EU Exit: marine environmental legislation in Scotland

Explains the changes made to marine legislation to ensure that the law remains operable and effective from 1 January 2021

Marine Strategy Regulations

Scotland has worked with the UK governments on amendments which have been made to the Marine Strategy Regulations 2010,[27] [28] which transpose the requirements of the EU's Marine Strategy Framework Directive[29] into domestic law, so that they continue to be effective now that the UK is no longer part of the EU.

Further information

The Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) requires the UK to put in place measures to achieve or maintain good environmental status (GES) in the marine environment by 2020. The MSFD is transposed for the whole of the UK by the Marine Strategy Regulations 2010, providing a UK-wide framework for meeting the requirements of the Directive. As a member of the EU, the UK was required to collaborate with other Member States in the north east Atlantic, to monitor, assess and report progress towards GES; and to implement a programme of measures to achieve or maintain GES targets.

The UK is continuing to work towards achieving GES by 2020. The existing UK-wide framework has been maintained to allow for consistent marine environmental monitoring and standards across the UK. The UK will also continue to develop its marine strategy with other countries in the north east Atlantic, through the OSPAR Convention. To ensure this can happen, technical amendments were needed to legislation implementing the requirements of the MSFD, so that it continues to work in the same way after EU exit.

  • Requirements to notify and report to the European Commission have been removed, and amendments made to provisions relating to public participation, to ensure standards of consultation are maintained when any changes are made to elements of the marine strategy. This includes consultation with the OSPAR Commission.
  • The Marine Strategy Regulations 2010 still contain references to the MSFD. Where the provisions of the Directives being referred to contain references that do not make sense for the purposes of the Marine Strategy Regulations now that the UK is no longer a Member State, the amendments set out how the provisions are to be read in order for it to make sense. For example, references to "Member States" in certain provisions of the Marine Strategy Regulations are to be read as if the UK were a Member State.

Use of existing guidance documents

There is a large body of existing EU-derived guidance documents, designed to aid interpretation and effective implementation of EU environmental requirements.

This includes guidance from Scottish Ministers, Scottish Natural Heritage, the UK Government (in relation to offshore waters and reserved matters), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee and the European Commission.

In the longer term, guidance may be updated and/or new guidance may be produced, for example to replace guidance by the European Commission. However, in the shorter term existing guidance continues to apply and should still be used.

Although existing guidance should still be used, users will need to read it differently in places. Some examples include:

  • References to the role of the European Commission. These functions have been transferred to appropriate UK authorities and bodies in amending legislation, so users will need to keep this in mind when reading guidance documents.
  • The UK is no longer an EU Member State, so in most cases, depending on the context within the guidance, you will need to read references to 'Member States' as though this includes the UK. Where documents refer to 'other Member States', this now just means EU Member States.
  • Where guidance refers to 'Natura 2000', these sites are now part of a UK-wide site network.[30] This includes Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) designated before EU exit, and any designated after EU exit. The terms SAC, SPA and European site are still being used.

A more comprehensive interpretation guide is available in Annex 1.

Links to some commonly used guidance documents are provided in Annex 2. This is not an exhaustive list.



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