Pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan

This Plan is a pilot process undertaken by a working group consisting of Marine Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council in advance of statutory regional marine planning.

Section 3: Legislative and Policy Context


83 This Marine Spatial Plan been prepared within the context of the relevant legislation, policy and plans developed at the international, European, national, regional and local level; the key regulatory and policy documents are summarised at Annex 2. Annex 2 does not provide an exhaustive list of all relevant legislation, policies and plans; it simply aims to identify the main legislation, policies and plans of relevance. The Sustainability Appraisal contains an overview of relevant data sources and an analysis of key environmental objectives considered relevant to the Plan.

84 This section of the Marine Spatial Plan describes the strategic policy context for marine planning that has directly influenced the vision, aims and objectives of the Plan. Figure 3 illustrates the relationship between this Marine Spatial Plan, relevant legislation and the various strategic plans being developed for the marine area around Scotland.

International context

85 This Marine Spatial Plan has been prepared within the context of the international regulatory and policy framework for marine planning and management. This includes UN Convention on the Law of the Sea ( UNCLOS) which provides the international regulatory framework for the use of the world's seas and oceans. The Plan also pays due regard to the requirements of various EU Directives including the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, Marine Spatial Planning Directive, Water Framework Directive, Habitats Directive, Birds Directive, and the EU Common Fisheries Policy governing commercial fishing rights and obligations.

UK Marine Policy Statement

86 The UK Marine Policy Statement ( MPS) was published jointly by all the UK Administrations in March 2011. It sets a vision for the whole UK marine area and provides a framework for preparing marine plans, including economic, social and environmental considerations which need to be taken into account and strategic policy objectives for key marine sectors. The Marine Policy Statement sets out a presumption in favour of sustainable development in the marine planning area. The Scottish National Marine Plan and any subsequent Scottish regional marine plans must accord with the Statement.

Figure 3: The context of the pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan in relation to other legislation.

Figure 3: The context of the pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan in relation to other legislation.

87 The Marine Policy Statement has been prepared and adopted for the purposes of section 44 of the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, which requires all public authorities taking authorisation or enforcement decisions that affect or might affect the UK marine area to do so in accordance with the Marine Policy Statement unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise. It also requires that Marine Plans must be in conformity with any Marine Policy Statement in effect in the marine plan area, unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise.

88 The Marine Policy Statement facilitates and supports the formulation of Marine Plans, ensuring that marine resources are used in a sustainable way in line with the high-level marine objectives and thereby:

  • promote sustainable economic development
  • enable the UK's move towards a low-carbon economy, in order to mitigate the causes of climate change and ocean acidification and adapt to their effects
  • ensure a sustainable marine environment which promotes healthy, functioning marine ecosystems and protects marine habitats, species and our heritage assets
  • contribute to the societal benefits of the marine area, including the sustainable use of marine resources to address local social and economic issues.

Scotland's National Marine Plan

89 The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 requires Scottish Ministers to prepare and adopt a National Marine Plan for Scottish inshore waters. In addition, the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 requires Scottish Ministers to seek to ensure that a marine plan is in place in the offshore region when a Marine Policy Statement is in effect. In response to these statutory requirements, the National Marine Plan sets out strategic policies for the sustainable use of Scotland's marine resources out to 200 nautical miles and conforms with the overarching direction provided by the Marine Policy Statement. A marine plan for Scottish inshore waters and a marine plan covering Scottish offshore waters is published in one document, referred to as the 'National Marine Plan', however, it is recognised that the National Marine Plan is still comprised of two plans made under two separate pieces of legislation. Scotland's National Marine Plan, Scottish Planning Policy and National Planning Framework 3 have been developed in a consistent manner to provide an integrated policy framework across land and sea. This pilot Plan has therefore been prepared to conform with the National Marine Plan.

Scottish Planning Policy

90 Scottish Planning Policy ( SPP) is the Scottish Government policy on how nationally important land use planning matters should be addressed across the country. SPP is a statement of Scottish Ministers' priorities, and carries significant weight in the preparation of development plans and is a material consideration in planning decisions. SPP supports an integrated approach to coastal planning to ensure that development plans and regional marine plans are complementary. Government bodies with responsibility for marine and terrestrial planning will need to ensure integration with policies and activities arising from the National Marine Plan, Marine Planning Partnerships, regional marine plans, and Integrated Coastal Zone Management.

National Planning Framework 3

91 Published in June 2014, National Planning Framework 3 ( NPF3), provides a statutory framework for Scotland's long-term spatial development priorities for the next 20 to 30 years. Statutory development plans must have regard to the NPF, and Scottish Ministers expect planning decisions to support its delivery.

92 Orkney, Pentland Firth and North Caithness is identified as an area of coordinated action in NPF3; a location of particular significance to the delivery of the Scottish Government's low carbon strategy. NPF3 states that the area is an internationally renowned historic and natural environment, with significant future prospects for growth and innovation. There are unparalleled opportunities for marine renewable energy development, generating significant new business and employment opportunities for the surrounding coastal and island communities. This pilot Marine Spatial Plan, together with land use planning, is identified in NPF3 as a key mechanism to support delivery of offshore renewables and to help ensure that infrastructure and onshore facilities are provided in a co-ordinated way. Furthermore, NPF3 highlights that land use and marine planning should aim to balance development with environmental quality and activities such as fishing and tourism.

93 NPF3 identifies 14 national developments that are needed to help to deliver the spatial strategy. The following three national developments are located within or directly adjacent to the PFOW MSP area:

  • an Enhanced High Voltage Energy Transmission Network - Mainland Scotland to Orkney
  • a Digital Fibre Network - Caithness, Sutherland and Orkney
  • a National Long Distance Cycling and Walking Network

94 Hatston, Lyness and Scrabster Enterprise Areas are a particular priority for action in NPF3. Furthermore, Scapa Flow is identified as a key port and deep-water asset with plans for a transhipment container hub within Scapa Flow supported. This Marine Spatial Plan aims to support the national developments and priorities identified in NPF3.

Regional Marine Plans and Marine Regions

95 Marine planning will be implemented at a local level within Scottish Marine Regions, sea areas extending from mean high water springs out to 12 nautical miles. Within these regions, regional marine plans will be developed by Marine Planning Partnerships to take account of local circumstances and engage local stakeholders. They will be developed in accordance with the National Marine Plan and Marine Policy Statement to ensure they are consistent with national objectives and priorities. The Scottish Marine Regions Order 2015 sets out the boundaries for 11 Scottish Marine Regions including Orkney and North Coast which are located within the area of this Marine Spatial Plan.

River Basin Management Plans

96 The production and implementation of River Basin Management Plans are a requirement of the Water Framework Directive. The River Basin Management Plan for the Scotland river basin district sets out objectives for how Scotland's wetlands, rivers, lochs, transitional waters (estuaries), coastal waters (out to three nautical miles) and groundwater will be protected and improved to achieve good ecological status/potential. The policies within this Marine Spatial Plan will play a part in ensuring River Basin Management Plans objectives are met by supporting the maintenance and, where possible, the enhancement of the ecological status of water bodies in the Plan area.

Orkney Local Development Plan

97 The Orkney Local Development Plan - adopted April 2014 provides the current statutory land use planning framework for Orkney. This Marine Spatial Plan has been developed to provide an integrated planning policy framework across the relevant terrestrial and marine area. It should be noted that a review of the Orkney Local Development Plan is taking place during 2015-16.

Highland-wide Local Development Plan and the Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan

98 The Highland-wide Local Development Plan 2012 and its supporting guidance are under review to ensure they reflect evolving national policy. The current Policy 49: Coastal Development will likely be replaced by a Coastal and Marine Planning policy to support the integration of marine and land use planning.

99 Highland Council has also recently begun preparation of the new Caithness and Sutherland Local Development Plan. To support this the proposed Plan was published for consultation from January to March 2016. This document sets out the position on managing the marine and coastal environment in recognition of the key role of marine planning in the area. For the time being, the Caithness Local Plan (2002) and the Sutherland Local Plan (2010) remain 'As continued in force (2012)'.

Further information

Refer to Annex 2 - Legislation, Policy and Plans for web links.


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