6 Reasons for Classifying the Proposed Special Protection Areas as adopted
6.1.1 The 2005 Act requires that the Scottish Government identify, describe and evaluate the likely significant effects on the environment of any reasonable alternatives to the plan or programme, taking into account its objectives and geographical scope.
6.1.2 Following the comments made by respondents to the 2018 Environmental Report, Marine Scotland developed a revised and expanded set of reasonable alternatives that are described in more detail in the 2019 Updated Environmental Report. In summary these were:
- SEA Reasonable Alternative 1 - classify all pSPAs with all species that regularly occur in qualifying numbers and at the same time identify additional conservation measures, including priority marine feature status for some species to further enhance conservation benefits for species;
- SEA Reasonable Alternative 2 - classify all pSPAs with all species that regularly occur in qualifying numbers;
- SEA Reasonable Alternative 3 – classify all pSPAs, removing the qualifying status of specified migratory species from relevant pSPAs and removing the qualifying status of breeding red-throated diver from neighbouring marine pSPAs; and
- SEA Reasonable Alternative 4 - classify all pSPAs, removing the qualifying status of specified migratory species from relevant pSPAs, removing the qualifying status of breeding red-throated diver from neighbouring marine pSPAs and reducing replication in the Scottish network for species already well represented in the existing UK marine SPA network and where the majority of their population is not in Scotland.
6.1.3 Marine Scotland also considered classifying either one or two SPAs in Orkney Waters:
- Option 1: Classify Orkney Inshore Waters pSPA; and
- Option 2: Classify North Orkney pSPA and Scapa Flow pSPA.
6.1.4 The potential environmental effects associated with the four new Reasonable Alternatives and both Options 1 and 2 were identified and set out in detail in the 2019 Updated Environmental report. In summary, where the SEA Reasonable Alternatives offer increased protection, either through additional conservation measures, a higher number of qualifying features and/or a greater spatial extent and/or a greater spatial extent, these have the potential to provide additional environmental benefits compared to the preferred policy recommendation. Where the SEA Reasonable Alternatives provide the same level of protection as the preferred policy recommendation, there would be no change in the potential environmental benefits. Where the SEA Reasonable Alternatives result in the site not being classified or a reduced number of qualifying features being protected compared to the preferred policy recommendation, this would result in the potential for reduced environmental benefits compared to the baseline situation.
6.1.5 Following the supplementary consultation on the 2019 Updated Environmental Report, 12 of the pSPAs were classified on 3 December 2020 as per the preferred policy recommendation on the classification of the pSPAs in light of Final Advice to Scottish Ministers from NatureScot and JNCC.
6.1.6 Following further engagement with Orkney Islands Council on their objections to the proposals, Option 2 to classify North Orkney pSPA and Scapa Flow pSPA was taken forward and were classified on 16 February 2022.
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