Special Protection Areas (SPAs) and the Birds Directive
2.1 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are classified under the Birds Directive (EC Directive on the conservation of wild birds (2009/147)) to protect rare, vulnerable and regularly occurring migratory wild birds. A key component of the Directive is for member states to establish a national network of SPAs on land and at sea as one of several conservation measures that contribute to the protection of bird species. The pSPAs are based upon advice submitted by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) to Scottish Ministers. Classification of the pSPAs would fulfil statutory obligations under the Birds Directive. The SEA Reasonable Alternatives are considered ‘reasonable’ with reference to the objective of meeting these statutory obligations.
Previous consultation on SPA classification
Previous consultations have explored both the proposal to classify the SPAs and the SEA. These are summarised below in chronological order.
2.2 Public consultations on the marine SPA proposals were undertaken by SNH and JNCC on behalf of Scottish Ministers in 2016/17. Following the consultations SNH and JNCC completed a detailed review of all comments received.
2.3 To address some of the comments received to the 2016/17 consultations, Marine Scotland commissioned SNH to undertake a Network Assessment of the 15 pSPAs.
2.4 The consultation on the SEA for 15 proposed SPAs took place in Autumn of 2018 and looked at what environmental impacts the proposals may have on bird species. The SEA also assessed the likely significant environmental impacts the proposals might have on the wider marine environment. Under the consultation the Scottish Government asked if the SEA had properly captured and assessed the likely significant positive and negative effects the proposals might have on the protected features and the wider marine environment.
2.5 The Network Assessment and SEA were consulted on together, with views invited on the approach taken and the conclusions reached on both assessments. Responses to comments received on the SEA are provided in the Scottish Government’s website and for the Network Assessment on SNH’s websites:
- Comments log - SEA of proposed network of SPAs
- Comments log - Network Assessment for proposed network of SPAs
2.6 SNH and JNCC’s findings from the review of their consultation are presented in the ‘Consultation Report and recommendations on a network of proposed marine SPAs’ and includes some recommended changes to the pSPAs based on substantive scientific objections raised during the consultation. These changes form part of SNH and JNCC’s Final Advice on the proposed network. The findings from the Network Assessment which considered appropriate levels of representation for each species in the Scottish MPA network, are also taken account of in SNH and JNCC’s Final Advice.
2.7 The changes recommended in SNH and JNCC’s Final Advice to the proposed SPA network are summarised below:
1. Withdrawal of the Pentland Firth pSPA.
2. Removal of common eider, long-tailed duck and red-breasted merganser as qualifying species from the East Mainland Coast, Shetland pSPA and minor change to boundary to reflect distributions of remaining qualifying species.
3. Addition of Slavonian grebe (non-breeding) as a qualifying feature to the Sound of Gigha pSPA.
4. Combining the North Orkney pSPA and Scapa Flow pSPAs into a single site ‘Orkney Inshore Waters pSPA’ with the removal of common goldeneye as a qualifying species and boundary change at South Ronaldsay. If this recommendation is taken forward to classification by Scottish Ministers the network of sites would reduce from 14 to 13.