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.

3 Governance

Topics covered:

a) Working group

b) Advisory group

c) Additional staff input

3.1 The initial project was led by a member of Marine Scotland, who worked mainly on the production of the Marine Spatial Planning Framework and Regional Locational Guidance. When they moved on to other work in April 2012, the process of preparing the plan was allocated to another member of staff who took the project forward to completion. This included the management of the project and managing elements of funding (see Section 5 for more details). Local authority staff also joined the project in April 2012 to form a working group; these three staff formed the core group tasked with the delivery of the project.

3a) Working group

3.2 The three core staff were:

  • a Renewables Manager from Marine Scotland, based in Aberdeen (full-time);
  • a Senior Policy Planner from Orkney islands Council based in Orkney (0.5 FTE) and
  • a Coastal Planner from Highland Council, based in Inverness and Wick (0.5 FTE).

Each staff member had a good variety of marine scientific, ecological and planning skills (see Table 2). This ensured there was a balanced mix of expertise that helped drive the project forward.

Table 2: Summary of working group’s skills

Renewables Manager

Senior Policy Planner

Coastal Planner

BSc Environmental Studies

MSc Biology of Water Resource Management

Previous role as scientific lead on non-native species in Marine Scotland Science

MA (Hons) Town Planning

Chartered member of the Royal Town Planning Institute

In the process of completing MSc Marine Spatial Planning 2014-16

BSc (Hons) Coastal Marine Biology

MSc Ecology

PhD Urban Ecology

Previous roles with Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage provided a mix of policy and ecological skills and knowledge

3.3 A governance paper was drawn up in December 2012 to ensure clarity on the roles of the participating organisations within the working group (see Appendix 1). It highlighted that Marine Scotland was the lead organisation, set out decision making processes for all participating organisations and clarified that the final decision-making authority was Marine Scotland. This document was useful as it provided clarity on the roles and expectations of participants, including Council elected members and associated committees.

3.4 Feedback from the advisory group (see below) highlighted that the small size of the core group and the mix of skills and expertise each brought to the project worked very well, led by the MS project manager. It became evident relatively early on however that additional administration support was required to manage day to day tasks. This was provided within Marine Scotland from June 2014. Subsequent Marine Planning Partnerships ( MPP) should ensure they have dedicated administrative support from the outset and an identified project manager (see Section 4).

3b) Advisory group

3.5 To provide expertise and guidance, an advisory group was set up from a range of statutory, business and leisure organisations (see Appendix 2). The advisory group was composed to reflect the requirements of Section 2 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 with representation of public authorities, commercial, recreational and commercial interests. Members were drawn from agencies based across Scotland, from Glasgow to Orkney. This vast geographic spread presented some logistical issues for participants; it is possible that subsequent MPPs would be more likely to have a higher percentage of local representatives. However, it is worth noting that some MPP areas e.g. West Coast and the Moray Firth Scottish Marine Regions, cover over 3,500 km of coastline. The use of digital media, tele- and video-conferencing may be useful to help ensure reasonable access to participation. The use of a shared web-based document system is also recommended so that participants can view and amend documents remotely.

3.6 Through discussions within the lead authorities and various stakeholders, it was decided that the size of the advisory group should be kept relatively small. It was felt that involving representatives of every sector and interest would be too cumbersome and would reduce the efficiency of the group. To this end, along with the statutory bodies representing their remits, the economic sectors were represented by Highlands and Islands Enterprise and Ports representatives as they could advise on a range of marine interests, to help ensure appropriate legal and policy requirements were met. In addition, the leisure and recreation interests were represented by the Royal Yachting Association. Feedback from some noted that a wider range of stakeholders on the advisory group may have been more appropriate e.g. fishing interests. However, engagement with individual sectoral and specific interests was undertaken on a policy by policy basis where appropriate. Subsequent MPPs may wish to consider developing more formalised policy development sub-groups to ensure all appropriate stakeholders are more fully engaged in the process.

3.7 Terms of reference were defined for the advisory group to help ensure the group members were clear on their remit (see Appendix 3). A number of key agencies went above and beyond this to help out with scheduled meetings, providing timely guidance and expert input whenever asked. This pro-active approach on their behalf was both much appreciated and helped at key ‘pinch-points’ in document production.

3.8 A questionnaire circulated to the advisory group members towards the end of the pilot project provided valuable feedback regarding their involvement in the process. Of those that responded, their comments have been incorporated throughout this document and all stated their organisation would be likely to be involved in some way in the subsequent eleven Scottish Marine Planning Partnerships. One agency considered that more effective and proactive use could have been made of the advisory group (see also Section 9).

3c) Additional staff input

3.9 In addition to the above staff, significant input was received from other Scottish Government staff at key stages in the development of the various documents supporting the Plan e.g. Draft Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) Environmental Report, Sustainability Appraisal including the SEA, Socio-Economic Assessment and Habitats Regulations Appraisal Record ( HRA), Socio-Economic Baseline Review and Regional Locational Guidance.

3.10 Some members of the advisory group asked for a skills audit of the working group and advisory group to identify any gaps then identify how these may be filled. Whilst there are insufficient resources to do this, it is considered in Section 10. It is recommended that a skills audit would be a useful tool when considering the appropriate membership of Marine Planning Partnerships.

General Discussion: Governance

3.11 The working group arrangements worked effectively for this project, as discussed above. However, governance arrangements for subsequent MPPs will vary but given the particular circumstance of this project i.e. Marine Scotland led, it is likely that they will be very different in structure and leadership. It is acknowledged however, that some common core stakeholders are more likely to be participants in most MPPs; these include Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Local Authorities. Collaboration between adjoining MPPs and local authorities will also require careful consideration to ensure coherent marine and terrestrial planning outcomes. The National Marine Plan [8] and Marine Planning Circular [9] provide useful guidance in this regard.

3.12 Those tasked with drafting a marine plan should be very clear on their remit and their degree of decision-making powers. Day to day running of the project should not have to be constrained by repeated delays caused by having to wait for (relatively minor) decisions to be made by a project board, as was the case for one of the preceding SSMEI projects (see paragraph2.3). Managing decisions across multiple organisations therefore requires careful consideration and management.

3.13 Preparing a Governance Paper and Terms of Reference for the project officers and advisory boards or groups should help ensure clarity of roles and responsibilities from an early stage. Short-term stakeholder subgroups may also help during key stages of plan development; these may be theme or sector specific e.g. tourism or fishing.

Evidence/Supporting Documents

3.14 Staff qualifications; Governance Paper; advisory group Terms of Reference

Key points: Governance

  • Small core working group works well: requires full-time staff with a mix of expertise including planning, project management, stakeholder engagement and environmental disciplines
  • Need at least one qualified/experienced planner in the core group
  • Need one person with good organisational skills to manage the whole project, supported by dedicated administrative staff
  • Governance Paper helps clarify roles, authority and approval processes
  • Wider advisory group helps keep process on track, adherence to legal requirements and provides a range of expertise
  • Ensure it is clear from the outset who is dealing with the various additional statutory documents required and what decision-making powers the actual plan-makers have
  • Setting up sub-groups to deal with specific topics would be helpful for detailed input and was perhaps lacking in this marine plan process
  • Ensure clarity on the intended status of the marine spatial plan from the outset


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