Aquaculture Consenting Task Group - Advisory Group minutes: January 2023

Minutes from the meeting held on 26 January 2023.

Attendees and apologies

Other organisations

  • Professor Russel Griggs – Independent
  • Laura Tulip – Mowi
  • Dave Cockerill – Bakkafrost
  • Penny Hawdon – Bakkafrost
  • Anne Anderson – Scottish Sea Farms
  • Mark Harvey – Highland Council
  • Peter Pollard – Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Mike Montague – Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)

Scottish Government

  • Jill Barber, Head of Aquaculture Development
  • Bill Ellis, Head of Aquaculture Consenting
  • Jamie Barnes, Aquaculture Planning and Consenting Policy Manager
  • Iain Laing, Improvement Advisor
  • Kieran McQuaid, Performance and Change Lead

Secretariat provided by Scottish Government officials.

Items and actions

Actions Agreed 

Scottish Government officials to follow up offer of assistance from SG Lean colleagues.
Scottish Government officials to take forward planning for the Stage 1 workshop in March.


Scottish Government (SG) officials outlined the background to the Consenting Task Group (CTG) and this meeting. This meeting follows a discussion between members on 12 January on how best to make progress in this workstream. The CTG Steering Group agreed that a smaller Advisory Group should facilitate progress. This note is the first of a series of smaller advisory group meetings.  


Item 1 - Phases

SG officials outlined the background to the intended phases and outputs of the Project Initiation Document (PID). A full DRAFT PID will be shared on Friday 27 January, for discussion at the CTG on Friday 3 February. 

The independent advisor suggested that it is important that the project is described against how that takes forward parts of the regulatory review recommendations, in addition to alignment with Scotland’s National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET). There is a risk that the project aims become too extensive and so cross reference to the review recommendations is important. 

There was discussion on delineating phases of a continuous improvement project – delivering what we can deliver with immediate improvements and consideration of longer-term improvement learning. There should be a prioritisation of issues and their delivery. There was an emphasis of improved process around pre application process placed in the review. 

The sector supported two stages of case studies: Stage 1 (Highland) and Stage 2 (other Local Authorities (LAs)).

There was a discussion on defining community. An offer was made to offers to send a methodology which is used to define community by the Enterprise Agencies. 

It was discussed that ‘community’ differs at different stages of the process and that the community’s role may be different between individual regulators. There are communities that feed into the consenting process, but there are also opportunities around social contracts, as referenced in the regulatory review report. Process mapping would help to define who those communities are and engagement at each stage of the process. There was a discussion that the issues within the consenting system will be different between industry, regulators and other users’ perspectives. 

The importance of process mapping and LEAN principles, identifying all steps and their value was discussed. 

Item 2 – Workshops and LEAN

Workshops are to take place which could include desk-based case studies:

Stage 1 – Workshop for Highland case studies in March
Stage 2 – Workshop with additional LAs to build on learning from Stage 1 

There was agreement to build LEAN into the project as far as is possible. 

SG officials outlined that LEAN is a good and appropriate approach. It can  clarify value from different customer perspectives once there is a defined process.  

LEAN can go through different levels of detail. LEAN is not fully required for a short term to kick off Stage 1 and 2. However a LEAN approach will be important if change ideas span several areas, from IT, resourcing, to roles and responsibilities. 

SG officials outlined an SG programme driven by Mr McKee to upskill all areas of Scottish Government. Yellow-belt training is available and may be useful to all project members. The purpose is to build capacity as LEAN and continuous improvement is an ongoing process. 

There were some concerns raised about how long the process to upskill LEAN ability takes versus the ambition of this project to move forward – an approach which brought in LEAN experts and upskilled project members at the same time is preferable. 

SG officials outlined that there is some capacity within SG to support a VSE (Value Stream Exercise) to map the current state (with bottlenecks, map variation, baseline data etc). The challenge with this is getting all necessary stakeholders round the table. 

Action: SG officials to follow up offer of assistance from SG Lean colleagues. 

There was a discussion on short term LEAN and long-term LEAN processes – using an approach which starts with the basic mapping outlined (VSE), but that takes a more in-depth approach in the longer term, programming changes as the project continues. 

SEPA outlined a recent systems approach that was followed to set up its new SEPA CAR permitting cells. 

A view was expressed that the group should focus greatest effort on solving the fundamental problems which may solve 95% of the consenting issues. 

A decision is required on how much detail to go into at each stage. One approach is to start at the high-level process and licence level, with more detailed deep dives following thereafter. The phases outlined allow a quick exercise to identify bottlenecks and to make rapid progress. 

The sector supported committing to the LEAN process to enable confidence and improvements over the period, provide transparency and a robust record of informed decisions. 

Value Stream Exercise (VSE) mapping will capture baseline issues/data (e.g., bottlenecks and duplication). Some SG officials are trained in Lean Six Sigma to green-belt level and can offer training. The SG Improvement Adviser’s role is to help upskill people to undertake improvement work. 

The independent advisor suggested that a challenge is differing views between the sector and the regulators on evidence and resulting decisions taken in the regulatory process. Independent suggested there needs to be an adjudicator between the industry and regulator and that evidence should be a part of this process.   

There was a discussion on what constitutes significant adverse impact and potential to make decision making clearer or remove some of the ‘heat’ from decision making. 

In response to the suggestion of an independent adjudicator, the role of the regulator in decision making on individual applications and the appeals process was outlined.  

The Scottish Science Advisory Council (SSAC) project was noted as considering the science and the use and communication of science in the consenting process. It was outlined that the CTG project is looking at process and the project needs to consider advice forthcoming from the SSAC fully. The group should seek to follow process and identification of the issues first, to inform what needs to be looked at further. 

Item 3 – Site Selection

There was agreement to the first workshop focussing on Highland. 

The sector reflected on the different examples put forward and their reasoning. This resulted in a discussion on the aims of the project and what was within scope. 

It was outlined that this initial stage is considering consenting of farms which go through the full application process, focussed on pre-app as described in the regulatory review report, but that the project had been expanded to include alignment and streamlining across all application processes because it was felt there was more that could be done rapidly to align these processes. 

A fish farm expansion, a new site and a straightforward example had been suggested first. 

This discussion reflected the complexity of different areas of the consenting system which could be subject to improvement – with a Permitted Development Rights and the removal of a condition from planning being raised as examples. 

There was agreement that the project should focus on those which have an application process and consultation, but that clearly there were other areas where processes could be improved – and that these could be considered for inclusion at later stages. 

There was agreement not to duplicate examples and to the importance of looking at individual local authority areas. There was agreement that it was sensible to focus on Loch Hourn, Organic Sea Harvest Skye, Aird and Strome as a start and at the first workshop. 

There was agreement to a full day-in person workshop and there was an offer from the sector to assist with costs if required. 

ACTION: SG officials to take forward planning for the Stage 1 workshop in March.

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