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Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) of Draft Plan for Offshore Wind Energy in Scottish Territorial Waters: Volume 1: Environmental Report


5 Environmental Baseline

5.1 Introduction

The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 Schedule 3 requires that the ER includes a description of the relevant aspects of the current state of the environment and the likely evolution thereof without implementation of the Plan. This section describes the environmental context within which the Plan operates and the key strategic issues that this context imposes on the plan.

This review focuses on those features which are relevant at the strategic level, comprising the general characteristics of the study area and features of value at the international and national level. This section also provides information on the likely future change to the environmental baseline without the Plan, and existing significant environmental problems.

The environmental features under consideration are:

  • Climatic Factors
  • Water Resources
  • Geology, Sediments and Coastal Processes
  • Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna
  • Landscape, Seascape and Visual Amenity
  • Population and Human Health (including recreation)
  • Cultural Heritage; and
  • Material Assets (marine renewables and navigation/shipping).

Air quality was scoped out of further consideration at the scoping stage of the SEA, with the agreement of the Consultation Authorities. It should also be noted that material assets have generally been considered within the Plan and only those elements noted above are included in this ER.

5.2 Climatic Factors

5.2.1 Introduction

The Scottish Government has introduced legislation to mitigate and adapt to a changing climate. The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 11 aims to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases by at least 80% by 2050. As an interim target, the aim is to reduce greenhouse gases by 42% by 2020.

The Scottish Government's target for renewable energy is to meet 20% of total energy demand from renewables by 2020, as follows:

  • 50% of electricity demand (with an interim target of 31% by 2011);
  • 11% of heat demand;
  • 10% of transport fuel.

This section considers wind conditions in Scotland, which affects the potential for energy generation and a changing climate, as it may impact on offshore wind development. Other meteorological conditions such as rainfall trends, temperature, fog and sunshine in Scotland are not considered to be directly relevant to the strategic environmental assessment of offshore wind energy development.

5.2.2 Wind

Figure 5-1 shows the annual mean wind speed around Scotland. The western and northern parts of Scotland are, on average, the windiest in the UK, as they are fully exposed to the Atlantic and closest to the passage of areas of low pressure. The frequency and depth of these Atlantic depressions is greatest in winter months (e.g. December to February) when wind speeds and gusts are strongest. Annual mean wind speeds in the STW in these western and northern areas rise to approximately 12.5m/s. These areas provide the greatest potential for wind generation in the STW.

Eastern areas of Scotland are also very windy due to the proximity to the track of Atlantic depressions 12 and wind speeds in the STW may reach an average of 9.5m/s.

The lowest wind speeds in the STW occur in the southern part of Scotland such in the Solway Firth, where mean wind speeds are not likely to reach over 8.5m/s.

Figure 5-1: Annual Mean Wind Speed of Scotland (Modified from the Atlas of UK Marine Renewable Energy Resources) @Crown copyright

Figure 5-1: Annual Mean Wind Speed of Scotland (Modified from the Atlas of UK Marine Renewable Energy Resources) @Crown copyright

5.2.3 Climate change

Recently, there has been increasing concern that climate change is accelerating with an overall trend towards higher temperatures. The UK Climate Impacts Programme has recorded global average temperatures rising by nearly 0.8ºC since the late 19th century, and has risen at about 0.2ºC/decade over the past 25 years. This increase has been caused by the increasing intensity of industrial activity and the consequential use of carbon-based fuel sources, releasing the carbon into the atmosphere. Global warming is predicted to increase pressure on the coastline due to increased storminess and rising sea levels from thermal expansion of seawater and melting of glaciers. Defra's recommended allowances for sea level rise indicate that net sea level rise between now and 2025 is approximately 2.5mm/year rising to 13mm/year by 2085.

The UK has signed up to the EU Renewable Energy Directive which includes a UK target of 15% of energy from renewables by 2020. 13 Use of renewable energy reduces reliance on fossil fuel combustion. It is also likely to help Scotland reach its targets for the reduction of greenhouse gases necessary to meet its commitments under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act. EU countries are also working towards the successful conclusion of international climate change negotiations at Copenhagen 14 at the end of 2009. There are 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. 15

5.2.4 Links with other SEA topics

A changing climate is expected to have impacts on other SEA receptors, as provided in Table 5-1.

Table 5-1: Possible interactions with climatic factors

SEA Receptor

Possible link

Population and Human Health: Recreation Users

Changing climate could influence recreation patterns.

Population and Human Health: Scottish population

Secondary and long term health impacts of climate change and positive implications for population arising from the contribution of offshore wind to climate change mitigation.

Water Resources: Water quality generally, including bathing waters

Increased marine and coastal water temperature or increased storminess affecting turbidity;

Increased marine and coastal water temperature changing bio-geo-chemical properties of water;

Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide changing bio-geo-chemical properties of water through acidification.

Material Assets: Shipping,

Offshore renewable energy devices

Impacts of changing climate and storminess on shipping safety.

Biodiversity 16 : Marine and intertidal fauna and flora

Increased water temperature causing changes to biogeographic ranges, distribution and abundance of marine flora and fauna;

Increased water temperature causing changes to distribution and abundance of species according to utilised water depth;

Increased water temperature leading to physiological and behavioural changes;

Increased water temperature leading to increased invasive species and algal blooms;

Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide changing bio-geo-chemical properties of water through acidification and subsequent impacts on biodiversity;

Sea level rise leading to changes in shape of the coastline and habitat availability;

Impact of climate change on fish and shellfish species.

Climatic Factors: Key Strategic Issues Relating to Wind energy Development

Need for offshore wind development to contribute to existing and future renewable energy targets set by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act. Wind energy developments are part of a strategy towards an increased generation of renewable energy, in an attempt to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases and hence minimise climate change.

As annual wind speed varies around the Scottish coastline, there is a need to identify a best fit approach to option selection to ensure that offshore wind developments are located in areas of high wind speed.

Due to concerns that climate change is accelerating, the proposed Plan should remain sufficiently flexible to adapt to unforeseen or growing climate change impacts.

5.3 Water Resources

5.3.1 Introduction

Marine water resources support important industries such as fishing and tourism and the sea plays host to resource exploitation including the oil and gas industry and increasingly, renewable power generation from wave, tide and wind. It is therefore important to consider water resources and their quality individually, and in relation to other dependent receptors such as fisheries, tourism, sedimentation cycles/transportation and biodiversity. These receptors could be affected by any degradation or change in water resources quality and or current regime resulting from offshore wind development.

Water, and anything moving within water, whether living, organic or inorganic, has the potential to travel significant distances and hence potentially affect Scottish, English, Northern Irish and British (beyond 12nm off shore) waters. Any obstructions within STW, such as offshore wind development, have the potential to affect water resources and their environment and requires consideration at the strategic level.

The sea plays a fundamental role in global climate and temperature regulation in addition to acting as a carbon and pollutant sink. Scotland's west coast is influenced by the North Atlantic Current (the Gulf Stream). This warm sea current affects both the sea itself and the climate of the nation, resulting in a maritime temperate climate.

5.3.2 General Water Circulation

The nature of Scotland's seas owes much to its location at the edge of a continental shelf where water depth plummets from 250m to oceanic depths of greater than 2,000m ( FRS 2008). The warm oceanic waters from the south-west keep Scotland's climate temperate. In addition, they provide a supply of nutrients required for the photosynthetic fixation of carbon thereby maintaining the intricate food chain, and in turn, the sea's rich biological diversity. The North Atlantic current is partly wind driven and also influenced by the density differences between the warmer southern water and the cooler northern water. Residual current speeds are slow. 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 (e.g. 2m) and high tidal ranges at the heads of Firths (e.g. up to 7m in the Solway Firth). Flows generally run parallel to the coast but further offshore, the residual circulation in the North Sea is predominantly towards the southwest and circulation of the Scottish Coastal Current on the shelf west of Scotland is mainly northwards. This circulation is however, strongly affected by winds and long-lived eddies associated with wind driven coastal currents, and is therefore sometimes reversed for short durations.

The tidal currents in the STW can be strong and intensified in localised areas, often where the flow is constrained by topography or in constricted bedrock channels. This includes areas such as between Orkney and Shetland, the Pentland Firth and off the Mull of Kintyre and Hebrides where tidal streams can be as high as 3.5-4.5m/s.

High wave energies can cause considerable erosion, often resulting in resistant coastlines such as those found in the Shetland Islands, including Foula and Papa Stour. Much of the area off the west coast is characterised by an annual mean wave height of approximately 3m, associated with an annual mean wave power of about 30 kW m-1. This value doubles in the oceanic waters to the west of the Western Isles, and halves towards the land in the east. In contrast, the wave resource is weak (annual mean significant height around 1-2 m) in sheltered zones such as the North Channel, the Inner Isles, the North coast and the waters between Orkney and mainland Scotland, and the east coast of Scotland.

5.3.3 Marine and Coastal Water Quality

Scottish Coastal Waters are monitored by SEPA to measure performance and compliance with targets coastal water quality status. The ADRIS coastal waters classification, which was used from 1996 - 2006, took account of all features up to approximately 5km seawards of the territorial waters baseline and classifies offshore areas where there is some deterioration in quality in addition to shore length. This classification scheme has now been subsumed under the WFD17 classification of coastal waters status.

In the 'Scotland' river basin, 94% and in the 'Solway-Tweed' river basin 7 of 8 water bodies (88%) of Coastal Waters water bodies were classified as 'Good or better' status in under the WFD in 2008 18. This generally high quality 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.

The majority of Scottish Coastal Waters (about 99%) are classified (to 3nm offshore) by SEPA as in excellent (Grade A) or good (Grade B) condition.

The quality of Scottish waters generally reflects the high baseline quality, strong oceanographic influence of waters from offshore regime, but is also influenced by settlement patterns and associated pollution such as sewage discharges. Some coastal areas continue to be affected by pollution and challenges remain on levels of nitrogen (particularly in or near east coast river estuaries) toxic algal blooms, and marine litter ( FRS 2008).

Monitoring of radioactive substances in the sea has revealed low concentrations at some sampling locations that are largely associated with industrial activity. Radioactive particles associated with Dounreay have been detected on Caithness beaches and in the Pentland Firth; work is ongoing to remove these from the environment (Henderson, 2007). It is highly unlikely that the development of offshore wind will remobilise radioactivity or radioactive particles in the marine environment.

According to the Scotland and Solway River Basin District ( RBD) Mapping 19 and River Basin Management Plans as published by SEPA in 2009, coastal waters in the Solway District are classified as Good Status and in the Scotland District 94% of water bodies are classified as being of Good or High status. Figure 5-2 presents the WFD water quality status 20. The figure 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 and thus most sensitive to potential pollution or effects resulting in reduced water quality status. 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 Shetland, parts of the east coast and the outer Forth area. These would also be sensitive to and 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. These would be least sensitive to potential pollution in general, but as with all waters would be highly sensitive to any change in classification status.

Figure 5-2: WFD Surface Water Status

Figure 5-2: WFD Surface Water Status

5.3.4 Protected Areas

The WFD identifies water-related Protected Areas, which require the achievement of stringent standards, to meet the requirements of other, related EU Directives. Those within and around the STW include:

  • Natura 2000 sites (see Section 5.5 for details)
  • Shellfish Waters - In Scotland, 78 coastal waters are designated 'shellfish growing waters' under the European Community Shellfish Waters Directive (2006/113/ EEC), as shown on Figure 5-3. In 2008 all of Scotland's shellfish waters complied with the minimum environmental quality standards set therein ( SEPA 2010). In 2013 the Shellfish Waters Directive will be repealed, being replaced by the WFD. The first Scotland and Solway Tweed RBMP have been published. These are designed to achieve compliance with WFD requirements and provide a framework for management of water resources cover the period 2009 - 2015, and include 'shellfish growing waters'.

Figure 5-3: Shellfish Growing Waters

Figure 5-3: Shellfish Growing Waters

  • Bathing Waters - In 2009, 80 bathing beaches were designated under the Bathing Water Directive (2006/7/ EC) and previous legislation. These are located predominantly on the north, east and south-west coast of Scotland with the greatest density of bathing beaches around the coastline of the Firth of Forth, Firth of Tay and Firth of Clyde.

Designation is based on compliance with numerous requirements, of which water quality is one. With regards to the water quality standards:

  • 39 designated bathing waters (49%) met the guideline quality standards of the directive and are of 'excellent' quality
  • 34 designated bathing waters (42%) met the mandatory coliform quality standards of the directive and are of 'good' quality, and
  • designated bathing waters (9%) failed the mandatory coliform quality standards of the directive and are of 'poor' quality.

Designated bathing waters were not considered during the SEA process, as they relate to coliforms and will therefore not be affected by wind energy development at a strategic level. Pollution incidents affecting bathing waters is considered a project level issue.

Both surface and ground waters that support Protected Areas (e.g. protected habitats and species, shellfish waters and bathing waters) must enable the Protected Areas to achieve their strict water status standards, and the proposed offshore wind development plan must ensure that it does not affect the compliance of these standards.

5.3.5 Links with other SEA topics

Changes in water resources have the potential to affect other SEA receptors, as shown in Table 5-2.

Table 5-2: Possible interactions with water resources

SEA topic

Possible link

Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity

Changes in water quality and sediment in the water column within STW affecting flora and fauna dependent on existing water quality;

Changes in sediment in the water column resulting from sediment disturbance may affect spawning of fish species or ability of shellfish to respire, feed and remove waste.

Population and Human Health

Increased marine and coastal water temperature or increased storminess affecting turbidity;

Increased marine and coastal water temperature changing bio-geo-chemical properties of water;

Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide changing bio-geo-chemical properties of water through acidification.

Water Resources: Key Strategic Issues relating to Wind Energy Development

As STW support a diverse range of flora and fauna including fisheries, important industries and Protected Areas (e.g. shellfish waters and designated bathing beaches), there is a need to maintain the existing good and excellent quality of water.

There is a need to ensure that the development of offshore wind farms does not affect the Water Framework Directive ( WFD) water quality status or constrain the achievement of WFD objectives

5.4 Sediments, Geology and Coastal Processes

5.4.1 Introduction

This section describes the geological designated sites around the coast of Scotland. It also provides a baseline description of the coastal and seabed geology, geomorphology, coastal process and seismic activity, before highlighting the main sensitivities with respect to wind energy development.

5.4.2 Designated Geological/Geomorphological Sites

Figure 5-4 shows the distribution of geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSI) around the coast. These are sites of national importance designated by SNH for their geological or geomorphological features.

There are 256 geological SSSIs (some of these are also biological SSSIs) around the coast of Scotland, which have the potential to be affected by changes in coastal processes associated with offshore wind development.

Figure 5-4: Geological SSSIs

Figure 5-4: Geological SSSIs

5.4.3 Seabed Sediment

On the east coast, seabed sediments in the STW generally comprise sand, muddy sand and gravelly sand. Muddy sediments occur principally nearshore, for example in estuaries, where the sediment is supplied from the main rivers such as the Forth and Clyde. Beneath the sediments are Quaternary deposits, comprising either till, pebbly glacio-marine muds, or sands with inter-bedded muds and silts. These are underlain by the solid geology of mudstones, siltstones and sandstones (Royal Haskoning 2009).

Further offshore, muddy sediments occur in depressions on the seabed, where currents may be relatively weak, such as the Witch Ground and Fladen basins and in The Minch. The concentration of calcareous material varies greatly in seabed sediments reflecting the amount of shelf material in different areas; locally, they can be very high (over 75%) in areas such as the sea bed around Orkney and Shetland (Scottish Marine Bill SEA).

5.4.4 Overview of Geology and Geomorphology

The Scottish coastline exhibits significant geomorphological features (e.g. raised beaches, sand spits, exposed cliffs and rocky shorelines), which have the potential to be affected by changes in coastal processes associated with offshore wind development. These features reflect the interactions between sea level change, isostatic adjustments, differences in lithology and changes in the sediment supply to the coast since the last glaciation.

Much of the seabed morphology within STW, particularly in north-west Scotland is a result of scouring actions from numerous glaciations, the retreat then melting of the glaciers during the last glaciation approximately 10,000 years ago and the subsequent sea level rise. Islands such as Orkney and Shetland were created and the lower lying river channels and glacial valleys were submerged to form many of the firths.

An overview of the geology, substrates and coastal geomorphology has been assembled for the UK Offshore Energy SEA ( DECC 2009), and the geology of the west coast is summarised in the Scottish Marine Renewables SEA (Faber Maunsell and Metoc 2007). The overview in the following sub-sections is taken largely from DECC 2009.

The Northern North Sea, bounded by the Shetlands and Orkney Islands to the north-west and the Flamborough front to the south, marks the transition from the deeper waters (50-200m) in the north to the shallow mixed waters of the southern North Sea. There is also a transition from sands to muddier sediments. Notable features in this region include pockmarks, sandbanks and sandwaves, tidal sand ridges, iceberg plough marks and reefs.

The Minches and West Scotland regional sea is located between the eastern shores of the Western Isles and the west coast of Scotland. It is contiguous with the Irish Sea to the south and the Atlantic to the north.

The seabed topography is complex varying from shallow coastal areas to isolated deeps (200-300m) resulting from past glaciation. Seabed formations, comprising sandwaves, ribbons and sand ripples, are all features of the region and are consistent with tidal and residual currents which play a major part in the net transport of sand along the continental shelf. There are several rock reefs in the area, including nine which have been designated as SACs under the Habitats Directive (See Section 5.5 in this report). To the west and south of the Outer Hebrides there is a substantial area considered to be potential rock reef. Seabed sediments range from mud and sands to coarse sized gravels.

The coastline consists largely of cliffs and sand dunes interspersed with shingle beaches, the latter feature being widely distributed around the coast of Scotland but particularly found in the Solway and Moray Firths, the Hebrides and the northern Isles 21.

Although numerous dune or machair sites occur, almost all are small except those seen on the west coast of the Outer Hebrides on the western mainland. Tiree contains the largest dune system within the Inner Hebrides at 785ha, and is recognised as an SAC. Other sensitive dune systems include those in the Western Isles, Northern Isles and Solway Firth, which are generally eroding.

The Scottish continental shelf lies to the north and northwest of the UK, the continental slope being well beyond STW. Within this area the seabed is characterised by sand and coarse sediments of glaciogenic origin re-worked by tidal processes. In deeper areas close to the shelf break, sediments have been formed into iceberg plough marks - a complex matrix of stony ridges and sandy troughs. Features include pockmarks, sandbanks and sand waves.

Potential Annex 1 habitat reefs described as rocky marine habitats or biological concretions that arise from the seabed, occur to the west of Shetland and the Outer Hebrides. Carbonate rich material is likely to be associated with gravels and bedrock in the inner and middle shelf and towards coastal areas. Coastal and mid-shelf areas underlain by metamorphic rocks are mostly swept clean of mobile sediments by very strong near-bottom currents.

The nature of the substrate, e.g. bedrock, hard substrate, gravels, sands or silts, will affect the feasibility of different turbine installation and foundation technologies, and hence the viability of installation and nature of potential environmental impact associated with them.

5.4.5 Coastal Processes

Within the coastal and nearshore environment, the processes driving sediment transport will comprise a complex mixture of wind, wave, tidal and in some cases, fluvial forcing. Consequently, the sensitivity of the sediment transport processes will be complex and very site specific. The range and scale of sediment transport mechanisms in the coastal zone is detailed and there is insufficient understanding of these processes to report these at the strategic level.

Generally finer grained, more easily entrained and suspended sediments such as silts are only found in low energy (tide, current or wave derived) environments and in very high energy environments with strong near-bottom currents all superficial deposits may have been scoured and on bedrock remain on the sea bed. Another major influence on the nature of the sea bed and associated coastal processes is the supply of major new sediment supplies from major fluvial sources such as the Firths e.g. the Moray, Tay, Forth, Clyde and Solway.

The local and regional sediment transport regime will vary considerably from area to area, but overall the exposed parts of the west and north coasts and narrows with tidal streams such as between islands are higher energy environment. The eastern coast of the country generally displays lower energy, but this is highly variable and there are areas with strong and consistent waves or tides which would significantly influence the local sediment transport regime.

Areas most vulnerable to coastal erosion include the east coast from Montrose to Dunbar, the Firth of Clyde, the Inner Moray Firth, and the Northern and Western Isles ( www.snh.gov.uk/docs/A306281.pdf ).

5.4.6 Seismic Activity

The west coast of Scotland experiences more earthquakes than the rest of Scotland, with most being concentrated between Ullapool and Dunoon 22. The Outer Hebrides, the extreme north and most of the east of Scotland are virtually devoid of earthquakes.

5.4.7 Aggregates

There is currently no dredging for marine aggregates ongoing within STW. Some dredging for marine aggregates took place in the Firth of Forth (Middle Bank), most recently between 2000-2010.

5.4.8 Links with other SEA topics

Changes in sediments, geology and coastal processes have the potential to affect other SEA receptors, as shown Table 5-3.

Table 5-3: Possible interactions with sediments, geology and coastal processes

SEA topic

Possible link

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

Changes in water quality and sediment in the water column and in sea bed characteristics within STW affecting flora and fauna dependent on existing water quality and benthic habitats

Changes in sediment dispersion, deposition and accretion resulting from disturbance to the seabed may affect spawning of fish species or ability of shellfish to respire, feed and remove waste

Sediments, Geology and Coastal Processes: Strategic Issues relating to Wind Energy Development

Presence of geological SSSIs or significant geomorphological features around the Scottish coastline that may be affected by offshore wind development.

There is a need to consider changes to the sedimentary environment, changes in current patterns and physical effects (e.g. localised scour) of anchoring and infrastructure on seabed sediments and geomorphological features (including sandbanks and other large scale bedforms)

5.5 Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

5.5.1 Introduction

This section includes consideration of areas designated for nature conservation, at national and international level (local nature conservation sites have been scoped out of assessment at this strategic level). Important species and habitats have been considered, including fish, reptiles, marine mammals (such as whales), otters and birds. Key sensitivities are identified at the end of this section.

5.5.2 Designated Conservation Sites

Figures 5.5a-f (at end of report) show the international conservation sites in and around the STW and are described further below.

(a) Statutory International Importance

Special Areas of Conservation ( SAC), designated under the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/ EEC), implemented in Scotland by the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2004. There are 41 SACs within or adjacent to the STW. There are nine areas where either reefs constitute an Annex 1 habitat in a designated SAC (the Firth of Lorn, Loch Creran, Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh Reefs, and Rathlin Island) or where the Annex 1 habitat is a qualifying feature, but not a primary reason for SAC site selection (Loch Laxford, Loch nam Madadh, Sunart, and Treshnish Isles).

Special Protection Areas ( SPA), designated under the EU Birds Directive (79/409/ EEC), implemented in Britain by the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. There are 76 SPAs within or adjacent to the STW. In September 2009, the boundaries of 31 of these SPAs were extended offshore to include the seabed, water column and surface (Scottish Natural Heritage website). All except two were extended by 1 or 2km offshore; while Rum and St Kilda SPAs were extended by 4km offshore. It should be noted that Figures 5.5a-f do not show these SPA extensions, as many of them will be too small to be visible at the scale of the strategic mapping used.

Ramsar sites, designated in accordance with the 1971 Convention on Wetlands of international Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (Ramsar Convention). There are 34 Ramsar sites within or adjacent to the STW.

The Habitats Directive (on the conservation of natural habitats and of wild fauna and flora) and the Birds Directive (on the conservation of wild birds) are transposed into Scottish law through the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Amendment (Scotland) Regulations 2004, as amended by the Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Amendment (No.2) (Scotland) Regulations 2007. Article 6 of the Habitats Directive determines the relationship between conservation and site use and requires that 'any plan or project not directly connected with or necessary to the conservation of a European site but likely to have a significant effect thereon, either individually or in combination with other plans or projects, shall be subject to HRA of its implications for the site in view of the site's conservation objectives'. Under the legislation and UK planning guidance, the designated sites refer to those which have been designated under international conventions, and include SACs, SPAs and Ramsar sites.

Consequently, a pre-screening Habitats Regulations Appraisal of the draft Plan (short term options) has been carried out in parallel with the SEA process. This Screening Assessment identifies the European sites that have the potential to be significantly affected by offshore wind development. A full HRA will be required for 151 European sites to assess the implications of the Plan on the site's conservation objectives. Although there are proposed options in the vicinity of Natura 2000 sites, Marine Scotland will carry out a HRA of the Plan to ensure that the integrity of the sites is maintained.

World Heritage Sites ( WHS) are established by the Convention concerning the Protection of the World Cultural and Natural Heritage adopted in November 1972 at the 17th General Conference of UNESCO and administered by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee. There is one WHS, which has a coastal element and which has been designated for its biodiversity value (as well as its cultural heritage and landscape value) - St Kilda. The high cliffs and sea stacks at St Kilda support important marine and bird life. Additional WHS, notably Heart of Neolithic Orkney, have a coastal element but are designated purely for their cultural heritage (see Section 5.8).

(b) Statutory National Importance

Figures 5.6a-f Sites of National Nature Conservation Importance (at the end of the ER) show the national conservation sites in and around the STW that could potentially be affected by the Plan. These comprise:

  • National Nature Reserves ( NNR), designated under Section 19 of the National Parks and Access to the Countryside Act 1949, or Section 35 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981. There are approximately 20 NNRs within or adjacent to the STW that have the potential to be affected by offshore wind development.
  • Sites of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSI), designated under Section 28 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended by the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004). On the 31st March 2009 there were 1,456 SSSIs.
  • Marine Nature Reserves ( MNR). The only MNR in Scotland designated under the Oslo and Paris Convention for the Protection of the Marine Environment ( OSPAR) is the voluntary reserve at St Abbs.

5.5.3 Biodiversity Action Plan ( BAP) Habitats and Species

There are ten local BAPs in Scotland that support action plans for marine national priority habitats and species ( UKBAP website). Most of the local BAPs focus upon coastal habitats, such as dunes, shingle, vegetated shingle, maritime cliffs and slopes, and saltmarsh. The Scottish sublittoral habitats relevant to the Plan and reported in local BAPs are shown in Table 5-4.

Further information on these habitat types and their sensitivity to damage by wind energy development is provided in Table 1 in Appendix 5.1.

Table 5-4: National priority marine habitats and marine benthic species reported in Scottish Local BAPs ( LBAPs)

Marine habitats

Mud habitats in deep water (>20-30m)

Sublittoral sands and gravels

Maerl beds

Seagrass beds

Marine benthic species

Bivalve mollusc: Fan mussel ( Atrina fragilis)

Bivalve mollusc: Native oyster ( Ostrea edulis)

Bivalve mollusc: Northern hatchet shell ( Thyasira gouldi)

Sea anemone: Tall sea pen ( Funiculina quadrangularis)

Sea squirt (Styela gelatinosa)

Brown alga: Knotted wrack ( Ascophyllum nodosum)

Other species: Brown and red algae; anemones and jellyfish; and a sea fan

Table 5-5 shows coastal and marine habitats listed under Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive, which have the potential to be affected by offshore wind development within the STW.

Table 5-5: Habitats listed under Annex I of the EU Habitats Directive ( JNCC)

Habitat type

Location in Scotland

Coastal lagoons

Outer Hebrides, Orkney and Shetland Isles


Dornoch Firth and Morrich More, Firth of Tay and Eden Estuary

Large shallow inlets and bays

Sullom Voe


Darwin Mounds, Stanton Banks (beyond STW, North Sea), throughout Scotland but concentrated around west coast, Western Isles, Orkneys and Shetland Isles


Dornoch Firth and Morrich More

Submerged sea caves

Western Isles, Shetland Isles, north mainland coast, Orkneys

Sea cliffs

Widely distributed throughout Scotland

Variety of dune habitats.

Widely distributed throughout Scotland

Submarine structures made by leaking gases

Braemar and Scanner Pockmarks (beyond STW, North Sea)


West and northwest mainland Scotland, Western Isles

Annual vegetation of drift lines

West and northwest mainland Scotland, Western Isles, Shetland Isles

Perennial vegetation of stony banks

Moray Firth, west coast

Salicornia and other annuals colonising mud and sand

Moray Firth, west coast

Atlantic salt meadows

Widely distributed throughout Scotland

Other sensitive subtidal habitats reported to occur in STW, but not mentioned in the local BAPs are: Sabellaria alveolata and Sabellaria spinulosa reefs; horse mussel beds; file shell beds; serpulid reefs; and blue mussel beds.

The distribution of seabed types is summarised in 'Scotland's Seas: towards understanding their state' (The Scottish Government, 2008). These typologies do not always accurately reflect the habitats that they support, because they are based purely on particle size distribution within the sediment.

The marine priority BAP species reported in STW are provided in Table 5-5, with further information on species and their sensitivity to wind energy development provided in Table 2 in Appendix 5.1.

5.5.4 Fish

Many BAP fish species found around STW are the subject of species action plans ( SAP) aiming to maintain or to restore population levels, and most are protected by national and international legislation. There is a special conservation interest reflecting the threatened status of most BAP species. Their relevance to the local ecology may be linked to their importance as a food resource to local food webs (i.e. herring, mackerel), indicator of ecosystem integrity (i.e. skate, basking shark), shelf-watershed connectivity (i.e. eel, shads, salmonids, lamprey), or fisheries resource (i.e. cod, plaice, sole, etc).

Table 5-6 shows the national priority fish species occurring in STW and reported in the UKBAP species list. Their sensitivity to damage by wind farm construction and operation is described in Table 1 in Appendix 5.2.

A number of marine fish species, including many commercially fished species, also have BAPs prepared for them. They are listed in Table 3 in Appendix 5.2. The UKBAP also has separate plans for two groups of fish species in STW, which are shown in Table 4 in Appendix 5.2.

The Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation (Scotland)) Act 2003 makes provision for the conservation and sustainable management of salmon fisheries.

Figure 5-7 (blue areas) shows the spawning grounds of commercially important fish species, which are included here as some of them are also BAP species. Spawning grounds (i.e. areas where fish lay their eggs) for mackerel, cod, plaice, whiting and sandeels are present in STW and therefore have the potential to be directly affected by the Plan. Herring in particular have very specific ground condition requirements for spawning, and hence may be sensitive to any change in these.

The nursery grounds for key commercial fish species are shown in Figure 5-8 (pink areas). Nursery grounds (i.e. areas where juvenile fish develop into mature fish) for herring, plaice, cod, whiting, saithe and sandeels are also present in STW and therefore have the potential to be directly affected by the Plan.

Table 5-6: National priority fish species

Freshwater species

Allis Shad ( Alosa alosa)

Twaite Shad ( Alosa fallax)

European eel ( Anguilla Anguilla)

Vendace ( Coregonus albula)

Whitefish ( Coregonus lavaretus)

River lamprey ( Lampetra fluviatilis)

Smelt ( Osmerus eperlanus)

Sea lamprey ( Petromyzon marinus)

Atlantic salmon ( Salmo salar)

Brown trout ( Salmo trutta)

Marine species: sharks, skates and rays

Gulper shark ( Centrophorus granulosus)

Leafscraper shark ( Centrophorus squamosus)

Portuguese dogfish ( Centroscymnus coelolepsis)

Basking Shark ( Cetorhinus maximus)

Kitefin shark ( Dalatias licha)

Common Skate ( Dipturus batis)

Tope shark ( Galeorhinus galeus)

Shortfin mako ( Isurus oxyrinchus)

Porbeagle shark ( Lamna nasus)

Sandy ray ( Leucoraja circularis)

Blue shark ( Prionace glauca)

Undulate ray ( Raja undulata)

White skate ( Rostroraja alba)

Spurdog ( Squalus acanthias)

Angel shark ( Squatina squatina)

Figure 5-7 and Figure 5-8 show representative areas for a few species; other fish species may also have nursery or spawning grounds within the STW.

Figure 5-7: Spawning grounds of commercially important species (some of which are BAP species)

Figure 5-7: Spawning grounds of commercially important species (some of which are BAP species)

Figure 5-8: Nursery areas of commercially important species (some of which are BAP species)

Figure 5-8: Nursery areas of commercially important species (some of which are BAP species)

5.5.5 Plankton

Marine plankton includes plants (phytoplankton), animals (zooplankton) and bacteria ( bacterioplankton), most of which are between 0.2um to >20mm within the STW. Plankton generally form the basis of marine food webs and constitute a major food resource for many commercial fish species. Changes in plankton populations can therefore have important ecological and economic consequences ( DECCSEA7, 2007). To the west of Scotland, phytoplankton tends to be concentrated in the Clyde, decreasing northwards, whereas zooplankton numbers are highest on the continental shelf. The zooplankton community is dominated by Calanoid copepods ( DECCSEA7, 2007). To the east of Scotland, the plankton community is strongly influenced by Atlantic water inflow. In recent years, spring and autumn phytoplankton blooms have increased and primary production has increased throughout the year. Two key copepod species, Calanus helgolandicus and C. finmarchicus have shown significant changes in abundance, apparently related to sea surface temperature changes, with high temperatures benefiting C. helgolandicus, the more southerly of the two species ( DECCSEA5, 2004).

5.5.6 Reptiles

Two species of turtle listed as priority species in the UKBAP are found in Scottish waters in summer - leatherback turtle ( Dermochelys coriacea) and loggerhead turtle ( Coretta coretta), of which the loggerhead is most often sighted. Most sightings occur among the Western Isles, up to Orkney and Shetland, although occasional sightings have been recorded off the north east coast (The Scottish Government, 2008).

Both leatherback and loggerhead turtles are listed on Appendix I of the Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Flora and Fauna ( CITES) 1975, Appendix II of the Bern Convention 1979, Appendices I and II of the Bonn Convention 1979 and Annex IV of the EC Habitats Directive. The loggerhead is also listed as a priority species on Annex II of the EC Habitats Directive. All five species are protected under Schedule 5 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Conservation (Natural Habitats & c.) Regulations 1994 23 .

5.5.7 Marine Mammals

A list of marine mammal species reported around the coastal waters of Scotland is provided in Table 5-7. Information on their importance and sensitivity to wind energy developments is given in Table 1 in Appendix 5.3. All cetaceans are protected under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004, under the EU's Habitats Directive under Annex IV and additionally, harbour porpoise and bottlenose dolphin are Annex II species. All cetaceans are classified as European Protected Species ( EPS).

Table 5-7: National priority marine mammals and otters reported in Scottish local BAPs


Minke whale ( Balaenoptera acutorostrata)

Sperm whale ( Physeter macrocephalus)

Long finned pilot whale ( Globicephala melas)

Killer whale ( Orcinus orca)

Common dolphin ( Delphinus delphis)

White beaked dolphin ( Lagenorhynchus albirostris)

Atlantic white sided dolphin ( Lagenorhynchus acutus)

Risso's dolphin ( Grampus griseus)

Harbour porpoise ( Phocoena phocoena)

Bottlenose dolphin ( Tursiops truncatus)

Harbour seal ( Phoca vitulina)

Grey seal ( Halichoerus grypus)

Otter ( Lutra lutra)

5.5.8 Otters

Otters ( Lutra lutra) occur in estuaries and coastal waters as well as lochs, rivers and marshes and may therefore be present in and around the STW. The majority of Great Britain's otter population occurs in Scotland and a significant proportion is found in the north and west of the country ( JNCC, 2009). 24 Otters are common on the north-west coast, Western and Northern Isles ( SNH, 2001). A national otter survey, carried out between 2003 and 2004 by SNH, found that occupied sites rose from 57% of Scotland in 1979 to 92% in 2004. The largest increases were in Forth & Borders (17% in 1979 to 87% in 2004) and Strathclyde and Ayrshire (24% to 83%). Increases also occurred in East Highland, Grampian, Argyll and Stirling and Tayside and Clackmannanshire (it is noted that this survey include both coastal and freshwater otters).

The Scottish otter population is of international importance and they are qualifying features for 44 SACs ( SNH, 2007). All of the SACs and SSSIs reported from Scotland with otters noted as a qualifying interest feature are reported to be in favourable condition. A recent national survey also found Scottish otter populations to be in good condition ( JNCC, 2006). 25

5.5.9 Birds

Nationally and internationally important sites for birds are as follows:

  • SPAs (Figures 5.5a-f), classified under Article 4 of the Birds Directive as 'suitable territories' to deliver the conservation of Annex 1 26 and regularly occurring migratory birds;
  • Ramsar sites (Figures 5.5a-f); the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance, which has worldwide coverage, aims to protect wetland 27 birds; and
  • Important Bird Areas ( IBAs) (Figure 5-9). The IBA Programme of BirdLife International is a worldwide initiative aimed at identifying and protecting a network of sites, critical for the conservation of the world's birds. IBAs are particularly important for species that congregate in large numbers, such as wintering and passage waterbirds and breeding seabirds. Unlike SPAs and Ramsar sites, IBAs are not statutorily protected, but are often within protected sites and are often used as a basis for designating Special Protection Areas 28.

The JNCC (2004) states that aggregations of seabirds are found in UK offshore waters at all times of year. Bird populations are likely to be most sensitive to offshore wind farms in breeding areas, along migratory routes and in areas used for feeding and roosting, as follows:

  • Breeding area - Scotland is of international importance for seabird breeding colonies, which supports 60% of the world's Great Skuas Stercorarius skua, about half of the world's Northern Gannets Sula bassana and about one third of the world's Manx Shearwaters Puffinus puffinus (Mitchell et al. 2004) 29. Four species have more than 95% of their combined British and Irish population in Scotland, while 14 species have more than half of their population in Scottish breeding colonies. The latter include all four auk species, the Northern Fulmar and Northern Gannet, as well as Great and Arctic Skua. 30

Figure 5-9: Important Bird Areas (RSPB)

Figure 5-9: Important Bird Areas ( RSPB)

Mapping provided by the RSPB Conservation Unit in 2008), as cited in RSPB 2010, shows that SPAs designated for breeding seabirds are located relatively uniformly around the Scottish coastline, with particularly large concentrations located in the Firth of Tay, Moray Firth, north coast of Scotland (including the northern tip of Shetland and the south-western edge of Orkney) and on the Isle of Rum.

  • Migratory routes - There is a lack of accurate data showing migratory routes as confirmed via correspondence with the RSPB and SNH31. However, the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust ( WWT) are researching migration routes of several bird species in relation to proposed UK wind farm sites. 32 The WWT work included mapping routes of Greenland Barnacle Geese, Greenland White-fronted Geese and Whooper Swans from or along the west coast of Scotland to Iceland and Svalbard Barnacle Geese routes from South-West Scotland to Norway and Svalbard. 33 Geese and swans were the focus for this research as they tend to fly at less than 100m above sea level and could be at risk of collision with wind turbines. The locations of destinations outside of the UK where tagged birds that migrate to and from Scotland are found are shown in Appendix 5.4.
  • Feeding and roosting areas - Foraging areas vary within and between species, and between seasons, as food availability and distribution influences foraging ranges. Food availability is affected by both commercial fishing and climatic variations. The principal feeding grounds with the potential to be affected by offshore wind farms (and associated cables) are the 31 SPAs extended by SNH to include marine habitats. Whether the SPA areas identified are suitable for classification as SPAs will depend on several criteria, such as the numbers of species and individuals regularly using the areas, and the geographical representation of the species distributions. 34 The designations use data from the European Seabirds at Sea ( ESAS) to help inform the correct geographical areas to designate.

A summary of sensitive species ( BTO, 2006) suggests that the most sensitive species to offshore wind development are the red throated diver ( Gavia stellata) and the common scoter ( Melanitta nigra), both of which are easily displaced by the presence of boats and offshore structures. The eider and sandwich tern ( Sterna sandvicensis) are also easily displaced. This displacement can be considered equivalent to habitat loss, as the birds must find alternative feeding grounds.

A bird sensitivity map overlaying the distribution of birds with existing and proposed wind farms was created by Bright et al., 2008 to help plan inshore wind farms in Scotland. Although the report was produced to assess areas sensitive to onshore wind turbines, it provides an indication of key sensitivity areas on the nearest mainland coast to potential offshore wind farms. The map indicates a greater incidence of sensitivities for bird species of conservation concern in coastal areas to the north, north-west and west of Scotland.

The location of wind farms is seen by RSPB (2010) as the most important risk factor to birds. For example, if the wind farms are located in areas of high flight activity the risks of collision will be increased. According to Bright et al (2006), the main species likely to collide with wind turbines are the heavier species, such as sea ducks, which travel daily to marine feeding grounds. The rotor swept height is also an important factor and will vary in impact risk between different bird species. The RSPB (2010) report shows the likely focal bird species in different regions of STW. These species are listed in Appendix 5.4 of this report, which also shows the key risks associated with each species. These are collision risk, displacement effects, barrier effects and habitat and prey disturbance.

5.5.10 Non-native species

Some marine species that would not normally occur in STW are now or could be accidentally or deliberately introduced. These include a number of species such as the carpet sea-squirt ( Didemnum rexillum) and potentially can have significant implications for the local environment.

5.5.11 Links with other SEA topics

Links between biodiversity, flora and fauna and other SEA receptors are shown in Table 5-8.

Table 5-8: Interactions with biodiversity, flora and fauna

SEA topic

Possible link


Biodiversity can be significantly affected by water quality.

Climatic Factors

Climate change is likely to have a major impact on the distribution and population sizes of flora and fauna, both in STWs and globally

Sediments and Coastal Processes

Biodiversity is affected by sediment type and coastal processes.

Other Factors or Material Assets

Commercial fishing has the ability to affect the food availability of certain faunal species

Biodiversity, flora and fauna: Key Strategic Issues relating to Wind energy Development

Need to protect, and, where possible, improve the status of the numerous internationally and nationally designated conservation sites within the STW and those that could be affected by wind energy development beyond the STW. Detailed consideration of potential impacts on European sites will be required to meet the stringent requirements and implications of the EU Habitats and Birds Directives.

Likely presence of mammals (e.g. whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals and otters), fish (e.g. salmon, shad, lamprey) and benthic ecology that are sensitive to activities associated with offshore wind energy development.

Presence of major bird migration routes and bird feeding, breeding and roosting areas, which are sensitive to wind energy development.

Need to conserve, where possible, highly sensitive sub-tidal habitats and protected species that could be affected by wind energy development.

External factors such as changes in climate have the potential to change the incidence and distribution of non-native species in Scotland's marine environment.

The potential for changes in fishing and thus fish populations in areas of wind farms to indirectly affect seabirds (e.g. lack of fishing may be beneficial to wildlife by reducing predation competition from humans)

5.6 Landscape and Seascape

5.6.1 Introduction

This section considers the value of the landscape in terms of designated sites, character of the coast, the seascape and visual amenity. Landscape and seascape are defined by physical elements, features and characteristics whereas visual amenity is specific to human interaction (i.e. views).

5.6.2 Designated Sites

The following designated landscapes occur within Scotland are considered relevant to the development of offshore wind and have a coastal element:

(a) Internationally Designated Landscapes

  • Two World Heritage Sites ( WHS): St Kilda WHS and Heart of Neolithic Orkney WHS. St Kilda is also designated for its biodiversity value (Section 5.5.2) and both WHSs are designated for their cultural heritage value (Section 5.8.2).

(b) Nationally Designated Landscapes

  • 40 National Scenic Areas ( NSA). Of these, 26 are located adjacent to coastal areas, with some of these including offshore areas.
  • Gardens and Designed Landscapes. These are more appropriately considered at regional or project level and are therefore not considered further in this SEA.

There are eight nationally designated landscapes in England and Northern Ireland adjacent or close to STW. These are:

  • Four Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty ( AONB): The Solway Coast AONB and the Northumberland Coast AONB in England and the Antrim Coast and Glens AONB and the Causeway Coast AONB in Northern Ireland;
  • Two Heritage Coasts ( HC): North Northumberland HC on the east coast and St Bee's Head HC on the west coast.

(c) Regionally Designated Landscapes

Regionally designated landscapes comprise Regional Parks and Country Parks. Local authorities in Scotland have also identified local or regional landscape designations ( LLDs), which are usually called Areas of Great Landscape Value ( AGLV). These, and their English and Northern Ireland equivalents that lie close to the STW, are more appropriately considered at regional or project level and are therefore not considered further in this SEA.

Wild land has been identified as a diminishing characteristic that should be protected through the planning system. SNH has identified indicative wild land search areas, though these are not formally designated at present. Some of the areas have a coastal element, particularly along the west coast and some of the islands.

The location of the international and national landscape designations are shown in Figures 5.10a-f Landscape and Seascape Designated Sites and Wild Land (at end of report) and a description of their landscape characteristics is provided in Appendix 5.5. Further information on these sites can be found at www.snh.org.uk and www.magic.gov.uk.

5.6.3 Landscape Character of the Coast

Scotland's landscape along the coastline is highly valued, with diverse character and widely appreciated scenic quality. Landscape features range from machair plains to towering cliffs, shifting dunes and sandy beaches to islands, sea lochs and firths, and rocky headlands on the open coast 35. With less than 15% of the coastline developed, much of the coast has a natural character, with some areas providing a sense of wildness. SNH's policy statement 'Wildness in the Scottish Countryside' ( SNH 2002) addresses the need to identify and protect areas of countryside valued for their qualities of remoteness and wildness. Much of the north and west of the country's coast has been identified by SNH as having high natural heritage sensitivity.

5.6.4 Seascape Character

The seascape character of the Scottish coastline has been studied by Scott et al (2005) in 'An assessment of the sensitivity and capacity of the Scottish seascape in relation to wind farms.' This work is based on an assessment methodology discussed in the Guide to Best Practice in Seascape Assessment (Hill et al, 2001).

Seascape units (Figure 5-11) have been identified and assessed according to their sensitivity to potential wind energy development. The highest sensitivity seascapes lie on the north and west coasts of Scotland and thus are vulnerable or fragile seascapes with low ability to accommodate change within their landscape/seascape. Lower sensitivity seascapes are present in the north-east and east of Scotland. These are likely to be more resilient to changes in seascape.

The characteristics of each seascape description unit are described in Appendix 5.6.

Figure 5-11: Seascape Units around the Scottish coastline (Scott et al., 2005)

Figure 5-11: Seascape Units around the Scottish coastline (Scott et al., 2005)

5.6.5 Visual Amenity

As the coastline is, in general, highly accessible and there is an ongoing commitment as part of the, Land Reform Scotland Act 2003 and Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 to improve public access, it has been assumed within this assessment that the entire coastline is potentially a high sensitive visual receptor. In addition, international and nationally designated landscapes have been considered as high sensitive visual receptors.

Generally, visual impacts as viewed from the land will diminish with distance from the coast. Land-based receptors are considered to have a potential view of offshore wind developments up to a maximum distance of 35km (see Appendix 8.1 explaining assessment methodology for visual amenity).

5.6.6 Links with other SEA topics

Links between landscape and visual amenity and other SEA receptors are shown in Table 5-9.

Table 5-9: Possible interactions with landscape and visual amenity

SEA topic

Possible link

Population and Human Health

Recreational users are likely to pursue activities in coastal areas of high landscape value.

Flora, Fauna and Biodiversity

Recreational users may carry out activities in areas of high biodiversity value (such as whale watching).

Cultural heritage

Access to and enjoyment of cultural heritage is supported by policy, and the setting of sites is likely to be an integral part of visitor experiences.

Landscape and Visual Amenity: Strategic Issues relating to Wind energy Development

Presence of valued internationally and nationally designated landscapes that are vulnerable to development.

Extent to which the integrated landscape character of sensitive coastal areas and medium to high sensitivity seascapes (e.g. in the north and west of Scotland) can support offshore wind development.

Extent to which areas of high visual amenity afforded to coastal receptors could be affected by the presence of offshore windfarms.

Need to explore cumulative and in-combination effects of offshore developments with onshore developments close to, or visible from, the coast.

5.7 Population and Human Health

5.7.1 Introduction

This section considers population, employment, health and safety and recreation. It identifies sensitive receptors with respect to these aspects of the study.

5.7.2 Population

The latest population projections based on existing trends and making no allowance for future impact of government policies, show the total population of Scotland rising from 5.17 million in 2008 to 5.54 million in 2033, with much of this increase near already developed coastal areas.

Map Main coastal settlements

The average population density in Scotland is low at 66 persons per km2 (compared to 390, 143 and 128 in England, Wales and Northern Ireland respectively). In rural coastal areas and the islands, population densities are as low as 8 persons per km2 and the highest coastal population densities occur around cities (e.g. Dundee, Aberdeen, Inverness) and the Firths of Forth, Tay and Clyde.

Considering given land uses at present, 89% of Scotland's land mass is classified as rural, yet only 29% of the population lives in rural areas and 27% of employment is in these areas (Scottish Executive, May 2000) highlighting the disparity in population density and land use across the nation.

The largest urban coastal settlements in the study area are shown on Figure 5-12. A number of waterfront development schemes are being progressed at these settlements including schemes at Leith in the Firth of Forth and at Dundee in the Firth of Tay (Royal Haskoning 2009) to improve community and leisure facilities. These sites have the potential to affect or be affected by wind energy infrastructure.

5.7.3 Health

Coastal communities, visitors, recreational users and workers in and around new offshore wind developments are likely to be the most significant receptors to changes in health associated with new offshore wind developments.

Increased or reduced stress, health issues and safety hazards may occur as a result of changes in visual amenity, fishing, recreation, navigation, aviation and the local economy, and would require further consideration at project level.

5.7.4 Tourism and Recreation

The coastal areas of Scotland provide a significant recreational resource and tourist attraction, providing a key draw for visitors to its natural heritage and landscape. A review of marine and coastal recreation in Scotland commissioned by SNH (Land Use Consultants 2006) 36, indicates that around one third of all visits to the coast 37 for recreation in Scotland are to areas that had been designated for protection as a result of their natural heritage characteristics.

The following areas are of greatest importance for informal recreation:

  • Argyll Coast and Islands (15.2% of all informal recreation trips);
  • Firth of Clyde (12.9%);
  • Lochaber and Skye (11.9%);
  • Firth of Forth (9.9%);
  • East Grampian Coast (9.7%);
  • Solway Firth (8.0%); and
  • Inner Moray Firth (7.7%).

The overall levels of specialist recreation activity are greatest in the following SNH seascape units:

  • Argyll Coast and Islands (15.8% of all specialist activities);
  • Firth of Clyde (13.8%);
  • Lochaber and Skye (11.3%);
  • Solway Firth (10.3%);
  • East Grampian Coast (10.2%); and
  • Firth of Forth (9.4%).

Focusing on the most popular specialist recreation activities (accounting for almost two thirds of all specialist recreation trips), the survey found that the following areas were of greatest importance overall:

  • walking and hiking more than 8km - Firth of Forth, Argyll Coast and Islands, Lochaber and Skye, Solway Firth, Firth of Clyde;
  • sea angling - Argyll Coast and Islands, Solway Firth, Firth of Clyde, Firth of Tay, North Coast, East Grampian Coast;
  • shoreline angling - Solway Firth, East Grampian Coast, Firth of Clyde, Argyll Coast and Islands, Firth of Tay, Firth of Forth;
  • kayaking and canoeing - Lochaber and Skye, Argyll Coast and Islands, Firth of Clyde, East Grampian Coast, North West Coast, Western Isles; and
  • bird watching and wildlife watching - Lochaber and Skye, Argyll Coast and Islands, East Grampian Coast, Firth of Forth, Solway Firth, Inner Moray Firth.

Recreational diving activity is concentrated in inshore waters (Royal Haskoning 2009). However, further offshore, there is some sailing activity. 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. The RYA, supported by the Cruising Association, has identified the main cruising routes, general sailing and racing areas around the UK. Recreational sailing includes:

  • canoeing, sail-boarding and personal watercraft limited to a few places inshore;
  • dinghy sailing in most estuaries in suitable weather and tide conditions;
  • day-sailing and racing around the coast approximately out to 24km; and
  • cruiser passage making between most combinations of yachting base.

The RYA has undertaken extensive consultation with recreational users to identify indicative routes and areas of greatest use (see Table 5-10 for STW). Routes are shown as straight lines whereas in reality they are not likely to be straight lines on account of the nature of sailing and therefore should be considered indicative only.

Whilst economic dimensions of the Scottish tourist industry fall largely beyond the scope of the SEA, the use of the natural environment by visitors is of relevance. An indication of the importance of coastal tourism in Scotland is provided by a study by Atkins (2004) which indicated that 2.2 million holidays were taken in 2004, generating in the region of £0.44 billion.

Surfing and water board sports take place around the coast of Scotland. Prime locations for surfing include between East Lothian and Eyemouth, Machrihanish in the Kintyre peninsula, the Tiree, off Thurso and the west coast of Lewis 38.

Table 5-10: Indicative use of waters around the Scottish coast for recreational sailing


Level of Recreational Use

North East:

Flamborough Head to St Abb's Head

Moderate use, becoming light further offshore. Recreational use concentrated all along coast, with racing also taking place to the south of Flamborough.

East Scotland:

The Forth to Wick

Moderate use of the Firth of Forth, Firth of Tay, the north eastern coastal waters and Moray Firth. Recreational use here is centred on the Firth of Forth, Firth of Tay, St Andrew's Bay and the inner Moray Firth.

South West Scotland

Heavy use is made of a route from the Crinan Canal, south through Loch Fyne and the Firth of Clyde via the Kyles of Bute and south of the Isle of Bute. Heavy use is made of routes between Arran and the mainland. Numerous, moderately used routes are present in the North Channel.

North West Scotland

Moderate to light use is made of routes between the west coast, Skye and the Outer Hebrides across the Minch and Little Minch. There is heavy recreational use of routes between Skye, Raasay, Kyle Akin, Kyle Rhea and the Sound of Sleat. Recreational use is most concentrated on near the west coast within the sounds of the Inner Hebrides.

South West Scotland

Heavy recreational use is made of the Sound of Mull, the Firth of Lorne, the north of the Sound of Jura, and the Crinan Canal. Heavy use is made of routes in the Sound of Luing, Seil Sound, Shuna Sound and Loch Melfort. Recreational use is most concentrated on the many sounds between the islands of the south-west coast.

West of the Outer Hebrides

Moderate to light recreational use between Lewis, Benbecula, North and South Uist and St Kilda.

Northern Scotland and the Northern Isles

Light recreational use of the routes connecting the North East and Moray Firth to the Northern Isle. Moderate use of the Pentland Firth and routes along the northern coast. Recreational use is concentrated around Orkney where there are numerous anchorages and Shetland.


Heavy use = 6 or more recreational craft may be seen at all times during summer/daylight hours. Includes entrances to harbours, anchorages and places of rescue;

Moderate use = popular - some recreational craft will be seen at most times during summer daylight hours;

Light use = routes known to be commonly used. (Source: RYA, 2005).

5.7.5 Disposal Sites

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, and piling into a disposal site is unlikely to provide adequate stability. Floating turbines could potentially be placed in areas above historic disposal sites as long as the associated infrastructure does not disturb the site. Munitions disposed of at sea could pose a risk of explosion or release of chemicals into the surrounding environment if they were disturbed.

5.7.6 Links with other SEA topics

Links between population and human health and other SEA receptors are shown in Table 5-11.

Table 5-11: Possible interactions with population and human health

SEA topic

Possible link


Areas of high landscape value provide a key draw for key draw for visitors and recreational users

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna, and Geology

Areas of high nature conservation and earth heritage conservation value provide a key draw for key draw for visitors and recreational users


Population and Human Health: Strategic Issues relating to Wind energy Development

Safety and security of Scottish energy supply for projected increase in population

Health and safety risks associated with navigation, recreation and fishing, and as a new industry in a hazardous environment.

Maintenance of access to areas of great importance for recreation during development and operation of offshore wind farms

Extent to which any degradation in landscape and seascape of high quality may affect the experiences of tourists and recreational users who are enjoying access to the natural environment.

Presence of cruising routes and key recreational areas, which may cross areas proposed for offshore development.

5.8 Cultural Heritage

5.8.1 Introduction

This section includes consideration of the marine and terrestrial historic environment and identifies any key sensitivities with respect to wind energy development. Marine sites are defined as sites located in the inter-tidal zone between the high and low water mark, and sub-tidal sites located below the low water mark on the seabed. Terrestrial sites are defined as those sites located above the high water mark on beaches and the hinterland. There are over 260,000 archaeological sites and monuments, architectural objects and marine sites recorded in Scotland.

5.8.2 Designated sites

Internationally and nationally heritage designated sites in Scotland, which have a coastal element are shown below (Figures 5.13a-f Cultural Heritage Designations, at end of report):

(a) Internationally Designated Sites

  • Two UNESCOWHS: St Kilda WHS and Heart of Neolithic Orkney WHS

World Heritage cultural landscapes are justified for inclusion in the World Heritage List when interactions between people and the natural environment are evaluated as being of "outstanding universal value". Cultural landscapes are inscribed on the List on the basis of the cultural heritage criteria. A number of World Heritage cultural landscapes have also been inscribed on the basis of natural criteria and therefore also have mixed cultural and natural properties.

(b) Nationally Designated Sites

Scheduled Monuments are scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Although the majority of Scheduled Monuments are on land, monuments have been scheduled in the inter-tidal zone and a small number lie under the sea. There are around 8,000 Scheduled Monuments in Scotland 39.

Shipwrecks are currently protected under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973 40 and as sites scheduled under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. Military remains are protected under the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 as Protected Places or Controlled Sites. In the future, the protection of a broad cross-section of marine sites will be accommodated through Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs) under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and those sites currently protected as Scheduled Monuments will continue to be afforded protection 41.

There are currently 15 underwater historic wrecks in Scotland which have a statutory designation by laws administered by Historic Scotland. The seven remaining wrecks of the German High Seas Fleet scuttled in Scapa Flow, Orkney in 1919, are protected as Scheduled Monuments under the Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979. There are eight historic wrecks designated under the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973, as shown in 5-12.

Table 5-12: Historic wrecks





Out Skerries, Shetland

17th century

Wrangels Palais

Out Skerries, Shetland

17th century

Duart Point Wreck

Sound of Mull, Argyll and Bute

17th century


Sound of Mull, Highland

17th century

Burntisland Wreck

Firth of Forth, Fife

17th century

Mingary Castle Wreck

Ardnamurchan, Highland

17th century

Kinlochbervie Wreck

Kinlochbervie, Sutherland

16-17th century

HMS Campania

Firth of Forth, Fife

Early 20th century

There are six shipwrecks in STW identified as Controlled Sites by the Protection of Military Remains Act 1986 for which Ministry of Defence has administrative responsibility: three around the Orkney Islands ( HMS Hampshire, Royal Oak and Vanguard), two in the Moray Firth ( HMS Exmouth and HMS Natal), and HMS Dasher in the Firth of Clyde. Other shipwrecks identified as Protected Places are also present in STW and the remains of all aircraft crashed in military service are automatically protected places. Non-designated wrecks have been identified as part of the SEA process but are not considered to be a strategic issue and will therefore be considered further at project level.

There are also numerous listed buildings both onshore and offshore within the STW, which can be of international, national, regional or local importance. Those of particular relevance to the plan include listed lighthouses in Angus, Orkney, and Argyll and Bute.

The above designated sites and their setting are of particular importance to offshore wind development. For example, the setting of the Heart of Neolithic Orkney World Heritage Site has been the subject of considerable debate in relation to wind energy developments. 42

Other cultural heritage sites of regional to local value include Conservation Areas, Gardens and Designed Landscapes, battlefields and historic landscapes. These are considered to be more appropriately assessed at project level and are therefore not considered further.

5.8.3 Non-designated marine sites

Marine sites cover shipwrecks and aircraft crash sites, material derived from such remains, intertidal remains including fish-traps, harbours and crannogs, and submerged archaeology such as former land surfaces and associated environmental deposits such as palaeo-soils and peats. There are circa 20,000 maritime losses recorded in Scottish waters ( RCAHMS Canmore Database) although only a fraction of these have confirmed locations. There is therefore potential for discovery of un-recorded sites during project survey work. Of the known resource, the vast majority are non-designated sites, which may be of regional or national significance, located around major shipping lanes and navigational hazards. The sources indicate a bias to the modern era.

Although submerged archaeological remains are not currently afforded statutory protection and knowledge of this resource is sparse at present, the potentially extensive nature of the resource warrants consideration. Research to date has identified the potential for the discovery of artefacts relating to the Mesolithic (10,000 BP - 6,000 BP) and Neolithic (6,000 BP - 4,000 BP) periods on the shallower parts of the Scottish Shelf (to c45m depth). There is also potential for material relating to the Palaeolithic period, prior to the Mesolithic, especially on lower parts of the Scottish shelf, although pinpointing hotspots at present is difficult due to a lack of systematic research in Scotland. Some known potential hotspots include drowned woodlands and submerged peats, which can be addressed at project level.

Within Scotland the key areas of potential are likely to be areas of sea around the western and northern isles where relative sea-level change since the last ice age indicates the potential for submerged and partially submerged landscapes which were dry land during the likely period of settlement of these islands (Bates, Dawson and Wickham-Jones, unpublished). The discovery of submerged archaeology, such as relict landscapes, is of high importance given our relatively limited understanding of these features in STW and their potential to shed light on prehistoric climate, environmental conditions and landform evolution.

Marine sites are identified in the Hydrographic office database managed by SeaZone.

5.8.4 Non-designated terrestrial sites

Non-designated terrestrial archaeological sites are those identified within the national monuments record database for Scotland administered by the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historic Monuments of Scotland ( RCAHMS) and Local Authority Historic Environment Record ( HER) databases. While these sites are deemed to be of local or regional archaeological interest and are not considered as part of this study, it is acknowledged that some new or existing sites that are not currently designated may be deemed to be of a quality worthy of designation in the future. Non-designated terrestrial sites have a wide geographical distribution. The same is likely to be true for unrecorded sites.

5.8.5 Links with other SEA topics

Links between cultural heritage and other SEA receptors are shown in Table 5-13.

Table 5-13: Possible interactions with cultural heritage

SEA topic

Possible link

Sediments, geology and coastal process

These can affect areas of high importance for cultural heritage and biodiversity, for example sites can be lost as a result of coastal erosion.

Cultural Heritage: Strategic Issues relating to Wind Energy Development

Presence of international and national historic or archaeological resources

Changing condition (e.g. modifications or damage) of the historic environment on the coast and offshore resulting from changes in currents, erosion processes and other development pressures

Need to protect the setting and views of existing sites, features or areas of historic or archaeological interest

Presence of submerged archaeology and sensitivity of historic or pre-historic palaeo-landscapes to offshore wind development, particularly in relation to cumulative impacts of a single large-scale development.

5.9 Material Assets

5.9.1 Introduction

This section considers other marine renewables (such as tidal energy), navigation and shipping. A summary of key sensitivities is given at the end of this section. With the exception of marine renewables and navigation/shipping described below, other material assets (e.g. commercial fishing, military use, aviation etc.) have not been considered as part of the SEA process. However, where the presence of material assets has contributed to the development of short, medium and long term options, these are discussed further in the Plan.

5.9.2 Marine Environmental High Risk Areas

Marine Environmental High Risk Areas ( MEHRAs) have been identified around the UK to protect marine areas of high environmental sensitivity at risk from shipping. Their locations are indicated by markings on UK Hydrographic Office charts and through Marine Guidance Notices issued by the Maritime and Coastguard Agency. In STW the MEHRAs are shown on Table 5-14.

5.9.3 Marine Renewables

A number of wave and tidal energy devices are under development and testing around Scotland, although much of the specific testing is taking place around the Orkney Islands.

The European Marine Energy Centre ( EMEC), based in Orkney, is at the forefront of the development of marine-based renewables and is currently the world's only accredited testing centre for wave and tidal stream technologies. It offers device developers the opportunity and facilities to test full scale, grid-connected, prototype devices in a live environment where conditions are conducive to their use and development.

Table 5-14: MEHRAs around the Scottish coast (DfT 2006)


St Abb's Head and Eyemouth

Isle of May

Kinnaird Head


Bass Rock


West Islay, Argyll and Bute

Gallan Head, Isle of Lewis

South St Kilda

North St Kilda

Tor Ness, Hoy

Muckle Flugga

Fethaland, mainland Shetland

It has been recognised that there is significant potential for the development of renewable energy sources within STW. In 2009 a report "Marine Energy Road Map" prepared by the Marine Energy Group ( MEG) highlighted 3 potential scenarios for growth of the sector by 2020, aspiring to generation of 1-2 GW.

Areas with suitable tidal flows for tidal energy device deployment have been identified within the Marine Energy SEA ( DECC 2009) as shown in Figure 5-14. Potential tidal energy device deployment areas are limited. Research into combined tidal and wind devices is ongoing. Wave machines could potentially share space as well as foundations with wind turbines.

Figure 5-14: Tidal flow areas (BERR, Atlas of Marine Renewable Energy Resources)

Figure 5-14: Tidal flow areas ( BERR, Atlas of Marine Renewable Energy Resources)

Both wave and wind devices each have specific needs in terms of location. There are potential siting conflicts although combined wave wind devices, such as that referred to above and currently under development, or co-location of wave devices and wind turbines could allow both to be sited in the same area.

In September 2008, The Crown Estate announced a leasing round for wave and tidal devices within the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters. The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Round 1 Development sites for wave and tidal devices were recently announced (Figure 5-15). A total of 10 projects successfully secured potential lease agreements for future developments. The anticipated capacity for this first round is 1.2 GW by 2020.

Figure 5-15: Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Round 1 Development Sites

Figure 5-15: Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Round 1 Development Sites

5.9.4 Navigation and Shipping

(a) Overview

The seas around Scotland are used extensively for shipping. Over 92% of the UK's imports and exports (by volume) move by sea, with tanker trades (oil chemicals and gas) accounting for nearly 40%. The UK's dependency on imported gas is set to rise by 50% by 2012 (S Sachdeva, Chamber of Shipping pers comm 2010). In addition to trade and cargo, shipping encompasses a vast array of additional users including support for offshore installations (e.g. oil and gas), ferry routes, recreational shipping, military, security and emergency services.

(b) Shipping Routes

The North Sea (Regional Seas 1 & 2) contains some of the world's busiest shipping routes, with significant traffic generated by vessels trading between ports at either side of the North Sea and the Baltic. North Sea oil and gas fields generate moderate vessel traffic in the form of support vessels, principally operating from Peterhead, Aberdeen, Montrose and Dundee in the north ( UK Hydrographic Office ( UKHO) 1997), which in turn results in busy port approaches at these locations.

Oil related operations to the west of Shetland bring regular traffic into Regional Sea 8. Within Regional Seas 6 and 7, major routes pass on either side of the Outer Hebrides and in the south, the North Channel has moderate traffic bound for the Firth of Clyde and Irish Sea. There is moderate traffic in a north-south direction through the Irish Sea between lanes which link England and Scotland with the Isle of Man, Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic. Table 5-15 gives a summary of recorded vessel types around Scotland.

To identify those areas where shipping could conflict with offshore renewable generation, ship Automatic Identification System ( AIS) data has been used to plot vessel traffic around the UK on a 5 x 5km grid for data spanning four weeks, one from each month of January, March, June and September 2008. These data identified routes travelled but must be considered as indicative only as there are a number of limitations to the AIS data including:

  • AIS data only capture vessels greater than 300 deadweight tonnage (dwt) 43;
  • AIS data do not represent the distribution of recreational vessels; and
  • AIS data do not represent the distribution of fishing vessels.

The AIS map layers also include International Maritime Organisation ( IMO) routeing measures which are present at key locations in UK waters. These measures are in place to aid navigation of certain ships or ships with certain cargoes and include areas to be avoided (e.g. around Orkney and Shetland) and deep water routes which are areas surveyed for obstacles (e.g. west of the Outer Hebrides). In addition to the limitations of AIS data, other information gaps come in the form of the whereabouts and use of the sea by non- UK vessels, particularly fishing vessels.

AIS data may contain errors and a certain degree of caution must be exercised when interpreting the data. However, consultation with the shipping industry for this SEA has confirmed that at this time, these are the most appropriate data to indicate traffic routes 44 for the SEA (Chamber of Shipping, Feb 2010).

Table 5-15: Summary of recorded vessel type around Scotland (Scottish Government 2007)

Vessel Group

Overall %

Tanker vessels - to include oil & gas, chemical and vegetable oil carriers

20 %

Dry cargo - to include bulk carriers, container, RoRo cargo vessels, car carriers, general cargo, reefer, multipurpose and many offshore supply vessels

46.5 %

Passenger vessels - to include ferry and cruise vessels

5 %

Other vessels - to include dredger, cable layers, support vessels, lighthouse tenders, crane/drill barge, workboats, yachts, tugs RNLI craft, sail training vessels

18.5 %

Naval group - includes Royal Fleet Auxiliary vessels

0.6 %

AIS equipped fishing vessels

6 %

No details groups

3.4 %

(c) Existing Traffic Management Measures

The right of innocent passage 45 is recognised throughout UK territorial seas together with the right of transit passage through straits used for international navigation. The International Maritime Organisation ( IMO) would not adopt a measure if it would impede the passage of ships through an international strait.

The United Kingdom recognises a right of transit passage through several straits forming part of the STW:

  • the Fair Isle Channel (between Orkney and Shetland); and
  • the North Channel (between Northern Ireland and Scotland).

The UK has also specifically recognised a right of innocent passage through the Pentland Firth (between Orkney and the Scottish mainland). There is also a continuing right of innocent passage through the Minch which has to be maintained under international law. In addition international ports are presumed to be open to international merchant traffic in practice via the main route used by ships to enter and leave ports.

Overall, issues associated with shipping routes are complex with seasonal, safety and trade issues to address. Marine Guidance Notes ( MGN) 371 highlights issues that need to be taken into consideration when assessing the impact on navigational safety and emergency response (search and rescue and counter pollution) caused by offshore renewable energy installation developments. The recommendations in MGN 371 must be taken into account during the development of offshore wind energy developments. The data presented are focussed largely on AIS vessels. Smaller vessels and most small fishing vessels are not captured by these data. A comprehensive study using a variety of datasets including Annual Worldwide shipping movements, AIS data and Radar data which are consolidated into one grid layer, would usefully inform the site selection process.

(d) Marine Environmental High Risk Areas ( MEHRAs)

The report Safer Ships, Cleaner Seas 46 recommended that a comparatively limited number of areas of high environmental sensitivity, which are also at risk from shipping, should be identified and established around the UK coast. These were referred to as Marine Environmental High Risk Areas ( MEHRAs) and their primary purpose was "... to inform [ships'] Masters of areas where there is a real prospect of a problem arising. This prime purpose stands alone and regardless of any consequential defensive measures". The report emphasises MEHRAs should be seen as both an environmental concept and a shipping concept and that ' even the most sensitive areas should only become classified as MEHRAs if there is a realistic risk of pollution from merchant shipping.' Once identified, MEHRAs were to be marked on Admiralty charts, to encourage mariners to take extra care in those areas. 47 The UK coastline has therefore been divided up into 'coastal cells' that have been colour-ranked according to risk level. In Scotland, the highest risk areas (classified as 'high' or 'highest' ranking) are located in the following areas;

  • North mainland coast;
  • West Orkney;
  • North Shetlands;
  • Western Isles, including St Kilda;
  • Berwickshire and Firth of Forth;
  • Moray Firth;
  • Aberdeenshire; and
  • West Islay, Argyll and Bute

5.9.5 Links with other SEA topics

SEA topic

Possible link

Population and Human Health

An increase in vessel traffic could increase collision risk with recreational users of the sea and affect the possible routes available to them.

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

An increase in collision risk would also increase the risk of fuel spillage and affect marine and coastal biodiversity.

Material Assets: Strategic Issues relating to Wind energy Development

Potential competition in the medium term for some sites between tidal energy and offshore wind energy industries, although there may be the opportunity for co-location.

Conflicts between existing shipping routes and the displacement of other vessels into shipping routes from offshore wind farms may affect navigation and safety (e.g. increasing collision risks).

Interference with international shipping, designated international shipping routes and international treaties and agreements - e.g. by affecting rights of innocent passage and rights to enter ports.

5.10 Likely evolution of the environment without the Plan

5.10.1 Introduction

The environmental baseline is likely to change over time if the Plan is not progressed due to natural or anthropogenic factors. This section therefore considers the likely environmental change. The following table (Table 5-16) summarises the likely evolution of the environment overall and the subsequent sections discuss the evolution topic by topic.

Table 5-16: Likely evolution of baseline without and with wind energy development


Without wind energy development

With wind energy development

Climate change

Greater reliance on fossil fuels and nuclear to meet energy demand.

More limited message to rest of the world about the need for carbon abatement.

Loss of offshore market for business.

Less reliance on fossil fuels, reduce carbon use, prove that a developed country can thrive on a renewables based economy.

Opportunity for global leadership in offshore wind energy industry .

Water resources

Reducing pollution as remaining polluters are further controlled

Ongoing residual risk of accidental pollution from oil spills.

Further deterioration of seawater quality related to warming and acidification.

No added pollution.

Reduction in oil spill risks as we become less reliant on oil.

Greater potential for combating seawater quality changes.


Ongoing disturbance of seabed sediments by fishing.

Creation of fishing free areas.

Localised disturbance from turbine construction and cable stabilisation.


Change in species distribution, abundance and competitiveness due to climate change related factors.

Changes in species distribution and abundance due to natural cycles and evolution.

Introduction of further alien species to STW by migration from rest of Europe or direct inoculation by ballast water or hull fouling.

Mortality to marine life from existing industrial activity.

Contamination and other chronic effects to marine life from existing industrial activity.

Ongoing risks from oil spills.

Periodic plankton blooms connected with changing sea conditions.

Mortality for birds colliding with turbine blades.

Possible movement of species distribution in reaction to wind turbine establishment, sometimes followed by returning population due to adaption/acceptance to/of new conditions.

Less potential for effects from climate change.

Less reliance on bulk oil transportation and associated ballast water movements.

Reduced risks from oil spills.

Habitat creation/ conservation effects associated with presence of offshore structures (although this would be temporary).


Continuing changes in the coastal landscape and seascape due to coastal development, changes to shipping and fishing.

Addition of offshore wind farms into some views.

Population and health

Further depopulation of remote, island and rural areas.

Focus on development in some remote, island and rural areas.

Expanding marine recreation and related boating activity

Displacement of recreational boating.

Increased navigation risk.

Potential attraction/site seeing opportunity.

Cultural heritage

Greater understanding about the heritage assets in the sea.

Greater "protection" for the settings of key sites.

Changes to the views of key sites due to housing, farming practises and other industrial activity.

Enhanced understanding due to additional work.

Investigation of assets that may be at risk from disturbance.

Influence upon the setting of some sites through industrialisation of the views.

Material assets

Establishment of wave and tidal sectors.

Existing navigational risks.

Synergies with wave and tide in terms of infrastructure such as cables, possible competition for ports, vessels and people.

Changes to navigation practices.

Changes to fishing practices.

5.10.2 Climatic factors

Existing predictions indicate that annual mean air temperatures in Europe are likely to increase faster than the global mean, winter temperatures are likely to rise faster and annual precipitation is likely to increase. However, the current and future impacts of climate change remain poorly understood 48. Changes may include a rise in sea level, an increase in storminess, impacts on water quality and biodiversity and changes to sediment processes.

5.10.3 Water Resources

The ocean climate around Scotland is changing in a way that is expected to lead to changes in the storminess of the seas, wave heights, ocean currents, water levels, coastal processes, the coastline and the distribution and abundance of marine species ( FRS 2008). Water temperature is increasing at a rate of 0.2-0.4ºC per decade and is following similar trends in the wider North Sea and North Atlantic. Thermal expansion of the oceans and melting glacier ice is leading to sea-level rise. Long term measurements at Aberdeen show a trend over the last 100 years of increases of around 0.7mm/year. All other Scottish mainland tide gauges have also recorded a sea-level rise over the same period. In contrast, a tide gauge in the Shetland Islands has recorded a sea level fall since 1957.

Long term changes in water quality are also being observed ( FRS 2008). Increases in salinity and acidification of the seas resulting from an increase in dissolved carbon dioxide, presents a particular challenge to marine organisms.

5.10.4 Geology, Sediments and Coastal Processes

The environmental baseline with respect to geology and sediments is likely to change slowly in the absence of human influences. Trawling and dredging activities can cause localised scour and sediment plumes ( DECC, 2009). Historically, large quantities of a variety of contaminants have been discharged into the UK near-shore marine environment particularly near urban and industrial centres. These have, in some cases, settled into the sediments. However, inputs have decreased dramatically in recent decades.

Approximately 12% of Scotland's coastline is already subject to erosion and this is likely to increase in future ( FRS 2008). An increase in storm surges is likely to lead to more coastal flooding with impacts on coastal erosion, coastal habitat and built structures.

5.10.5 Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

The impacts of physical changes (such as water temperature) are observed at all levels within the marine ecosystem, from plankton through to fisheries, although the complex nature of the marine ecosystem means that it is difficult to isolate climate effects from other pressures.

Over the past 11,000 years, seabed habitats around the UK have been, and will continue to be, subject to continuous processes of change associated with post-glacial trends in sea level, climate and sedimentation. There are also shorter term natural changes in benthic ecology as a result of physical environmental influences (such as storm events). There are also longer term changes linked to natural and man-made impacts (such as fishing).

Climate change is already considered to be having an impact on biodiversity. In terms of impacts on marine biodiversity, many marine species, including plankton, fish and some intertidal species show rapid responses to alterations in climate. To the east of Scotland, the rate at which the biogeographic limits of southern intertidal species are extending northwards and eastwards towards the colder North Sea is up to 50km per decade far exceeding the global average of 6.1km per decade in terrestrial systems (MarClim, 2010) 49. The MarClim project has concluded that differential rates of range extensions and contractions are likely to result in a short term increase in biodiversity on rocky shores close to the biogeographic boundaries. However, as the climate continues to warm, biodiversity is likely to return to previous levels as northern species ranges retract to be replaced by southern species, resulting in different species compositions.

Fish communities are likely to come under pressure from human factors (such as pollution or over-fishing) and be affected by climate change. This could have an effect on the community structure of the region. Species considered to have a southerly distribution are increasing in abundance in UK waters. Climate change may affect fish migratory routes (including those of salmon to find their way back to home rivers), which could potentially affect recruitment success. Increased water temperature is also linked to changes in biogeographic ranges, distribution and abundance of marine fish species and their utilised water depth. 50

Climate change could lead to increased risk of invasive species and algal blooms in STW through increased water temperature. Increased atmospheric carbon dioxide can also alter the bio-geo-chemical properties of water through acidification. This could subsequently cause impacts on biodiversity. 51

There has been a recent decline in the breeding success of sea birds, thought largely to have been caused by the low availability of sandeels. Over the longer term, some sea bird populations have declined whilst others have grown.

Most large whale populations are still recovering from the era of industrial whaling, though the impact of future changes to climate change are poorly understood. Many populations and some entire species of whales are still under threat of extinction 52. Cetaceans, including the bottlenose dolphin population of the Moray Firth, are under threat from a variety of impacts, including fishing bycatch, vessel activities, pollution and climate change 53. These threats are likely to continue and BAPs are in place to counter these threats.

Grey seals have increased or begun to stabilise whereas common (harbour) seals have experienced dramatic declines of up to 50% in some regions 54, with the exception of populations on the west coast of Scotland. The reasons for the decline are not fully understood and therefore the future changes are unknown.

5.10.6 Landscape, Seascape and Visual Amenity

There is a reasonable likelihood of cumulative landscape effects from coastal terrestrial wind generation projects and continued industrial and urban expansion. There may be some seascape changes from decline or development of North Sea oil and gas installations and associated infrastructure. Landscape and seascape degradation (or improvement) could have knock on effects on tourism and recreation.

5.10.7 Population and Human Health (including recreation)

The population of Scotland is expected to increase 7% to 5.54 million by 2033. Over the same period it is also predicted that the age distribution will change, with the ratio of dependants (under 16 or over pensionable age to those of working age) increasing from 60 per 100 in 2008 to 68 per 100 in 2033 (General Register Office for Scotland, 2009).

The Scottish tourism industry has an ambition to grow revenues from tourism by 50% by 2015 55, The Scottish Government's strategy for the tourism industry sets the challenge of establishing Scotland as Europe's most sustainable destination by 2015 56. Recreation and access to the outdoors is a growing activity in Scotland 57 although information on long term trends is not available.

5.10.8 Cultural Heritage

New sites of archaeological or historic importance are likely to be discovered both on land and on or under the sea bed. The development of increasingly sophisticated detection methods, mapping and underwater excavation will aid the discovery and study of sub-sea sites.

Increasing visitor pressures may adversely affect some terrestrial coastal heritage sites, although these sites (e.g. the WHS) will continue to be actively managed to minimise trampling/erosion issues and visitor disturbance. Any disturbance issues will be managed through individual site management plans and government and agency commitments will continue to protect these designated features.

Coastal erosion will continue to affect some heritage or archaeological assets (e.g. at Skara Brae - Orkney WHS).

5.10.9 Material Assets

Other changes include a potential increase in wave and tidal power electricity generation devices (possibly at a commercial scale in the future). There is the potential for the use of offshore geological features for carbon capture and storage in the future.

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 provides a legal framework for the preparation of marine spatial plans (Marine Scotland will introduce Marine Planning) and there will therefore be improved marine spatial management to better manage the various development pressures.

5.11 Environmental problems

The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires that the ER includes a description of existing environmental problems, in particular those relating to any areas of particular environmental importance. The purpose of this section is to explain how existing environmental problems will affect or be affected by the Plan, and whether the Plan is likely to aggravate, reduce or otherwise affect existing environmental problems. Relevant environmental problems are summarised in Table 5-17.

Table 5-17: Environmental problems relevant to the Plan

SEA Receptor

Environmental Problem

Further information/supporting data

Implications for wind energy development

Climate Change

Known and unknown climate change effects ( DECC, 2009), (Scottish Government Scottish Marine Bill SEA, 2008)

Effects may be wide ranging and large scale. Oceanographic and climatic changes could have complex interactions with STW which are not fully understood at this time. Relevant effects may include changes in wave height, water temperature and density, potential effects on currents and increased and or more frequent storm conditions.

Climate change effects on the environment may drive changes to the ecological community, for example, in response to changing water temperature.

Renewable power generation from wind development will play a positive role in reducing emissions and tackling anthropogenically derived climate change issues.

Developers will have to use the latest and most accurate available information to determine potential risks and mitigate them through engineering and other solutions where possible.

Water Resources and Geology, Sediments and Coastal Processes

Sediment and water contamination ( DECC, 2009)

The most significant areas of concern in terms of sediment contamination are those close to existing or former industrial activities or population centres, areas of former offshore disposal, and areas associated with offshore industry such as oil and gas which are known to be, or could be contaminated. Contaminants are most likely to be associated with fine grained sediments, and hence generally lower energy environments.

In terms of water contamination, discharges are now commonly heavily regulated but water quality is likely to be lower in areas of industry, population centres and or sea bed disturbance.

Potential implications of wind energy development on sediment transportation should be addressed. In the short term during construction and decommissioning there is the potential to disturb the sea bed potentially mobilising contaminated sediment and affecting water quality and secondary ecological receptors.

Developments in themselves are unlikely to have significant impacts on sediment or water in terms of contamination but it will be necessary to select appropriate solutions, for example to prevent biofouling of structures, which do not contaminate the surrounding environment. The sensitivity of the environment, and risk will vary considerably geographically and should be assessed by each developer.

Water Resources

Marine Strategy Framework Directive ( MSFD) targets for good environmental status (Scottish Government Scottish Marine Bill SEA, 2008)

The implementation of the MSFD in line with the EU Water Framework Directive has implications for future management and improvement of water quality, and ecological and environmental status.

Developments, particularly during construction and decommissioning, but also potentially operationally, must demonstrate that they will not compromise the ability to meet targets for good status.

Geology, Sediments and Coastal Processes and Material Assets,

Potential for near-shore earthquakes ( DECC, 2009)

There is a range of evidence and reference material available in relation to the potential for, and record of earthquakes in areas including STW.

According to DECC (2009) level five earthquakes are capable of causing structural damage to marine developments anchored/ attached to the seabed were recorded in 1970 in Regional Sea Areas 58 7 and 8 since 1970.

A number of such events have also occurred in the Regional Sea Area 6, mainly focussed around the Menai Straits fault zone (South of STW).

In the North Sea a comparable event is predicted at a frequency of between 1 in 2 and 1 in 14 years

There is the potential that structures and infrastructure lying upon or anchored (tied) to the sea bed could be affected and this must be considered and the risk assessed and if necessary mitigated by developers (i.e. design seismic conditions).

Instability of continental shelf slopes ( DECC, 2009)

Geohazards may result in areas where continental slopes are steep or other major instabilities exist ( STW does not include such areas, but could be affected by them). Large slope failures can result in 'land' slides and or trigger tsunami. Although there is a potential tsunami risk to Scottish waters it is considered very low likelihood of occurring 59

Geohazards may pose a risk to sea bed infrastructure or anchorages located on steep slopes. Much of STW lie within the continental shelf and would therefore not be affected directly by this hazard. Developers will need to assess proposed sites with reference to position of shelf and potential geohazards

Erosion is a major issue on parts of the Scottish coast

Integrated costal zone management and marine planning processes seek to control and manage issues of coastal erosion overall.

The effects of an individual offshore development on these issues will vary significantly depending on the location and local geology/ superficial strata and geomorphology, and energy of the coastal environment. Developers will need to assess the specific impacts of the proposed wind farm and cumulative and in-combination effects of other factors such as diverted shipping navigation, other coastal engineering works and flood risk management schemes.


Invasive and non-native species ( DECC, 2009)

Ballast water exchange and even the hull of vessels may bring with them and facilitate the spread of invasive and non-native species.

Although significant, this issue is common to many shipping operations and as such should be managed in line with international protocols and laws governing the maritime industry.

Disturbance of and damage to important benthic habitats as a result of fishing, dredging, engineering works etc ( DECC, 2009)

Site investigation, sea bed preparation and excavation and long term changes in scour and deposition have the potential to affect the sea bed and any associated benthic habitats and ecological assemblages. Impacts on these may in turn have secondary dependent receptors which use habitats for forage, shelter, feeding or breeding.

Developments need to be carefully evaluated in terms of proposed location, the presence of sensitive receptors and unacceptable impacts mitigated through options such as footprint optimisation.

The presence of a wind energy development may reduce some forms of fishing, such as trawling, which can damage and disturb wide areas of sea bed and the long term exclusion of these activities may be beneficial to benthic habitats and associated ecological assemblages within the navigational exclusion zone.

Disturbance and direct interference with coastal, sea and migrating birds ( DECC, 2009)

The STW area is of significant importance in terms of resident and migrating bird life, some of which is internationally protected and or threatened.

This bird life is sensitive to disturbance, direct interference (for example collision with turbines) and to degradation in environmental quality which may affect the food chain or birds directly.

The most significant potential issues associated with development of wind farms is likely to be the potential for bird strike.

It is possible that improved benthic and fish communities as a result of reduced disturbance and fishing may improve the food chain of some bird species.

Sensitivity of marine mammals to disturbance ( DECC, 2009) and lack of data relating to the impacts of marine renewables on marine mammals (Scottish Government Scottish Marine Bill SEA, 2008)

In terms of potential wind development, disturbance is likely to be the key potential issue for marine mammals.

Seismic disturbance associated with survey work is a known issue as are the effects of noise generated by sea bed excavation and dredging and most notably piling. Piled foundation wind turbines may be common in shallower waters and protracted construction periods of semi continuous piling which may travel significant distances and potentially interfere with other noise sources are likely to occur. The overall potential impacts of this on resident and migrating species is not fully understood at this time.

This may present significant challenges both in terms of the sensitivity of marine mammals and for developers in meeting programme for construction if for example sightings of marine mammals halt works.

If cessation of work due to the presence and disturbance if marine mammals is proven to be a significant issue, there may be implications for preferred technologies and installation methods. For example, lower noise installation technologies may prove more viable than piling, even if construction costs are higher, if the programme can be better controlled.

Effects of marine litter and boat strike on marine fauna ( DECC, 2009)

Animals may swallow plastic litter mistaking it for prey such as jellyfish, or become entangled in litter and discarded nets/fishing gear and be immobilised or drown.

Some fauna are also sensitive to boat strike, especially reptiles when surfacing to breathe.

Wind development will result in temporary increases in boat traffic during construction and operation. There is an increased likelihood of littering during the construction phase and increased risk of boat strike.

Conflict between MPAs and Offshore Wind development areas (Scottish Government Scottish Marine Bill SEA, 2008)

In line with the requirements of the Marine Act, European and International legislation, the network of MPAs needs to be designated by 2010. This may include new sites or expansion and added protection for previously designated and protected sites. A lack of the required data is highlighted in the Scottish Marine Bill SEA.

There may be conflicts over geographical coverage of MPAs and areas suitable for wind development.

There is the potential opportunity for wind developers to aid the development of an improved data and knowledge base of the Scottish marine environment through site specific field studies undertaken for proposed developments. As a result co-operation and data sharing with relevant bodies is to be encouraged.

Unfavourable condition of conservation features and sites ( DECC, 2009)

Based on DECC, 2009 43% of SSSI, 63% of SAC, 14% of Ramsar sites and 27% of SPA were not found to be in favourable condition within the UK. The numbers specific to Scotland are not known.

Potential developments must not further compromise the conditions of designated or conservation sites and features.

Developers must assess potential impacts and develop appropriate mitigation strategies as required, or if it is not possible to mitigate, consider alternative locations for development.

Fishing industry ( DECC, 2009)

Fish populations are under significant pressure globally and fishing is the most significant cause of this.

Some aspects of the fishing industry also result in bycatch of marine mammals and birds, and can damage the sea bed and associated habitats.

Wind development may disturb the sea bed in the short term during construction and decommissioning and potentially so some degree operationally due to changes in water and sediment dynamics.

The over riding effect however is likely to be displacement of some fishing effort causing an increase in pressure on some resources and a reduction in fishing pressure in the area of the wind farm navigational exclusion zone. The latter may act to help preserve fish populations by providing shelter and areas of low disturbance. These areas may in turn benefit wider fish populations outside navigations/ fishing exclusion zones.

New fishing practices may develop within wind farms.

Landscape/ Seascape

Deterioration in land/seascape character and reduction in visual amenity ( DECC, 2009) and need to protect them from development (Scottish Government Scottish Marine Bill SEA, 2008)

Development may affect the land/seascape interface, areas visible from land and sea and the visual amenity of areas.

Depending on weather conditions and visibility turbines may be seen from over 10 km away.

High level assessment of potential negative impacts on aspects such as land/seascape balanced with potential benefits of renewable power sources will be likely to be required when considering the renewables strategy and tackling local/ individual project scale opposition in the planning process.

Widespread development may place further pressure on the limited 'wild areas' of coastline. Assessing cumulative and in-combination effects will become increasingly significant as development pressure grows.

Population and Human Health (including recreation)

Increasing pressure on near shore and coastal areas (Scottish Government Scottish Marine Bill SEA, 2008)

Competing uses of the marine environment is an issue but should improve through the implementation of the Marine Act and more efficient licensing of activities.

Wind farms will be subject to the planning system which should consider and address potential conflicts with use of the marine environment.

Cultural Heritage

Lack of protection for and threats to known and unknown submerged cultural heritage assets and archaeological features ( DECC, 2009), (Scottish Government Scottish Marine Bill SEA, 2008)

Undersea cultural heritage and archaeological material is only partially mapped and known and there is no specific protection for assets such as submerged landscapes (Scottish Government Scottish Marine Bill SEA, 2008).

The potential for cultural heritage and archaeological assets in individual development areas will need to be assessed and mitigated as required on a project scale.

Development has the potential to threaten cultural heritage assets and archaeological features, potentially damaging or losing them. Conversely, reducing areas accessible to activities such as trawling may protect assets within the development foot print from further disturbance and damage.