Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan. Lessons Learned.

A summary of the Lessons Learned during the process of developing the pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan.

8 Engagement

Topics covered:

a) Stakeholder database and updates

b) Website

c) Committees

d) Workshops/Presentations

e) Press/Social media

f) Academic

8.1 It has been acknowledged from the earliest days of marine planning in Scotland that stakeholder engagement is one of the most important elements of marine spatial planning (e.g. see Scottish Executive, 2004). Effective stakeholder participation encourages ownership of a plan and must include empowerment to engage effectively (Pomeroy & Douvere, 2008). However, marine planning is in ‘uncharted waters, without easily recognisable structure of management and with a markedly different stakeholder community’ (Glegg, 2014).

8.2 The working group tried to ensure wide engagement in the plan-making process, within the limited staff and resource limits (see Sections 3 & 5). Feedback suggests that the regional engagement worked well. However, it is inevitable given the large and remote geographic spread of the Plan area that not everyone who wanted to be involved in the process was. Some others felt they should have been involved at an earlier stage; this generally applied to sectoral organisations. A realistic approach must be taken: it is challenging to engage with everyone within, or otherwise affected by, issues within a marine plan area.

8.3 The various activities discussed below to try and engage as wide an audience as possible was very resource intensive (also see Section 7). Future MPPs should therefore consider having at least one person dedicated to stakeholder engagement activities e.g. a Plan Communications Officer.

8a) Stakeholder database and updates

8.4 This database was built up throughout the plan-making process. It formed the primary source of information provision but had to be re-constructed after an I.T. failure in June 2013. Regular updates, usually in the form of a single A4 update sheet, were emailed out in between document release stages. This was a cost-effective way of ensuring interested parties were kept up to date with progress and knew when the next opportunity for involvement would be. It would likely be even more beneficial if subsequent Marine Planning Partnerships could produce a regular newsletter instead, that included photographs and articles linked to wider marine issues in the area concerned. This would of course have resource implications but would help further community engagement as copies of the newsletter could be promoted at wider public events. This is evidenced by the popularity of the Topic Sheets [22] produced by Marine Scotland, which were readily taken at the public events. Future MPPs may find it helpful to have volunteer students on a fixed placement to produce newsletters and other publicity materials.

8b) Website

8.5 All the information relating to the development of the Plan was hosted on the Scottish Government website. This provided easy access and links to wider marine planning information in Scotland, including the National Marine Plan and NMPi. As there was a constant web presence, anyone could contact the working group at any stage in-between more formal consultation periods, thus providing an important, up-to-date source of information. Subsequent MPPs are likely to also factor in building and maintaining their own web presence, including consultation software.

8c) Committees

8.6 Key outputs of the plan-making process, e.g. Planning Issues & Options Consultation Paper and the draft Plan, were presented at the appropriate Orkney Islands Council and the Highland Council committees for consideration, followed by final sign off from Scottish Ministers where required. As the Plan was led by Marine Scotland, the Council committees were invited to propose changes to all key documents and endorse the Plan before and after formal consultation stages.

8d) Workshops/Presentations

8.7 A process that worked particularly well was the use of workshops during the consultation events that involved a range of sectoral, NGO and wider public groups. The PIOP workshops were particularly effective for stakeholders to debate key issues but also for raising awareness of the planning process. It was especially welcome that a number of local school children were able to participate at the workshops and at other public information days.

8.8 Shared events, such as marine information days run by the Crown Estate and joint public workshops with International Centre for Island Technology, Heriot-Watt University (Stromness campus) helped promote and share the work with a wider audience and significantly helped reduce costs. The project was also promoted with presentations at a number of other events at including the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea Annual Science Conference 2013, Local Coastal Partnership meetings and public information days tied in with other marine consultations (see Table 5 below).

8e) Press/social media

8.9 Managing press releases and social media is crucial to ensure that as wide an audience as possible is aware of consultation events. In particular, it is important to ensure that all key local media channels for a Marine Planning Partnership area are used. For the PFOW, this included community and local authority websites and local radio i.e. BBC Radio Orkney and BBC Radio Scotland. Main events had press releases accompanied by posts on various Marine Scotland and council web and Facebooks pages, tweets and blogs. As new media channels evolve, it will be important for MPPs to utilise them effectively.

8f) Academic

8.10 Academic collaborations (separate from those discussed in Section 7 regarding the Stage 2 studies) and presentations added significant value to the project, by promoting it both national and internationally. Table 5 outlines the main collaboration opportunities taken to promote the plan process and to gain knowledge to improve it. These events both generated interest in our approach and allowed the team to gain useful contacts that helped improve the Plan. It was during these collaborations that it was suggested by a Shetland colleague that there should be opportunity for Scottish marine planners to meet to discuss the way forward for regional marine plans. This led to the formation of the informal Scottish Marine Spatial Planners Group (see Section 4d).

Table 5: Main academic and other presentations of the PFOW pilot project




International Council for the Exploration of the Sea ( ICES) Annual Science Conference


Sept 2013

Poster and short presentation outlined the development of the project.

Environmental Interactions of Marine Renewable Energy Technologies ( EIMR) Conference


April 2014

Paper presented highlighted the local authority perspective on marine planning.

Principles for Effective Stakeholder Engagement in Marine Planning webinar

Online ( USA based), May 2014

Participation in webinar

European Maritime Day


May 2014

Presentation outlined the status of MSP in Scotland.

International Centre for Island Technology ( ICIT) PhD training day

Stromness, June 2014

Presentation given to students on the SuperGen Doctoral Training Programme at Heriot-Watt, Stromness.

Centre for Environmental Change and Human Resilience ( CECHR) Resilient Coasts & Flourishing Seas


April 2015

Presentation for Resilient Coasts and Flourishing Seas symposium.

Moray Firth Partnership Annual General Meeting


May 2015

Presentation of the PFOW process to local coastal partnership.

General Discussion: Engagement

8.11 The development of ‘ The well-being, quality of life and amenity of coastal communities’ policy was a direct result of feedback from local communities. It provides a commitment to helping ensure that these factors are safeguarded. Whilst it is acknowledged that measurable targets are yet to be developed to support this policy, research on these topics is likely to progress at marine planning evolves.

8.12 Feedback from the Scottish Marine Spatial Planners group highlighted that there is a lack of social and cultural data in most marine plans and this should be scoped out at early stage to establish what information is required. This would need input of local knowledge and could be a key way of engaging local stakeholders into the process.

8.13 It is worth considering the use of engagement methods that reach beyond the ‘usual suspects’ and those stakeholders with very specific interests e.g. developers, Non-Governmental Organisations, government agencies etc. Examples could include undertaking concise straw polls on the street on key issues, involving local schools and wider use of social media. Given greater time and resources, the working group would have considered these wider engagement methods.

8.14 Citizen science could be another useful way to involve local people and gather valuable data (e.g. see the Highland Council ‘Seashore Project’ and the ‘Capturing our Coast’ [23] project). It can be an effective method to broaden engagement and inclusion in ecological research while building a cooperative space for planners, practitioners, researchers and participants to work together (Jarvis et al, 2015). However, this is generally a resource intensive activity that requires careful management to ensure data quality.

Evidence/Supporting Documents

8.15 PIOP, workshops, Topic Sheets, Posters, Banners, Presentations, Conference proceedings.

Key points: Engagement

  • Have at least one person dedicated to stakeholder engagement activities e.g. a Plan Communications Officer
  • Establish and continually update a stakeholder contacts database
  • Provide regular, short updates on progress via email or newsletter
  • Keep website up to date
  • Promote collaboration with academic research to help ensure most up to date information is utilised
  • Ensure most popular local media channels are used e.g. local websites, blogs, Facebook groups
  • Ensure all Marine Planning Partnerships members use every opportunity to promote the Plan at every stage
  • Consider innovative engagement methods to involve wider stakeholders beyond the ‘useful suspects’
  • Measurable targets are yet to be developed to support how well-being, quality of life and amenity will be determined
  • Use of Citizen Science coastal and marine projects may be a good way to involve local communities


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