National Marine Plan Review 2018: three-year report

Scotland's National Marine Plan was adopted and published in March 2015. This is the first review of its implementation.

Overview Of The Scottish National Marine Plan

Legislative background

Marine planning in Scotland’s inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12 to 200 nautical miles) is governed by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, an Act of the Scottish Parliament and by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, an Act of the UK Parliament, respectively. The two Acts (referred to as the Marine Acts) establish a legislative framework for marine planning to enable demands on marine resources to be managed in a sustainable way across all of Scotland’s seas (Figure 1).

Scotland’s first statutory marine plan, the National Marine Plan (the Plan), was adopted and published in March 2015. The policies and objectives of the Plan establish how Scottish Ministers intend marine resources to be used and managed. The Plan supports development and activity in Scotland’s seas while incorporating environmental protection into marine decision making to achieve sustainable management of marine resources. The policies and objectives of the Plan will also be reflected in the development of Regional Marine Plans ( RMPs).

RMPs will be developed by Marine Planning Partnerships ( MPPs) and will implement national policies at a regional level, taking account of local circumstances and issues. At the time of publication of this report, two MPPs have been established within Scottish Marine Regions although no regional marine plans have been adopted. Regional marine planning will be progressed further as other MPPs are established in due course.

The Marine Acts require that public authorities must take authorisation or enforcement decisions in accordance with the Plan unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise. They must have regard to the Plan in taking decisions which do not relate to authorisation or enforcement and which are capable of affecting the marine area. This applies to Marine Scotland and wider Scottish Government, MPPs, Local Authorities and other public authorities including statutory advisors, regulators and agencies.

National Marine Plan

Our vision for the marine environment is for clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas, managed to meet the long terms needs of nature and people. The Plan contributes to delivery of this vision, as well as the High Level Marine Objectives ( HLMOs), which are adopted by all UK Administrations and are published within the Marine Policy Statement ( MPS). The adoption of the HLMOs as the strategic objectives for the Plan, reflect the commitment to the five guiding principles of sustainability, around which the HLMOs and policies of the Plan are organised.

The Plan specifies a core set of General Policies which apply to all plan making and decision making in the marine environment. These apply to all existing and future use and development of the marine environment and are supplemented by sector policies which address specific issues beyond those set out in the General Policies.

Figure 1: Scottish Marine Plan Area

Figure 1: Scottish Marine Plan Area

Requirement for monitoring of and review of marine plans

Section 16(2) of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 requires Scottish Ministers to keep under review and publish a report on:

a) the effects of the policies in the plan,

b) the effectiveness of the policies in securing that the objectives for which the plan was prepared and adopted are met,

c) the progress being made towards securing the objectives,

d) the progress being made towards securing that the objectives in the regional marine plan secure the objectives in the national marine plan.

Section 61(3) of the UK’s Marine and Coastal Access Act requires a) to c) above and also

d) if a MPS governs marine planning for the marine plan authority’s region, the progress being made towards securing that the objectives for which the MPS was prepared and adopted are met in that region.

At this time no regional marine plan has been adopted. Therefore, this review will exclude requirement 16(2)d of the Marine (Scotland) Act.

The Marine Acts dictate different timescales for review. For inshore waters out to 12 nautical miles, the Marine (Scotland) Act requires that the first report must be published within five years of adoption, after which successive reports must be published at interval of no more than five years. For offshore waters (12 to 200 nautical miles) the Marine and Coastal Access Act requires reporting within three years of the first Plan and within three years of successive reports thereafter.

In order to satisfy the requirements of both Acts and to ensure lessons are learned in the early stages of marine planning in Scotland, Scottish Ministers stated that the initial review of the Plan would take place within three years of adoption. This report fulfils that commitment.

The approach to monitoring and review of the Plan Review of the Plan at this relatively early stage of marine planning implementation in Scotland provides useful insight as to how the Plan is being used and how it is influencing decision making. It has therefore been conducted to provide an overview of issues and effectiveness to inform future iterations of The Plan as opposed to a detailed account of each policy.

The document entitled National Marine Plan – Monitoring and Reporting, published in 2016 by Marine Scotland provides an outline of the proposed approach to the review of the Plan and provides the basis for this report. It identified that in addition to the requirements of the Marine Acts in relation to review, there are other areas which are helpful in building a wider picture of whether the Plan is still relevant and whether it is being implemented effectively.

The document stated that the review would consist of:

  • Monitoring implementation of the Plan and its policies through recording and feedback by Marine Scotland Marine Licensing Operations Team ( MS LOT) and other public authorities,
  • Qualitative assessment of implementation and effectiveness of policies through engagement with public authorities and wider stakeholders to determine the success of policies, identify policies for which revision may be required in future, identify barriers to successful implementation, and identify areas of the Plan where change would be beneficial,
  • Consideration of existing monitoring programmes and other available data and statistical information for relevance to Plan objectives, and evaluate which of these may provide evidence on effectiveness of policies,
  • Consideration of the extent identified effectiveness of policies can be attributed to the Plan and which other factors may be exerting influence.

To take this forward, the review process consisted of two main work areas. Firstly, existing data monitoring programmes and other data sources were considered for their relevance to informing the effectiveness of policies and progress towards objectives.

Secondly, a questionnaire was developed upon which engagement with relevant sectors, public authorities and marine interests was based. The questionnaire was used to explore implementation and to gain qualitative, and in some cases quantitative, information on which policies were useful or otherwise. The questions focused on

  • implementation of the Plan, and barriers to effective implementation,
  • monitoring use of the Plan in order to identify information sources to help evaluate effectiveness,
  • effectiveness of the Plan, its policies and how the policies contribute to delivering Plan objectives,
  • what activities or uses of the marine area are emerging which may not be adequately covered by the current Plan,
  • what factors may influence marine planning policy, or the timing of the next iteration of the Plan.

The targeted questionnaire was available online for 6 weeks and sent to all Local Authorities with a marine border, relevant regulators and advisors, key marine sectors, industries and Non-Governmental Organisations ( NGO). It formed the basis for interviews with a number of organisations and Marine Scotland departments including MS LOT. It also informed the structure for a multi-stakeholder workshop hosted by the Scottish Coastal Forum ( SCF) to help gather feedback for the review.

Details of the questionnaire and the feedback gathered through the process can be found in the Report of the Scottish Coastal Forum’s National Marine Plan Review Workshop, 2018 and the National Marine Plan Review 2018: Survey Analysis Report Information gathered from these areas of work collectively provides the evidence base for the content of this report. The detail they provide will be revisited as issues informing future plans are considered further.


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