National Marine Plan: Sustainability Appraisal Report

This report summarises the findings from a Sustainability Appraisal (SA) of the draft National Marine Plan (NMP). SA of the draft plan is required by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. The SA has considered the potential social, economic and enviro

4.0 Assessment Methodology

4.1 This section describes how the SA was undertaken, and sets out:

  • the scope of the draft plan and the topics assessed;
  • the SA objectives; and
  • the assessment of reasonable alternatives.

Scope of the draft plan to be assessed

4.2 As noted in Section 2, the draft NMP contains:

  • the vision for the draft plan, set out in Marine Scotland's marine vision and agreed at the UK level;
  • the objectives for the draft plan, based on: the Scottish Government's national objectives; the High Level Marine Objectives; the criteria for 'good environmental status' under the MSFD; and the climate change objectives set out in the relevant legislation;
  • sector-specific objectives; and
  • policies.

4.3 The vision for the draft plan and its outcomes was agreed with the four UK administrations in 2002 [85] and is not open for change through this draft NMP. It has therefore been scoped out of the SA, with the agreement of the Consultation Authorities.

4.4 Likewise, the key objectives set out in Chapter 3 of the draft plan have been either agreed amongst the four UK administrations or agreed by Scottish Ministers, and thus are also outwith the scope of the SA. Again, this has been agreed with the Consultation Authorities.

4.5 The SA has focussed on the assessment of the sector-specific objectives and the general and sector-specific policies.

4.6 The sectoral plans for wind, wave and tidal energy are also subject to SA, and are outwith the scope of the SA of the draft NMP. The future Regional Marine Plans will also be subject to a separate SA/ SEA process.

Scope of the topic areas to be assessed

4.7 The scope of the SA is necessarily broad, and covers economic, social/ community and environmental interests. In addition, the initial review of the plan's scope, during the scoping exercise, suggested that effects on any specific SEA topic area could not be entirely ruled out and the Consultation Authorities agreed. Accordingly, all environmental topics identified in the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 have been scoped into the SA.

Approach to the assessment

4.8 This is a strategic level assessment of a high-level policy framework. The approach to the assessment reflects the broad and strategic nature of the NMP.

4.9 The policies and sector-specific objectives have been evaluated against SA objectives. As proposed at the scoping stage, a matrix was used for the detailed appraisal, using the SA objectives and a standard assessment marking system. A commentary has been provided to explain the assessment conclusions.

4.10 Table 3 sets out the SA objectives, which were developed on the basis of the scope of the SA, the environmental protection objectives ( Section 2 and Appendix 2) and the initial review of the existing environment ( Section 3). They take the form of key questions.

Assessment of alternatives

4.11 As noted in Section 2, alternative approaches to the preparation of the draft NMP were considered at the start of and during the marine planning process. These have been grouped into three tiers of alternative:

  • Do nothing
  • Use of alternative approaches:
    • A high level strategic plan. This is the preferred option.
    • A high level spatial plan.
  • Use of alternative priorities
    • An economically-focused plan
    • An environmentally-focused plan

4.12 Workshops were held with the Consultation Authorities and key stakeholders in 2011 to discuss the application of alternative priorities, to see what a plan would look like when developed under the different policy drivers. The alternatives workshops took a strategic view of the impact of taking forward an environmentally-focused or economically-focused plan. The workshop exercise found the following:

  • A predominantly economic focus would result in environmental damage which would reduce the future economic potential of a particular sector and/or of other sectors.
  • A predominantly environmental focus would constrain the economic development of some sectors.
  • The middle ground (Marine Scotland's preferred option) would ensure the necessary protection of the environment to ensure sustainable economic growth.

4.13 Further detail is provided in Section 5 of this report.

Table 3. National Marine Plan: Sustainability Appraisal Objectives

Will the draft Plan …

Relevant SA topic


Support the development of a sustainable marine economy?



Contribute to the growth of any marine industry without detriment to another?


Safeguard and/or create jobs that support new or existing communities?


Remove or avoid barriers to new marine enterprise opportunities? [86]


Maintain or improve the accessibility and connectivity of remote island and coastal communities?

Communities, Population and Human Health


Promote access to the coastal and marine resource for tourism and recreation?


Contribute to the resilience and cohesion of coastal and island communities?


Avoid disturbance of key species as a result of marine activities?

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna


Safeguard marine and coastal ecosystems and their interactions? [87]


Avoid pollution of the coastal and marine water environment?



Maintain and/or improve the ecological status of Scottish waters?


Avoid adversely impacting on air quality, with particular regard to known existing concentrations of transport and industrial related pollution close to the coast?



Reduce greenhouse gas emissions from vessels and other marine activities?

Climatic Factors


Contribute to adaptation to climate change?


Improve understanding and knowledge about the marine historic environment?

Cultural Heritage


Protect the site and setting of marine and coastal historic environment features?


Ensure that the value and special qualities of designated landscapes is protected?




Recognise and respect the value of wider (non-designated) landscapes and seascapes?


Encourage sectors to take into account the relative sensitivities of different seascapes?


Avoid exacerbating coastal erosion?

Marine geology and coastal processes


Maintain the integrity of coastal processes?


Maintain and protect the character and integrity of the seabed?

Approach to mitigation

4.14 An initial review of the uses of and activities in the marine environment was undertaken to identify the potential effects on economic, social, community and environmental interests. This information was then used to develop the cross-cutting policies in Chapter 4 of the draft NMP.

4.15 Avoidance or reduction of adverse effects has been built into the draft NMP, through inclusion of the cross-cutting policies. These set an overarching framework that applies to all planning and decision-making activities in the marine environment. The wide-ranging nature of these cross-cutting policies (sustainable economic growth, sustainable development, factors for consideration in decision-making - social, community, economic, environmental - as well as requirements for early engagement) means that they will act as balancing measures across the whole policy framework. Thus policies focused on development will be balanced by policies about communities or environment. Development proposals, for example, will need to be progressed and assessed in the context of this balanced policy framework.

4.16 Much will depend on the implementation of the cross-cutting and sectoral policies, and the regional marine planning system will have a crucial role to play in this regard, as will marine licensing and town and country planning.

4.17 These cross-cutting policies are summarised in Table 4.

Table 4. Summary of Cross-Cutting Policies


Policy Number

Policy Text



There is a presumption in favour of sustainable development and use of the marine environment when consistent with the policies and objectives of this Plan.



Sustainable developments and marine activities which provide economic benefit to Scottish communities are encouraged when consistent with the objectives and policies of the Plan.



Sustainable developments and marine activities which provide social benefits are encouraged when consistent with the objectives and policies of the Plan.



Community impact - Government, planning authorities and stakeholders should consider the need for Scenario Mapping where there is potential for development to impact on communities.



Development proposals which enable multiple uses of marine space are encouraged where possible in planning and decision-making processes, when consistent with policies and objectives of the Plan.



Through integration of marine and terrestrial development plans, planning authorities should seek to facilitate appropriate access to the shore and sea and support marine and land-based components required by development and activities. <applies to inshore waters only>



Integration and compliance with other statutory plans, such as River Basin Management Plans, should also be undertaken; planners should take into account the objectives and policies of relevant non-statutory plans where appropriate to do so. <applies to inshore waters only>



All marine interests will be treated with fairness and transparency when decisions are being made in the marine environment.



Early and effective engagement should be undertaken with the general public and all interested stakeholders in planning and consenting processes.

Using Sound Evidence

GEN 10

Decision-making in the marine environment will be based on a sound evidence base as far as possible. Where evidence is inconclusive, reasonable efforts should be made to fill evidence gaps. Decision makers may also need to apply precaution within an overall risk-based approach.

Good Environmental Status

GEN 11

Development in, and use of, the marine environment must take account of the achievement or maintenance of Good Environmental Status ( GES) for UK waters as it develops under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

Nature conservation, biodiversity, and geodiversity

GEN 12

Marine planning and decision-making authorities should ensure that development and use of the marine environment complies with legal requirements for protected areas and protected species and does not result in a significant adverse effect on the national conservation status of other habitats or populations of species of conservation concern.

Historic Environment

GEN 13

Marine planning and decision-making authorities should aim to protect and, where appropriate enhance, heritage assets in a manner proportionate to their significance when progressing development and use of the marine environment.

Landscape/ seascape

GEN 14

Marine planning and decision-making authorities should ensure that development and use of the marine environment take seascape, landscape and visual impacts into account.

Air Quality

GEN 15

Marine planning and decision-making authorities should consider air quality issues, especially relevant statutory air quality limits, when progressing development and use of the marine environment.


GEN 16

Marine planning and decision-making authorities should consider man-made noise sources, especially their effects on sensitive species [88] , in the marine area, when progressing development and use of the marine environment.

Coastal processes and flooding

GEN 17

Developments and activities in the marine environment should be resilient to coastal change and flooding, and not adversely impact coastal processes.

Water quality and resource

GEN 18

Developments and activities should not result in a deterioration of the quality of water to which the Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive or other related directives apply.

Climate Change

GEN 19

Developers and users of the marine environment should seek to minimise emissions of greenhouse gases. Marine planning should seek to increase resilience of the marine environment to climate change impacts by reducing human pressure, safeguarding significant examples of natural carbon sinks and allowing natural coastal change where possible.

Developments and activities should have regard to possible future climate conditions particularly giving consideration to the vulnerability, scale and longevity of their operations.


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