1.1 The Scottish Government is committed to a clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse marine and coastal environment that meets the long term needs of its people and natural assets. In order to meet this commitment, Scotland's seas must be managed in a sustainable manner that balances the competing demands on marine resources and space. The biological and geological diversity within Scottish waters must be protected to ensure that the future marine ecosystem is capable of providing the economic and social benefits that it yields today.
1.2 The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 call for the designation of Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs) in Scottish waters, to protect marine biodiversity and geodiversity and to contribute to a UK and international network of MPAs. This will contribute towards achieving Good Environmental Status ( GES) under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive ( MSFD) and deliver Scotland's contribution to the ecologically coherent network of MPAs under the OSPAR convention on the protection of the marine environment in the North East Atlantic.
1.3 Work to satisfy these requirements has been underway since 2010. The Scottish Government received advice from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee ( JNCC) and Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) on 33 MPA proposals and four search locations in December 2012. SNH and JNCC have advised that between 29 and 33 of these locations should be included in the network.
1.4 The Scottish Government is proposing that these original 33 MPA proposals now be considered, through public consultation, as possible Marine Protected Areas ( pMPAs) for designation to supplement existing protected areas for marine species and habitats, and to create a wider network of Marine Protected Areas  . The pMPAs are located in both Scottish territorial waters (0-12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12-200 nautical miles) ( Figure 1).
Strategic Environmental Assessment
1.5 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 requires that certain public plans, programmes and strategies ( PPS) be assessed for their potential effects on the environment. Strategic Environmental Assessment ( SEA) is the process used to fulfil this requirement, and includes consultation with the public and organisations with responsibility for the environment. The work to deliver possible nature conservation MPAs falls under Section 5(4) of the Act.
1.6 Marine Scotland undertook screening in April 2013 and determined, as the Responsible Authority, that the possible MPAs have the potential to give rise to significant environmental effects, and that a SEA would therefore be undertaken in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. Given that the possible MPAs are located in both Scottish territorial and offshore waters, it was decided that (on a voluntary basis) the SEA should also meet the requirements of The Environmental Assessment of Plans and Programmes Regulations 2004.
1.7 A scoping exercise for the SEA was subsequently undertaken, in accordance with the requirements of Section 15 of the Act. A combined Screening and Scoping Report was issued in April 2013, setting out the proposed approach to the SEA, including the proposed scope and level of detail. Comments were invited from the Scottish Consultation Authorities  , the UK Consultation Bodies  and the members of the MPA Project Advisory Group. The PAG consisted of a representative from each interest area to form an advisory group at both a national and regional level to ensure the approach, methodology and scope of the socio-economic and environmental assessments were suitable and accurate.
1.8 The purpose of this Environmental Report is to document the findings of the SEA, undertaken by the Scottish Government's Environmental Assessment Team. A socio-economic assessment has also been undertaken, of both the network and individual pMPAs. The results of the SEA and the network level socio-economic assessment are together summarised in a separate Sustainability Appraisal Report.
1.9 The views of the public, the Consultation Authorities and the Consultation Bodies on the possible MPAs and the findings of this Environmental Report are now being sought.
1.10 The remainder of this Environmental Report is structured as follows:
- Section 2 provides information on the possible MPAs.
- Section 3 discusses the approach to the SEA and the methods used.
- Section 4 provides information about the approach taken to identifying reasonable alternatives.
- Section 5 describes the relevant components of the environment.
- Section 6 sets out the results of the assessment.
- Section 7 considers the next steps.
The Non-Technical Summary precedes Section 1.