Communications regarding Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA): EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Information requested

“Please provide any communications which relate to decision making around the scrapping of Highly Protected Marine Areas, which was first announced in June 2023, and officially confirmed by the government in November.

Please ensure all types of communications are included – including Whatsapp – and please share any attachments, including briefing notes and meeting minutes.”


As the information you have requested is ‘environmental information’ for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the ‘public interest test’. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

Response to your request

The Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Net Zero and Just Transition announced in Parliament on 29 June 2023, her decision that the Scottish Government would no longer progress with the proposal as consulted on; to implement HPMAs across 10% of Scotland’s seas by 2026. As the decision making on this issue was at Ministerial level, we have interpreted your request to include communications involving the Cabinet Secretary, Ms McAllan, which relate to her decision.

I enclose a copy of most of the information you requested. Please refer to items 1 to 11 released to you.

While our aim is to provide information whenever possible, in this instance we are unable to provide some of the information you have requested because exceptions under regulation 10(4)(e) (internal communications) and regulation 11(2) (personal data of a third party) of the EIRs applies to that information. The reasons why these exceptions apply are explained in the Annex to this letter. Item 8 refers to the final version of the Parliamentary Statement which can be found here:

Item 9 has five attachments. The first attachment has been released to you as item 10. Links to the remaining 4 attachments can be found here:

(i) Analysis report on the responses to the consultation on Scottish Highly Protected Marine Areas(HPMAs) which ran from 12 December 2022 to 17 April 2023: Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs): consultation analysis - final report - (
(ii) Document presenting tables with findings from analysis of closed consultation questions: annex-1-full-tables.pdf (
(iii) Our response to the public consultation on the proposal to designate 10% of Scottish seas asHighly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) by 2026:
(iv) Letter to the Rural Affairs and Islands (RAI) Committee:

Links provided in (i), (iii) and (iv) above were already published by the date of your request. Under regulation 6(1)(b) of the EIRs, we do not have to give you information which is already publicly available and easily accessible to you in another form or format. If, however, you do not have internet access to obtain this information from the website(s) listed, then please contact me again and I will send you a paper copy.

The link provided in (ii) above has been published since the date of your request.

Additional information provided out with the scope of your EIR request

Under regulation 9 of the EIRs (our duty to provide advice and assistance) we are providing links to some additional publications which may be of interest to you on the outcome of the HPMA consultation:

About FOI

The Scottish Government is committed to publishing all information released in response to Freedom of Information requests. View all FOI responses at

EIR 202300387073 - Information Released - Annex
EIR 202300387073 - Information Released - Documents 1 to 11


Please quote the FOI reference
Central Enquiry Unit
Phone: 0300 244 4000

The Scottish Government
St Andrews House
Regent Road

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