3 Integration of Environmental Considerations
3.1.1 This section explains how key environmental considerations were identified and how these were taken into account in the plan to classify additional SPAs in the Scottish marine environment.
3.1.2 In addition to being legal requirements under the Birds Directive, marine SPAs are examples of MPAs in Scotland, others are Special Areas of Conservation (SACs), Ramsar Sites, Nature Conservation MPAs, Demonstration and Research MPAs, Historic MPAs, and Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The overall MPA network is intended to help protect nationally and internationally important marine wildlife, habitats, and underwater geodiversity, while also benefiting the greater marine environment, coastal communities, marine industries, and recreational users. Environmental considerations are therefore integral to the development of MPAs.
3.1.3 Furthermore, MPAs are a key element of the Scottish Government's commitment to ensuring the sustainable management of the marine environment and balancing the competing interests of use and protection of the sea. They contribute to progress towards Good Environmental Status (GES) as set out by the Marine Strategy Regulations. They also form part of the OSPAR Convention network of protected sites found throughout the North East Atlantic Ocean. In addition, they aim to maintain and enhance biodiversity, which is a focus of the Habitats Regulations.
3.1.4 During the development of the plan to extend the MPA network, the Scottish Government drew on the Final Advice provided by NatureScot and JNCC which, based on the scientific evidence, selection process and public consultation identified sites and features which they considered essential for protection. In some cases, the pSPAs were additional to the current SPA network, while others were an extension of existing SPAs to include additional species and/or habitat.
3.1.5 The process of site selection is presented in the Overview document and the scientific case for each pSPA is summarised in its respective Site Selection Document. The Network Assessment undertaken by NatureScot in 2018 addresses appropriate levels of representation for each species in the Scottish MPA network. In addition, details on the data, analysis methods, and general species ecology and behaviour that underpin the selection process are provided in the JNCC Reports series, while JNCC generic documents provide non-technical supplementary advice. NatureScot and JNCC's Final Advice on the proposed network also include some recommended changes to the pSPAs based on substantive scientific objections raised during the 2018 consultation. The most notable change was the removal of the Pentland Firth pSPA from the plan based on objections with respect to the site selection process and boundary setting.
3.1.6 The pSPAs were selected in accordance with the 'UK SPA Selection Guidelines' and cover a range of species which use Scottish Waters:
- Inshore wintering waterfowl;
- Foraging areas for breeding terns;
- Foraging areas for breeding red-throated divers;
- Important areas for European shag; and
- Aggregations of seabirds.
3.1.7 Preference was given to areas that simultaneously satisfy several protection objectives (that is, 'hotspots'), rather than focusing on those that are used by only one or a few species.
3.1.8 The preparation of the Screening and Scoping Report and environmental baseline for the SEA ensured that environmental considerations were taken into account in the plan to classify marine pSPAs. Subsequent consultation with the SEA Consultation Authorities assisted in confirming key environmental issues for further consideration in the assessment stage.
3.1.9 The pSPAs were subject to environmental assessment in 2018 (2018 Environmental Report). In response to the consultation, Scottish Government undertook a supplementary consultation based upon a revised and expanded set of SEA Reasonable Alternatives. Scottish Government also took the opportunity to update the preferred policy recommendation in light of Final Advice to Scottish Ministers from NatureScot and JNCC. The revised and expanded set of reasonable alternatives, and updated preferred policy recommendation for the classification of pSPAs were subject to environmental assessment in 2019 (2019 Updated Environmental Report) with the results of the 2019 assessment informing their further development.
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