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.

Emerging Activities

The General Policies of the Plan set out overarching environmental, social and economic policies which apply to all decisions regarding development and activity which may affect the marine area. Relevant interests were asked if they thought there are any emerging or new activities which would not be not adequately addressed by the general policies outlined in the Plan in the future, and which would require additional specific policies to ensure their sustainability.

Emerging activity

Activities raised by a number of stakeholders included wild seaweed harvesting/cultivation and decommissioning of infrastructure associated with oil and gas extraction and cables.

Emerging marine renewable energy technologies were also suggested as requiring specific planning policy in future plans.

Several aspects of marine tourism and recreation were raised as areas which would require additional management and planning for. While it is considered an increasingly important and diverse sector, it was noted that an increase in activity also brings associated infrastructure challenges, such as that necessary for larger cruise vessels. Dredging in navigation channels and provision of facilities to accommodate a significant influx of passengers may also be required. Although control of such cruise visits remain wholly under individual ports, there are already good examples of wider community co-operation dealing successfully with increased success in attracting passengers.

Shifts in tourism and recreation activity type were also highlighted, such as an increase in ‘swim with animal’ activities. It was also noted that the potential growth of wildlife tourism as an economic sector is dependent upon good quality environment/ecosystems both of which could be further protected by aspects of marine planning.

The question of whether the General Policies sufficiently address these emerging activities was not specifically addressed in the feedback received. How well the General Policies are at managing emerging activity is an important aspect of how effective and flexible the Plan is at accommodating change and remaining relevant. The activities and issues highlighted by the review process (both in this section and in Moving Forward) provide some good examples with which to consider the effectiveness of the General Policies in ensuring that emerging activities can be managed sustainably.

Future policy

As well as identifying emerging activities, stakeholders provided comment on what future Plan policies should deliver. Given its increasingly high profile, there was agreement that Marine litter should have a bigger focus in a future plan as should policies relating to invasive non-native species and improvement to biosecurity practices. There were also suggestions that a future Plan could have a chapter on general infrastructure associated with land/sea interactions including investment and integration of transport networks e.g. road, rail, ferries for passengers and freight, and improved connectivity, especially between islands.

In more general terms, the following were identified as deliverables of a future Plan:

  • clear benefits of the use of the marine area for local communities.
  • an ability to take account of the varying socio-economic impacts that a development/activity may have in different areas according to factors such as landscape.
  • enhanced flood risk management with a requirement to consider natural flood risk management, and coastal resilience and adaptation.
  • due consideration of well-being and quality of life.
  • recognition of the importance of partnership working between business, government, research and communities.
  • priority for ship to ship oil transfer to occur in ports.
  • management of current unregulated activity such as wild shellfish harvesting, and wild biota harvesting for commercial use.
  • greater focus on climate change and consequences for a wide range of coastal activities. These include accommodating and responding to higher tides, more dynamic coastal and marine regimes, increased storm surges, implications for flood risk management and increased costs of protection measures.

Work that is already underway to better inform future marine plans is explored in further detail in the concluding ‘Moving Forward’ section.


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