Aquaculture Consenting Task Group - Advisory Group minutes: 29 June 2023

Minutes from the meeting held on 29 June 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Other Organisation

  • Dave Cockerill, Bakkafrost 
  • Dougie Hunter, Mowi
  • Peter Pollard, Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Mark Harvey, Highland Council
  • Simon Pallant, Shetland Islands Council
  • Professor Dickon Howell, Howell Marine Consulting (Chair)
  • Anne Anderson, Scottish Sea Farms (SSF)
  • Professor Russel Griggs, Independent

Scottish Government

  • Jill Barber, Head of Aquaculture Development
  • Bill Ellis, Head of Aquaculture Consenting
  • Jamie Barnes, Aquaculture Planning and Consenting Policy Manager
  • Alex Jasinski, Aquaculture Planning Policy Support Officer
  • Kieran McQuaid, Performance and Change Lead
  • Iain Laing, Improvement Adviser, SG


  • Michael Montague, SEPA
  • Malcolm Pentland, Deputy Director, Seafood Trade, Aquaculture and Recreational Fisheries, SG 

Secretariat provided by Scottish Government officials.

Items and actions

Actions Agreed

Scottish Government officials to share the draft principles framework to the group for comment.

Minutes of previous meeting

No comments 

Community Engagement 

Scottish Government (SG) officials sought information from regulators and sector representatives on what success would look like and what is working well. The group discussed what community engagement should deliver. 

The Chair queried who needs to be involved in the technical assessment and how it informs community engagement.

SG officials noted that communities’ needs to be engaged after the technical report is published. 

The independent adviser commented that the benefit of doing multilateral engagement is greater understanding. 

The Chair queried who is involved with multilateral technical discussions, and how those results are communicated to the non-technical community. 

SEPA noted that the focus is on delivering the objective of streamlining and removing duplication. The process should narrow down to get the right people and the right issues. The process must inform the community by doing an initial technical assessment. It must use filtering processes to screen things out and focus on who needs to be involved and when. 

Sector members queried whether local authorities (LA) would coordinate for the application process.

Sector members noted that it is important to arrange a meeting of practitioners as soon as possible. These discussions would help inform how the group is going to refine the detail. It was noted that the group cannot take forward the process without having had practitioner discussions. 

LA members asked how they could add value to that process. 

LA members noted that planning processes sometimes use processing agreements, which might be a useful tool to test during the pilots.

SEPA agreed that the group cannot make a lot of progress without practitioners being involved, and that they were keen to get to the practical stage. The key is a joint process with SEPA and LAs collaborating closely with a developer.

Sector members noted that planning processing agreements had a process value from a communications perspective, but that they are usually only used for major applications. 

The independent adviser noted that communities should be involved as early as possible.

Sector members suggested that a video be created to better explain the process to communities. 

SG officials noted that there is a slight disconnect between the overarching criteria. The group as a whole need to be certain that it knows what it is trying to achieve with each of the stages of the process.


SG officials outlined its evaluation proposals.  

The Chair stated that it is key for the evaluation work to have a clear agreed process. I.e., which pilot is going to be to be carried out and with a success criterion to be measured against it.

The independent adviser noted that the group needs to decide what the right outcome is. It should be written down and linked to what success looks like to make sure everyone is on the same page regarding outcomes.
The Chair stated that each step of the management framework process should have an outcome against it. 

Sector members suggested their desire to not have only a single trial with a report and evaluation, but rather to have a dynamic and iterative process/trials. i.e. iteration and active adaptive learning going forward is essential.

The Chair noted that there could be two ways of running the pilot: 

  • four pilots staggered, with phase 2 learning from phase 1 and so forth;
  • or run all pilots at the same time and have them staggered going forward.

SG officials noted the need to define communications and timings of any pilot in advance. 

Sector members noted that there could be different versions of the pilot. They queried whether an independent person or organisation would be used for evaluation. 

The Chair noted that an evaluator needs to be independent and not involved in the process. 

LA members agreed with the sector that this should be a rolling process. The group needs to better understand what a successful pre-app looks like, to save problems in consenting applications, and save money and time.

Sector representatives remarked that streamlining and the removal of duplication is fundamental to success. They stated the need to separate outcomes from the process, and that the process will become better through streamlining. 

SG officials noted that clearly articulating what the process elements are (as well as the output and outcomes) is more important than the question of who the independent evaluator would be. There is a need to define the output and outcomes to find out what success would look like prior to the trials. 

SG officials queried with the sector representatives what good performance looks like for them in terms of consenting processes. 


SG officials outlined a suggested communications approach.  

SG officials discussed publishing the minutes from this group on the Scottish Government website. 


SG officials stated that based on discussions the group would likely need more meetings to agree on the draft principles framework and outcomes prior to pilots commencing. 

Action  â€“ SG officials to send out draft principles framework to the group for comment.

Site selection 

LA members noted that site selection needs to be driven by sector demand.

SEPA noted that they are ready to commence the pilots and that it would be useful if the proposed developments coming forward required Environmental 
Impact Assessment (EIA). 

The sector noted that they have proposals in the Shetland Islands, and that they would keep the group informed.

Sector representative agreed to discuss the pilot process with their practitioners.  

Any other business

Not applicable.

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