Scotland’s first statutory National Marine Plan was adopted and published in March 2015. It's policies and objectives set out how Scottish Ministers intend marine resources to be used and managed out to 200 nautical miles. It supports development and activity in Scotland’s seas while incorporating environmental protection into marine decision-making to achieve sustainable management. The Plan applies to all decisions taken by public authorities which affect this marine area.
In accordance with the Scottish and UK legislation, there is a requirement to review and report on the implementation of the Plan. The first review is due 3 years after adoption of the Plan. This report fulfils the commitment. After consideration of the review report, Ministers must then decide if replacement or amendment of the Plan is required.
Two key strands of work were carried out to assess implementation and effectiveness of the Plan:
1) internal application within Marine Scotland's Licensing Operations Team (MS LOT);
2) broader consultation with key regulatory and decision making organisations in Scotland - through online questionnaire, a multi-stakeholder workshop hosted by the Scottish Coastal Forum and bilateral meetings. These looked to determine the success of Plan policies and identify those for revision, barriers to successful implementation and Plan areas where change could be beneficial
Key findings included:
There was general awareness that taking account of the Plan is a statutory requirement but implementation varied across, and within, different regulatory, planning and advisory bodies.
The review has proved timely and reminds public authority decision makers of the Plan’s purpose and the onus on those required to implement it. The Plan is perceived as being a valuable document with comprehensive and relevant objectives and policies.
There are also emerging activities which the next iteration of the Plan may be required to address.
A number of policies and general aspects of the Plan were identified as being particularly effective or useful to decision making. New policies given statutory status by the Plan, such as those in relation to submarine cables and Protect Marine Features had influenced and underpinned decision making.
Scottish Ministers are required to consider this report and determine whether to replace or amend the Plan. The issues raised during the review process will be considered in detail, to develop an appropriate work programme to inform any future Plan, Regional Marine Plans and the supporting data, research and assessment programmes.