Scotland’s marine environment provides a variety of goods and services that are essential to the daily lives of almost everyone in Scotland. To ensure that we can continue to benefit from our marine environment, it is essential to seek a balance between the different economic, social and environmental demands on ocean space and to minimise our impact on the marine environment as far as possible. Marine planning provides the primary means of achieving sustainable marine management in Scotland.
The introduction of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (known as the ‘Marine Acts’) established a new legislative and management framework for the marine environment, allowing the competing demands on the sea to be managed in a sustainable way across all of Scotland’s seas. Marine planning matters in Scotland’s inshore waters governed by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, and by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 for our offshore waters.
The Marine Acts created a tiered approach to the development of marine planning in the UK and Scotland. The UK Administrations share a common vision of having clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The jointly adopted Marine Policy Statement (2011) provides a consistent high-level policy context for the development of marine plans across the UK to achieve this vision.
Scotland’s National Marine Plan (2015) provides a comprehensive overarching framework for all marine activity in our seas. It sets out a policy framework to help determine if a new or existing marine activity is environmentally or economically sustainable and suitable for the area and serves as the primary guide to decision-making on the use of marine space and resources in Scotland. For some types of sector-specific activity, such as renewable energy development, the NMP sets out sector-specific policy requirements to ensure their compatibility with existing uses from social, economic and environmental perspectives.
Scotland’s Marine Assessment 2020 (SMA2020) portal reports on our vision for the seas, as set out in the National Marine Plan: ‘Clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environments, managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people’. It also provides an assessment of the condition of the Scottish marine area, including a summary of the significant pressures and human activites in our Scottish Marine Regions and Offshore Marine Regions.
Find out more about our actions:
- at a national level, by creating and reviewing Scotland's first National Marine Plan (2015)
- at a regional level, by creating Scottish Marine Regions and supporting Regional Marine Planning Partnerships
- at a sectoral level, through the publication of the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind (2020) and the development of the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind to Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas Decarbonisation, to support the sustainable development of offshore renewable energy
- through management of the Scottish Crown Estate
We have also:
- formed the Seaweed Review Steering Group to help ensure existing seaweed harvesting activity and future proposals are sustainable, with the final piece of research Understanding the potential scale for seaweed-based industries in Scotland published in February 2022
- developed the National Marine Plan interactive (NMPi) tool to help the development of national and regional marine planning
- created the Stakeholder Advisory Group on the Crown Estate (SAGCE) in 2015, and consulted on the first ever Strategic Management Plan for the Scottish Crown Estate in 2019
- awarded funds to coastal authorities through the Coastal Communites Fund
Bills and legislation
- Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 provides a framework which will help balance competing demands on Scotland's seas
- UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
- Water Framework Directive was introduced in 2000 to establish systems to manage the water environment, and was transposed into Scots Law in 2003. The WFD applies to all water in the natural environment - rivers, lochs, estuaries, coastal and underground water
- Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009 introduces a more sustainable and modern approach to flood risk management, suited to the needs of the 21st century and to the impact of climate change
- Coast Protection Act 1949
- Aquaculture and Fisheries (Scotland) Act 2007
- Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003
- Directive on the Conservation of Wild Birds (EU Birds Directive) Marine Scotland leads on the implementation of the EU Birds Directive in Scottish territorial waters and the Scottish offshore region. This includes designation and management of SPAs, establishing and operating a system of strict protection for particular species that are listed in the Directive, and responsibility for surveillance and monitoring of the species and habitats protected by the Directive
- Directive on the Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora (EU Habitats Directive) Marine Scotland leads on the implementation of the EU Habitats Directive in Scottish territorial waters and the Scottish offshore region. This includes designation and management of SACs, establishing and operating a system of strict protection for particular species that are listed in the Directive, and responsibility for surveillance and monitoring of the species and habitats protected by the Directive
- Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981
- Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 in combination with the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 implements the EU Birds and Habitats Directives in the inshore area
- Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 contains legal provisions to implement national-level policies on nature conservation including equivalent protection for some other species of national importance and a biodiversity duty on all public bodies inside territorial waters, which is implemented in Scottish territorial waters by the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy
- Offshore Marine Conservation Regulations (2007) implements the EU Birds and Habitats Directives in the UK offshore area
- Conservation of Seals Act 1970
- Conservation of Seals (Scotland) Order 2004
- Conservation of Seals (Scotland) Order 2007
- The Scottish Marine Regions Order 2015
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