9.1.1 At its initiation, several alternative focuses of the proposed SPS were considered. These broad and high-level scenarios were based around the different sectors within the seaweed industry, and a fourth based around an industry-lead scenario under the current regulatory framework.
9.1.2 The consideration of taking a 'hands-off' approach in preference to development of the proposed SPS was made at the initiation stage, and involved evaluating the very need for a policy statement. This assessment identified that the industry itself would remain a key driver of growth regardless of the development of an SPS. However, it was also considered that taking a 'hands off' approach was not likely to engage with industry, nor would it address the objectives of encouraging the industry or inform potential developers of the Scottish Government's expectations for applications ( i.e. sustainable development and the importance of identifying and mitigating any potential environmental impacts). It found that this option may miss the opportunity to pro-actively manage the growth of the industry and any associated potential environmental effects.
9.1.3 Much like the assessment itself, consideration of these alternative scenarios found that while there was some commonality, each sector brought its own positives and negatives. The main commonality was the key theme of sustainable development in industry growth being a shared thread across each of the sectoral scenarios. However, the consideration of these alternatives found that narrowing the focus towards one sector would likely miss the realisation of potential benefits associated with the other sectors. For example, focusing the SPS and its Consultation Document on large-scale seaweed cultivation would likely miss opportunities to expand IMTA and realise the potential benefits that it may provide. Similarly, an opportunity to explore future options for growing the existing industry based around commercial harvesting in the wild would also be missed.
9.1.4 The timescales associated with each scenario were also considered. The first scenario was considered likely to be a long-term possibility, with a high degree of uncertainty over realisation. The SEA baseline assessment identified that the alternatives based around focusing on IMTA or commercial harvesting in the wild were more aligned to short-term realisation, with these industries either already in operation or in the process of being trialled. As such, these alternatives were considered to be more immediate, and this lead to the adoption of a staged approach in the development of the SPS.
9.1.5 Consideration was given to inclusion of personal harvesting of seaweed in the wild ( i.e. picking) and gathering of beach or rock-cast weed in the SPS development process. However, as this practice is considered to be smaller in scale and largely undertaken on an ad hoc basis, it is considered unlikely to result in significant environmental effects. Further, the alternatives assessment found that the inclusion of these practices was unlikely to be manageable at present.
Other Options for Consideration
9.1.6 The consideration of broad options as provisions in the Consultation Document was also undertaken during the SPS development process. The first option involved the consideration of the value of introducing spatial elements into the SPS, specifically spatial limitations on industry development and 'no-go' areas. Benefits in mitigating the potential for significant adverse impacts to marine biodiversity that were identified in the SEA were acknowledged; although it was also considered that insufficient information on these possible impacts is available at present. Spatial elements relating to the potential for siting issues and competition for space are likely to be important for the medium to extensive-scale cultivation of seaweed, and the SPS will need to be updated to review this once more information becomes available. Spatial considerations have been included in the SEA ( Section 7.2).
9.1.7 The management of industry growth at lower level PPS was also considered. The SEA identified the site-specific nature of the potential impacts of seaweed cultivation and commercial wild harvesting operations, and it found that many of the environmental issues identified may potentially be managed at the project planning and design level. The potential for a role for addressing these operations at the Regional Marine Planning level was also identified.
9.1.8 It was considered that at present, many of the issues identified in this SEA would likely be addressed under the existing regulatory framework ( i.e. Crown Estate lease and Marine Licensing approvals). Given the high-level focus of the proposed SPS and its Consultation Document, these spatial and site-specific aspects were not considered suitable for inclusion at the present time. However, in accordance with the staged approach to industry growth set out in the Consultation Document, these options have been noted for future consideration.