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.

Moving Forward

The review process offered an opportunity to look to the future and consider what may influence marine planning in the short and long term, and what may influence the timing of a future plan. Influences may be legal, political or otherwise, or could include changes to the use of the marine area over time.

Engagement with the process by a wide range of statutory and non-statutory interests indicated there is widespread agreement that we are currently in a state of considerable change and uncertainty. Several emerging factors were identified which need either to be considered within marine planning, or which would significantly influence policy development or the timing of future plan development.

Legislation & Policy

UK Departure from the European Union

The UK’s departure from the EU was the most frequency cited influence on content and timing of the next Plan during the review process.

Marine planning in Scotland is provided for by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine Coastal and Access Act 2009 and these will continue to provide the legislative framework following exit from the EU. However, there will be implications for the Plan, for example with the UK’s withdrawal from the Common Fisheries Policy ( CFP). The removal of the CFP would mean that Scotland can redesign how its fisheries are managed in the future. Changes to the way that other sectors operate in Scotland’s seas may also arise. How marine planning policy responds to such changes and the extent to which future marine plans are influenced by EU legislation will ultimately depend on the UK’s future relationship with the EU.

It is also important to bear in mind that many of the requirements set out in EU legislation reflect international commitments that the UK has made. As a result, any future marine plans for Scotland will need to be compatible with relevant international commitments.

Examples of such commitments include:

  • Convention on Biological Diversity and the OSPAR Convention which include commitments to establish an ecologically coherent network of well-managed MPAs.
  • Bern Convention which includes commitments to maintain or restore a range of marine habitats and species to Favourable Conservation Status.
  • Bonn Convention in which the contracting parties committed to working together to conserve migratory species and their habitats by providing strict protection for endangered migratory species (listed in Appendix I of the Convention)

In conclusion, only when full details of the UK’s future relationship with the EU are known, will it be possible to do an effective assessment of the impact on areas of the Plan and determine what changes to the Plan are needed.

Other legislative provisions

Other key developments to legal frameworks which are likely to impact on marine plans and the marine planning framework in general were noted to include the reform of Crown Estate assets through the Scottish Crown Estate Bill, the Islands (Scotland) Bill, the Community Empowerment Act 2015 and the Planning (Scotland) Bill. Once enacted, any relevant provisions within, or outcomes arising from, these legislative instruments will need to considered in relation to marine planning and reflected in any future marine plans.

Policies & Strategies

It can be expected that other Scottish Government policies, strategies and plans will emerge following the adoption of a Plan in response to arising issues. Some of these were highlighted in the review process as having implications for marine planning. Some such initiatives include Scotland’s first Energy Strategy which sets out the Scottish Government’s vision for the future energy system in Scotland and the forthcoming Final Climate Change Plan, which will sit alongside the Energy Strategy, and provide the framework for the transition to a low carbon Scotland. These provide examples of emerging policy which the current Plan will be applied alongside. Marine planning takes an adaptive approach to marine management, meaning that emerging information will be taken into account in decision making and will also influence future iterations of policy. Using the examples of emerging energy and climate change policy, it can be expected that iterations of marine plans, both national and regional, will respond in terms of consideration of future development of offshore wind energy and facilitating progression towards climate change targets.

Supporting Marine Spatial Planning Initiatives

Sectoral Initiatives

In addition to legislative and policy developments, the review process flagged a number of emerging activities for which work is already underway to inform future marine plans at both national and regional level. These include:

Seaweed cultivation and harvesting. In 2017 Marine Scotland published a cultivated seaweed policy statement to help facilitate development of the emerging farmed seaweed sector, initially as part of small scale integrated multitrophic aquaculture pilots. In terms of wild seaweed harvesting, some small scale activity occurs around the Scottish coast, and the feasibility of large scale harvesting is being considered by industry. Marine Scotland has consulted on a draft Strategic Environmental Assessment to assess the potential environmental effects of harvesting wild seaweeds and seagrasses. Highlands and Islands Enterprise have contracted research to consider the potential of seaweed harvesting as a diversification opportunity for fishermen. This aims to deliver a report that provides: guidance on mapping and location of seaweed for harvesting; guidance on the harvesting of seaweed and; Marine Licence scoping and economic feasibility of seaweed harvesting. It is expected to report early in 2018. The findings will help inform how the sector develops and how this can be facilitated and managed through marine planning going forward.

Decommissioning. Decommissioning responsibilities and powers for offshore renewable energy installations in Scottish Waters and Scottish parts of the Renewable Energy Zone transferred from the UK Government to Scottish Ministers in April 2017. Work to review current decommissioning procedures for offshore wind and small scale offshore renewables will help to inform new policy guidance, which will be produced later this year. The guidance will cover what Scottish Ministers will expect from decommissioning plans for offshore renewable energy developments.

Offshore wind energy: In November 2017, Crown Estate Scotland announced a further leasing round for offshore wind energy around Scotland. As noted above, the Scottish Energy Strategy, published in December 2017, outlined the key role offshore wind energy will play in the future development of the Scottish Energy sector. In response, Marine Scotland will undertake a sectoral marine planning exercise in order to identify Plan Option areas considered to be the preferred strategic locations for the sustainable development of offshore wind. This provides the opportunity for Scottish Ministers to review the Plan Options (included within the National Marine Plan) for conventional offshore wind technologies in light of locational requirements and possibilities emerging as a result of deep water wind technologies. The result will be a new Plan for Offshore Wind Energy which will enable consideration of strategic marine grid options.

Marine and coastal tourism: Aspects of marine and coastal tourism, highlighted in the review process as emerging or changing, will be given consideration within the context of how marine planning can facilitate change, encourage investment and help manage impacts to ensure environmental sustainability and sustainable economic development within communities. Work has already been undertaken to address data knowledge gaps identified through the development of the Plan. The Scottish Marine Recreation and Tourism Survey 2015 was designed to gather information for 23 different recreation and tourism activities undertaken at sea or around the Scottish coastline and to provide baseline information – not only for marine planning purposes but also to examine areas for potential investment to expand the visitor economy.

Marine litter and non-native invasive species: The management challenges posed by the increasing threat of INNS as well as prevailing societal recognition of the impacts of litter on our marine and coastal environment indicate a need to revisit policies in relation to these areas. In both cases, improved understanding of impacts on the natural environment and economy requires a role for marine planning and the related assessment processes.

European Marine Spatial Planning Projects

Marine Scotland is currently participating in a number of EU funded projects focusing on improving knowledge and best practice around marine spatial planning. These include SIMCelt (Support Implementation of Maritime Spatial Planning in the Celtic Seas), MUSES (Multi-Use in European Seas) and NorthSEE (A North Sea Perspective on Shipping, Energy and Environmental Aspects in Maritime Spatial Planning) The conclusions and outcomes of the work packages associated with these projects will be considered in future marine planning initiatives to ensure the most relevant and up-to-date processes and practises are integrated appropriately.

Next steps

In accordance with the Marine Acts, Scottish Ministers will consider this review report and determine whether or not to replace or amend the Plan.

In any event, the issues raised in this report, and the further detail contained within the Scottish Report of The Scottish Coastal Forum’s National Marine Plan Review Workshop, 2018 and the ‘National Marine Plan Review 2018: Survey Analysis Report’ will be considered in detail to develop a work programme which will inform future national or regional Plans and also research and assessment programmes.

Some of the issues raised in this report which merit further investigation include:

Implementation of the Plan: Feedback received from public authorities regarding their use of the Plan illustrates the Plan is used for a wide range of purposes, many of which extend beyond informing authorisation decisions and the development of statutory plans. However the evidence suggests that there are some areas of statutory function to which the Plan is not being addressed, or if it is, without consistency. The extent of this is difficult to assess based on the limited number of responses to the review questionnaire from Local Authorities for example. There will be therefore be merit in taking forward further engagement with authorities to raise awareness of statutory obligations, better understand the challenges and barriers to implementation, and consider what mechanisms and support can be offered to ultimately ensure the Plan is implemented more effectively.

Effectiveness of the Plan: Feedback suggests that voluntary measures may not be sufficient, or regulatory mechanisms not available, to effectively implement some policies in the Plan. An assessment of Plan policies in terms of whether they rely on voluntary measures or whether a regulatory mechanism exists to implement them could provide a useful analysis of the how likely it is for a policy to deliver an outcome.

Use of information available from data monitoring and other information sources: The review period of 3 years from adoption of the Plan was suggested by some to be too short to allow for its effects to be fully considered. A review of data sources for their relevance to determining effectiveness of the Plan’s policies and how objectives are being met indicated that while this is limited at the current time, data and information will soon become available. This includes MSFD monitoring and assessments, the development of a marine socio-economic evidence base for monitoring and reporting on the Plan and ongoing outputs of UKMMAS.

Implications of withdrawal of the UK from the EU on the Plan: The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 provide the framework for marine planning in Scotland and this will continue following withdrawal from the EU. However as further detail on the UK’s future relationship with the EU emerges, the implications for the Plan will be further assessed to inform both the development and timing of future marine plans.

Implications of new legal frameworks: Emerging legislation and frameworks which could impact on the Plan and the marine planning framework were noted to include the reform of Crown Estate assets through the Scottish Crown Estate Bill, the Islands (Scotland) Bill, the Community Empowerment Act 2015 and the Planning (Scotland) Bill. Once enacted, any relevant provisions within or outcomes arising from these legislative instruments will be considered in terms of how they influence marine planning, related policy and licensing frameworks.

Emerging policies and activity: Feedback received highlighted a number of areas of emerging activity, strategies and policy areas which will influence future Plan policy and content. The Plan recognises that characteristics and use of the marine environment will change over time and that an adaptive approach to decision and plan making will be required for marine plans to remain relevant (General Policy 20). Some of the matters raised provide a basis against which the adaptability of the Plan could be considered. How effective the General Policies are to informing decisions on emerging activities could also be considered as more detail about the nature of the activities transpires.

Marine planning initiatives: A number of spatial planning initiatives are underway which aim to improve knowledge and best practice on marine planning. The outputs of these will be considered in terms of how they will influence future Plan iterations and planning practices.


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