition of existing designated wreck sites and underwater scheduled monuments to MPA status and identification of further priority sites. Designation will be carried out in line with guidelines and criteria drawn up by Marine Scotland. Further guidance on the management of changes within MPA sites is also currently being progressed.

Key issues relevant to the Plan:

  • Lack of knowledge about location of marine historic environment assets.
  • Protection of marine historic environment assets.

Landscape and Seascape

3.2.27 Scotland's seascapes (including coastal landscapes) are highly valued with diverse character and widely perceived scenic quality. Their features range from machair plains to towering cliffs, shifting dunes and sandy beaches to islands, sea lochs and firths to rocky headlands on the open coast. Although there are many settlements on the coast, less than 15% of its length has been developed. This means that much of the coast has a natural character with some areas providing a sense of wildness.

3.2.28 Developments within marine and coastal areas have the potential to affect seascape and landscape. Of Scotland's 40 National Scenic Areas, 26 are within or located adjacent to coastal areas and include views of the sea. There are four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty ( AONB) in Northern Ireland and England adjacent or close to Scottish Territorial Waters as well as the Giant's Causeway and Causeway Coast World Heritage Site which is designated as an outstanding example of geomorphologic features and for its exceptional natural beauty and aesthetic importance. As the coastline is in general highly accessible and there is an ongoing commitment to improve public access, the entire coastline is potentially sensitive to the visual effects of marine activities 15. Seascape character units have been identified along the Scottish coastline by Scott et al 16.

Figure 3.4: National Scenic Areas (Source: Scottish Natural Heritage)

Figure 3.4: National Scenic Areas (Source: Scottish Natural Heritage)

Key issues relevant to the Plan:

Sensitivity of coastal sites and communities to visual impacts from offshore marine activities.
  • Impacts of onshore and offshore development on landscape and seascape character and scenic value.

Marine Economy

3.2.29 In 2004, the total value of the marine-related sector was estimated to be £2.2 billion, and it was estimated to support around 50,000 full-time equivalent employees. This represents 2.6% of the total Scottish Gross Value Added 17 (£83 billion) and 2.4% of total Scottish full-time equivalent employment (around 2 million). Below is an outline of economic contribution made by the industries included in the NMP. More detailed information is available in the relevant sections of the Draft Plan and the State of Scotland's Seas Atlas 2010.

Fisheries and Aquaculture

3.2.30 Scottish Sea Fisheries Statistics from 2009 show that Scotland is one of the largest sea fishing nations in Europe and the Scottish fleet is responsible for landing 66% of the total UK volume of fish 18. The fishing sector is an important component of the Scottish economy directly accounting for 15,000 jobs. The total value of fish landed by Scottish vessels in 2009 was £443 million, of which the total inshore catch was worth £78 million 19.

Figure 3.5: Number of fishermen employed on Scottish based vessels, 1969 - 2009 (Source: Scottish Sea Fisheries Statistics, 2009

Figure 3.5: Number of fishermen employed on Scottish based vessels, 1969 - 2009 (Source: Scottish Sea Fisheries Statistics, 2009

3.2.31 Figure 3.5 shows the number of fishermen employed on Scottish based vessels from 2000 to 2009. Including regularly and irregularly employed and crofters the total number of people employed in sea fishing in 2009 was 5,409 representing 0.2% of the total Scottish labour force. In some regions this is much higher, for example in Aberdeenshire and Argyll and Bute the figure was 1.03% and 1.24% respectively while in Orkney and the Shetland Isles the figure was closer to 3.79% 20. In the Hebrides and west coast area, the fishery sector with its ancillary services is one of the largest employers. Including fish farming, fish processing and service industries there are around 5,000 people dependent on the sector for work and income, which represents close to 20% of those in employment 21.

Figure 3.6: The number of active Scottish based vessels in 2009 by district and size (Source: Scottish Sea Fisheries Statistics, 2009)


Number of active vessels in 2009

10 metres and under

>10 <15 metres

15 metres and over




































Total east coast




















Total Islands













































Total west coast






2,174 Bottom of Form




3.2.32 Scottish Sea Fisheries Statistics show that the largest part of the commercial fishing industry operates from ports located in the north-east of Scotland, especially around Peterhead and Fraserburgh. The western coast supports a number of smaller ports and harbours, the largest of which are at Ullapool, Oban, Portree and Mallaig (Figure 3.6). In the south-east and south-west, smaller ports support local industries based on smaller vessels. These smaller vessels operate mainly in inshore waters (up to 12nm from the coast) and being less powerful that the over 10m fleet they focus on shellfish. Nevertheless they form an important part of the fishing fleet along the east and west coasts of Scotland. Most of the fishing industry in the west coast is now dependent on shellfish.

3.2.33 The pre-consultation Draft NMP notes that the overall value of freshwater fisheries is difficult to estimate. While net and coble and fixed engine fisheries can sell their catch (producing over £100 million worth of annual output), rod fishermen cannot sell catch of salmon and sea trout. However they contribute to the general tourist economy and they pay proprietors for the fishing experience. The industry is not as large as it once was (accounting for around 5% of its value 40 years ago).

3.2.34 Aquaculture is a growing and increasingly important industry, helping to underpin sustainable economic growth in rural and coastal communities. The Draft NMP shows that growth in the sector has averaged 4.6% per annum over the period 2000 - 2009. This is supported by the EU Strategy for the Sustainable Development of European Aquaculture which described aquaculture as the fastest growing food production sector globally (with an average worldwide growth rate of 6-8% per year). Within the UK as a whole the industry is projected to increase from 2006 - 2016 by 116% 22. The sector, as a whole, also provides an estimated 7,175 jobs. Consented aquaculture and shellfish production locations are shown in the aquaculture chapter of the State of Scotland's Seas Atlas 2010.

Marine Energy

3.2.35 The Scottish Government's commitment to promoting the increased use of marine renewable energy sources recognises the potential of the industry to not just address climate change, but to support economic growth. Changes to the Renewables Obligation (Scotland), the mechanism by which the renewables industry is subsidised, have increased the financial rewards for marine energy. Marine renewables also provide new opportunities to enhance our manufacturing capacity and to provide new employment, particularly in remote and rural areas.

3.2.36 At present renewables provide approximately 35% of the total annual domestic electricity consumption in Scotland, 4% of which is from marine renewables. However it is estimated that there is potential for marine renewables to contribute up to 19% of the total. The Draft Offshore Wind Plan for Scottish Territorial Waters and its SEA, which were prepared by the Scottish Government in 2010, identified options for wind development with a potential capacity of up to 30 GW. Renewable UK have estimated that Scotland has the potential to deliver up to 30 GW of energy from wave and tidal sources by 2050. However wave and tidal technologies are only in the early stages of development and projects face a number of challenges if they are to be commercially viable 23. The location of offshore opportunities for wind, wave and tidal are shown in the Renewable Energy chapter of the State of Scotland's Seas Atlas 2010.

Marine Transport

3.2.37 Ports and shipping provide for the transport of freight and passengers that incorporates a mix of international movements and coastal shipping routes including ferry services to the Scottish islands. The Draft National Marine Plan shows that Scottish ports handled over 85.5 million tonnes of cargo in 2009 and the role of ports is crucial to supporting the projected future growth of freight traffic. The British Ports Association have estimated that in 2006 the trade value of the Scottish freight amounted to £65 billion equivalent to 17% of the UK's total trade 24. Ports also play an important role in passenger traffic with 10 million passengers passing through Scottish ports every year.

3.2.38 The British Ports Association have estimated that port and harbour related activity, such as cargo handling and storage, warehousing, ship repair and construction, generate economic activity to the extent of some 18,000 direct Full Time Equivalent jobs in Scotland (based on 2006 data). The potential additional knock-on employment of up to 21,000 is a result of indirect and induced expenditure effects through the supply chain. These figures exclude employment generated by the fishing and offshore oil and gas sectors which represent a very significant contribution to the Scottish economy 25.

3.2.39 Aviation also forms a critical component of Scotland's economy, providing access to markets, supporting the tourism industry and providing lifeline services to inaccessible settlements. In terms of propensity to fly (return air trips per head of population) Scotland has the second highest figure in the UK behind London 26.

Tourism and Recreation

3.2.40 The coastal areas of Scotland provide a significant recreational resource and tourist attraction. Statistics from Scottish Development International suggest that there are 27,000 Scottish tourism businesses and more than 200,000 people are employed in tourism in Scotland, representing about 9% of all Scottish jobs 27. In terms of coastal tourism, it has been estimated that 2.2 million holidays were taken in 2004 generating about £440 million 28. The volume and value of tourism in Scotland in 2009 are provided by VisitScotland who estimate that the annual turnover of around £4.1 billion represents some 5 % of the Scottish economy and 11% of the service sector.

3.2.41 Tourism is often associated with other specific recreational activities including marine ecotourism, recreational boating and a range of other water sports. Recreational boating and marine and sailing tourism contribute very significantly to the Scottish economy, about £300 million on recent calculations 29 while sea angling is estimated to contribute over £150 million per year 30. Marine related leisure and recreation make a particular contribution to the Scottish rural economy on the west coast and the Hebrides.

3.2.42 The Draft NMP states that a review of coastal and marine recreation commissioned by SNH in 2007 showed that the quality of the coastal environment to be a key draw for visitors. This includes cultural and managed heritage assets which according to a study by ABPmer31 brought in approximately £1.55 million in 2008 and wildlife tourism which has been estimated at generating £92 million of income for the Scottish economy 32.


3.2.43 Scotland's population was 5,194,000 in 2009. The majority of people live in central Scotland; the lowest population density is in the Highlands and Western Isles. Around one-fifth of the population lives within one kilometre of the sea. In rural and coastal areas and the islands, population densities are as low as 8 persons per km 2 with the largest populations occurring around cities (Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness) and the Firths of Forth, Tay and Clyde. Although there are many settlements on the coast, less than 15% of its length has been developed.

3.2.44 It is difficult to find population information specific to coastal areas, but national data indicates trends in rural and island locations. Sub-national population projections to 2024 indicate continuing growth in Eastern and Central Scotland and falls in population in Aberdeen and Dundee, parts of West Central Scotland and some of the more remote rural areas. The largest increases are forecast for West Lothian (+21%), Scottish Borders (+15%), East Lothian (+13%) and Edinburgh (+10%). Significant decreases are forecast for Aberdeen (-18%), Eilean Siar (-15%), Dundee (-14%), Inverclyde (-14%) and the Shetland Islands (-11%).

Housing and Social Environment

3.2.45 A positive sense of place is important to people living in many rural and coastal areas. A high quality environment and a strong cultural identity are key assets in promoting sustainable growth, economic diversification and community development. Key attributes of a competitive rural region include a diverse employment base and high economic activity rates; good physical and digital connectivity; high quality higher and further education provision; good public and private services; and strong, outward looking communities with confidence in nature.

3.2.46 The importance of the quality of the environment raises concerns that detrimental effects on amenity could lead to decreasing populations and to adverse effects on fragile housing markets including the value of property and businesses. Recent consultation on the Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy has highlighted concerns from external stakeholders that offshore development may affect visual amenity and tourism and make communities less attractive to inward migration. A reduction in tourism related activity could prove detrimental to local communities where there is a significant level of reliance on the sector.

Employment and Deprivation

3.2.47 Employment, although apparently economic in nature, is considered here under population in recognition of its perceived benefits for the stability of communities and links to deprivation and regeneration. Neighbourhood statistics data for local authorities with a coastline and the Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ( SIMD) show that the majority of coastal communities are not included within the lowest percentiles and appear to suffer less income and employment deprivation than inner city and urban areas in Scotland's central belt. The exception to this are clusters of urban communities in the South-West around Ayr and Irvine, in the North East around Aberdeen, in Eilean Siar and in some parts of south-west Dumfriesshire (Figures 3.7 and 3.8).

Figures 3.7 and 3.8: Areas in Scotland ranked according to the Education and Income Domains (Source: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation)

Figures 3.7 and 3.8: Areas in Scotland ranked according to the Education and Income Domains (Source: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation)

3.2.48 Spatial perspectives on economic sustainability were explored in the preparation of Scotland's second National Planning Framework 2 ( NPF2).

3.2.49 The adopted NPF2 noted that Aberdeen and Aberdeenshire are making a transition from reliance on oil and gas and applying their energy sector and offshore strengths to the development of renewable and clean energy technologies. The importance of Aberdeen Harbour in providing support to the offshore industry and in accommodating a growing volume of freight was emphasised within the Framework.

3.2.50 It also noted that the small and medium sized towns of the east coast are important local service centres. Peterhead is the north sea's largest white fish port, provides logistical support for the North Sea oil and gas industry and is handling an increasing number of cruise vessels. The port of Montrose provides import and export services for agricultural and oil related businesses and is a base for oil rig support vessels.

3.2.51 Ayrshire and the South West were noted to be an important gateway for Scotland, with extensive coastal areas of a rural character. The importance of coastal towns and key transport corridors in this region was emphasised in this region and it was noted that these links and ports of Ayr, Troon and Hunterston provide good locations for developing clusters of export-orientated industries.

3.2.52 In the Highlands and Islands region, the NPF2 explained that the Moray Firth area has experienced substantial growth, while Orkney and Shetland have benefitted from oil and gas related activities. The expansion of salmon and shellfish farming, tourism, food processing, small-scale manufacturing and service provision has contributed to growth in areas such as Skye, Mull, Arran, Wester Ross, Ardnamurchan and Mid Argyll, underlining the importance of their coastal location and character.

3.2.53 The NPF2 also noted some coastal and island communities with particular challenges. This included some of the remoter areas such as Eilean Siar, parts of Caithness and Sutherland and Kintyre where there has been continuing decline. Through the fragile areas programme, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and local authorities are giving particular attention to the needs of the Outer Hebrides, North Skye, the outlying islands of Orkney and Shetland, the Argyll islands and the remote West mainland (Figure 3.9). Employment figures for commercial fisheries show how dependent areas like Eilean Siar are on the income and employment generation, making up 20% of the labour force as opposed to 0.2% nationally.

3.2.54 The NPF2 also stated that developments of new industries such as renewables (offshore wind, wave and tidal) mean that coastal areas could play a key role in Scotland's bid to become a world leader and exporter of marine power technology. This could result in the creation of new, high quality jobs being created through development such as the marine energy research centre on Orkney and wind turbine manufacture in a number of rural locations. Development of supply chains may also support regeneration and help to tackle deprivation.

3.2.55 Crofting is also an important element of many remote rural communities, going beyond economic activity to provide a way of life, cultural and environmental resource. Crofting areas include Argyll, Caithness, Inverness, Orkney, Ross and Cromarty, Sutherland and Shetland and in 2010 new areas were designated: Arran and Cumbrae, and Nairn and Moray. All of these areas have a coastal element, and in areas such as the machair, there are close links between activities on the coast and onshore environmental processes. The Scottish Government is working to encourage new entrants to crofting in these areas, to help maintain its contribution to rural living.

3.2.56 More employment information for marine industries is available in the Economic Analysis chapter of the State of Scotland's Seas Atlas 2010.

Figure 3.9: Highlands and Islands Enterprise Fragile Areas

Figure 3.9: Highlands and Islands Enterprise Fragile Areas


3.2.57 The SIMD data for health shows that coastal and island communities are mostly ranked within the top 20-100% of all areas in Scotland although there are parts of the north west and the Western Isles where health conditions appear to be in or moving towards the lower percentiles.

Figure 3.10: Areas in Scotland ranked according to Health Domain (Source: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation)

Figure 3.10: Areas in Scotland ranked according to Health Domain (Source: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation)

3.2.58 Risks to human health associated with the marine environment might arise from pollution and disposal of materials. A variety of sites have been used for the disposal of materials at sea. Historic disposal sites could release potentially hazardous material which may impact upon the surrounding environment. Monitoring of radioactive substances in the sea has revealed low concentrations at some sampling locations that are mostly associated with industrial activity. Radioactive particles associated with Dounreay have been detected on Caithness beaches and in the Pentland Firth.

3.2.59 Risks to human health as a result of collisions or accidents at sea was also considered to be relevant to the baseline for health, however, no data sources have at present been identified. We will seek to identify relevant information for inclusion in the final Sustainability Report.

3.2.60 The coastal areas of Scotland also provide a significant recreational resource. A survey commissioned by SNH33 suggested that the most popular activities (in order) were: walking or hiking, sea angling, shoreline angling, sailing, kayaking and canoeing, bird watching and wildlife tours and cycling. For those undertaking informal recreation activities, the survey showed that the most popular areas were: Argyll and the Islands, the Firth of Clyde, Lochaber and Skye and the Firth of Forth. For formal activities, there were identified concentrations in: Argyll and the Islands, the Firth of Clyde, Lochaber and Skye, and the Solway Firth.

3.2.61 The Draft NMP notes that recreational diving activity is concentrated in inshore waters while further offshore there is some sailing activity. The Scottish coast, particularly the west coast has been identified as a premier destination for sailing. The Atlas of Recreational Boating and GIS data from the Royal Yachting Association ( RYA) indicates that sailing activity is concentrated around Orkney and Shetland and in the Moray Firth, Solway Firth and the Firths of Clyde, Tay and Forth, with lesser sailing activity elsewhere. Surfing and water sports also take place around the coast of Scotland. Prime locations for surfing include East Lothian and Eyemouth, Machrinhanish in the Kintyre Peninsula, Tiree, off Thurso and the west coast of Lewis (VisitScotland, Surfing in Scotland). Sea angling is carried out from most regions of the Scottish coastline. A map showing the location of leisure and recreation pursuits is available in the relevant section of the State of Scotland's Seas Atlas 2010.

Connectivity - Marine Transport, Telecommunications and Cables

3.2.62 Connectivity is one of the key challenges facing island communities. The geographic access map in Figure 3.11 shows that coastal communities are within the lowest percentiles when assessed in terms of the index focusing on access to services. While substantial progress has been made in providing bridge and causeway links to and between islands, overcoming the physical barrier of sea crossings remains a major challenge in the Highlands and Islands.

Figure 3.11: Areas in Scotland ranked according to Access Domain (Source: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation)

Figure 3.11: Areas in Scotland ranked according to Access Domain (Source: Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation)

3.2.63 The Scottish Government is currently piloting the Road Equivalent Tariff ( RET) for some ferry services and seeking to improve access and connectivity by promoting innovation on existing ferry routes and new or shorter crossings to the islands. The Scottish Government also subsidise flights to the Highlands and Islands for residents reflecting the importance of these lifeline services to communities.

3.2.64 The seabed also provides space for telecommunications cables and power cables. These submarine cables are critical infrastructure providing communication and electrical power to many remote or island communities within Scotland.

Key question for consultees:

Is there any other baseline or environmental information which could be used to further inform the Sustainability Appraisal including its SEA? Please provide details and evidence to support your response?

Future Evolution of the Baseline

3.2.65 A review of the baseline above will help to inform our understanding of its future evolution without the implementation of the Plan, and this information, will be included in the final Sustainability Report. This will take account of any identifiable baseline trends in the baseline and existing policy commitments for the marine environment e.g. designation of Marine Protected Areas, areas for offshore wind development.