Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan: Consultation Analysis

This document analyses the results of a variety of consultation opportunities in relation to the development of the pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters marine spatial plan. This analysis will inform the next stage of the development of the marine spati

6. ICIT Heriot Watt Contribution

6.1 Background

6.1.1 This summary was provided by ICIT Heriot Watt University as part of their contribution to the Consultation Analysis. The information below is based on the Executive Summary of a report written to summarise the outcome of the workshops for the MESMA project.

6.1.2 The ICIT 'Future of Our Seas' workshop held in July 2013 is the fifth in a series of Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters ( PFOW) stakeholder workshops held under the aegis of the EU FP7 funded MESMA research programme (www.mesma.org). The first was held in 2009 and this is the final workshop for the MESMA programme which ends in October 2013.

6.1.3 The programme studied marine planning across thirteen European countries through thirteen case studies. Twenty one research institutions participated. ICIT focused on a case study of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters where Marine Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council are in the process of preparing Scotland's first regional marine spatial plan - a non-statutory pilot plan in advance of the roll out of the statutory programme (Marine (Scotland) Act 2010). Marine renewable energy in the form of wave and tide developments are the developmental focus of the PFOW plan.

6.2 Workshop Summary

6.2.1 The opportunity to join with Marine Scotland and the councils in a joint event was mutually beneficial in terms of access to stakeholders and funding. The ICIT event was held in the afternoons on two occasions: first, in Kirkwall on 1 st July and second, in Thurso on 4 th July. The workshops questions fell into three themes derived from previous workshop experience and research.

Theme 1: Can consultation work? To explore questions of public engagement and the efficacy of consultation;

Theme 2: Ownership and rights: To explore the public understanding of ownership and rights in the marine environment and the importance of the oceans and seas as a commons;

Theme 3: Community benefits: To explore public opinions and ideas for the sharing of revenues derived from economic development of the marine resources in the coastal waters close to where they live.

6.2.2 Just under 40 people attended each workshop drawn from a range of interests including government, business, academia, interested non-governmental organisations and the general public, including schools in the Thurso case. The daytime workshops were supplemented by evening public drop-in sessions attended by 24 people in Kirkwall and 30 in Thurso. Nearly 300 comments (293) were identified and analysed from the afternoon workshops and the drop-ins.

6.3 Theme 1 Can consultation work?

6.3.1 The first theme question asked if consultation could work. The view of participants is that it can work but that, in common with consultation in other sectors, it fails to engage with the public in general. Suggestions were made to better publicise consultation events and to take the consultation to people, in the street and in schools for example, rather than waiting for the public to come to one off events. There was a significant cynical view that everything is decided before the consultation takes place and that consultation views are not taken into account. A number of participants felt intimidated by what they saw as complex documents and the presence of well-informed professionals who left them feeling stupid. In summary better publicity, simpler documents, more direct contact with the public and evidence of consultation making a difference.

6.4 Theme 2 Ownership and rights

6.4.1 Theme 2 concerned 'ownership and rights' in the oceans and seas. Many participants were not aware of the legal and jurisdictional technicalities of marine rights which are not widely publicised and discussed. However, there were very clear and strong statements about the seas as a commons where everyone has rights which should be protected and valued. A widespread concern that national objectives would override local ones was expressed in this workshop which repeats similar concerns in the previous MESMA stakeholder workshops described above. Locally based governance and decision making powers for marine development permissions and benefits require a new public dialogue and debate.

6.5 Theme 3 Community Benefits

6.5.1 The final theme of 'community benefits' from marine developments produced another set of strong but realistic views. There was acknowledgement that the marine renewables industry is at an early and financially vulnerable stage; it is not cash rich like the oil industry of the 1970s. There were suggestions of what benefits might apply; cheap electricity locally for example or a share of energy revenues, but most repeated the concerns about local governance and control expressed in Theme 2. Some questions were philosophical like 'what is community?' and 'how local is local?' There was a plea for the 'special' way of life of island and peripheral coastal communities to be respected but recognition that they had to be seen to be 'open for business'. As with theme 2, a public dialogue and debate about governance and control of coastal waters has not yet happened and is needed.

6.6 Overview of Workshops

6.6.1 A final point of interest is the difference apparent in the workshop and public drop-in meeting responses in Kirkwall (Orkney) and Thurso (Caithness and Sutherland). These two island and coastal peripheral communities share much in common including access to the high marine energy environment of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters. They are physically separated by the narrow Pentland Firth but also by different socio-economic circumstances and local governance. Orkney is the more prosperous of the two with very low unemployment. It has the benefit of its own local government council wholly focussed on the affairs of Orkney. Much of the marine renewables research, development and testing is centred in Orkney with a consequent level of government, business and academic activity. Caithness and Sutherland is less prosperous with higher unemployment. They are part of the very large Highland Council area which is headquartered over 100 miles away in urban Inverness. The community of Caithness and Sutherland were motivated to attend the workshops event in higher numbers than Orkney. They expressed strong feelings of having previously been left out, a fact to be borne in mind in future contact.


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