Planning Scotland's Seas: Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas. Consultation Analysis Report

Planning Scotland’s Seas: Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas was published for consultation in July 2013. It set out proposals for a number of new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs). Independent analysis of written consultation responses was

1 Introduction


1.1 In 2013, the Scottish Government consulted on a range of marine issues under the Planning Scotland's Seas consultations. Individual consultations looked at:

  • A draft National Marine Plan;
  • Draft plan options for Offshore Renewable Energy;
  • Priority Marine Features;
  • Integration between Marine and Terrestrial Planning; and
  • Marine Protected Areas network.

1.2 This report presents the findings from the responses to the consultation 'Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas'.

1.3 The Scottish Government's vision for our marine environment is for 'clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environments, managed to meet the long-term needs of people and nature'.

1.4 Conserving and protecting Scotland's seas is important for many reasons. Our sea lochs, bays and estuaries and other water along our coastline, along with the offshore waters from shelf sea areas to deep ocean, provide habitats for around 6,500 species of plants and animals. They also provide widespread benefit through food and energy as well as recreation and tourism.

1.5 Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs) are a tool which contribute to the vision for our marine environment and help to meet our international commitments on marine protection and conservation.

1.6 Nature conservation MPAs are designed to conserve biodiversity (species and habitats) and geodiversity (the marine landscape and the processes that form these landscapes); these features have been identified for protection, either because they are rare, threatened or declining, representative or because our waters hold a significant number of the overall population or total area of the habitat.

1.7 Features in each possible Marine Protected Area (p MPA) are given one of two conservation objectives: conserve, where evidence exists that the feature is in good condition or there is limited evidence and so uncertainty about its condition; or recover, where evidence exists that the feature is declining and/or damaged.

1.8 MPAs sit alongside other tools such as: marine planning, legal protection for some species, Historic MPAs (marine cultural heritage); Special Protection Areas (for seabirds such as puffins and kittiwakes); Special Areas of Conservation (for features such as bottlenose dolphin, coral reefs and seals); and Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (protecting and conserving a range of features from seabirds and seals to sea caves and rocky shores). Fisheries management also contributes alongside this network of protective measures.

1.9 The Scottish Government has received advice from Scottish Natural Heritage and Joint Nature Conservation Committee on 33 possible MPAs which have been developed and a further 4 MPA search locations which are still being assessed.

1.10 The 'Possible Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas' consultation sought views on whether the 33 areas should be considered as possible Marine Protected Areas (p MPAs) to supplement the existing protected areas and create a wider network of Marine Protected Areas.

1.11 For each p MPA a range of management options has been developed relating to potential risks to the protected features. The management options have been classed as: management to remove or avoid pressures; management to reduce or limit pressures; or no additional management required. Respondents were asked to comment on the management options for the p MPAs and the network as a whole. These related to a variety of areas including:

  • renewables;
  • fishing activities - both static and mobile;
  • predators;
  • seismic and geophysical surveys;
  • licensed oil and gas activity;
  • telecommunications cables.

1.12 Respondents were also invited to comment on the socioeconomic factors collected for a Sustainability Appraisal of the proposed MPAs and the network.

1.13 In addition to the invitation to respond to this consultation, local residents and other interested parties had the opportunity to participate in the consultation through associated meetings and events.

The consultation

1.14 The Marine Protected Areas consultation contained 36 questions on the network as a whole, the proposed Marine Protected Areas (p MPAs) and further search locations, and on the Sustainability Appraisal. The consultation questions are listed in Appendix 1.

1.15 The consultation ran from 25th July 2013 until 13th November 2013.

1.16 Responses to this consultation will inform Scottish Ministers in the decisions on how best to represent features in the network. In addition to the invitation to respond to this consultation, interested parties also had the opportunity to participate through associated events. Reports from Scottish Government events are provided on the Scottish Government website.

Overview of responses

1.17 Responses were submitted using the consultation questionnaire, by email or in paper copy. Submissions were received from 14,703 individuals and organisations. This included 332 standard consultation responses.

1.18 Standard responses are either unique responses or responses where campaign text has been used as the basis of a response but with amended and/or additional text. The later type are referred to as 'campaign plus' responses in tables and commentary throughout this report.

1.19 There were some instances of small numbers of respondents submitting the same text; these are mentioned alongside, and included in, the analysis of the relevant questions, as are the campaign submissions.

1.20 There were also 14,371 submissions of campaign text; these are detailed in Chapter 2 of this report.

1.21 In the very small number of cases where respondents sent in more than one submission, these were merged to form one response. Where exact duplicate responses were received from the same respondent, only one was counted.

1.22 In a small number of cases, comments on issues related to the Marine Protected Area consultation were noticed in responses to one of the other Planning Scotland's Seas consultations; in these cases the respondent and their relevant comments were included in the MPA consultation.

Respondent profile

1.23 For analysis purposes, responses from organisations were assigned to sub-groups. This enabled analysis of whether differences, or commonalities, appeared across the various different types of organisations that responded. The following table shows the numbers of responses in each group.

Table 1.1

Respondent groups


Total individuals



Academic / Scientific






Environment / Conservation


Industry / Transport


International fisheries


Local authority


Local coastal partnership


Local group


Mobile fishing


Public sector


Recreation / Tourism


Static fishing




Total organisations


Total standard responses


1.24 A list of all those organisations who submitted a response to the consultation is included in Appendix 2.

1.25 The following chart shows the sectoral split of the organisational responses.

Chart 1.1

Sectoral split of organisational responses (Base: 116)

Chart 1.1 Sectoral split of organisational responses (Base: 116)

1.26 In addition to the 332 standard responses, there were 14,371 campaign submissions and these are described in the next chapter.

Analysis and reporting

1.27 Comments given at each open question were examined and key themes, similar issues raised or comments made in a number of responses, were identified. In addition, we looked for sub-themes such as reasons for opinions, specific examples or explanations, alternative suggestions or other related comments.

1.28 Where possible, we looked at whether respondents said they agreed or disagreed with the specific proposals; however as most questions did not specifically ask for this information, it was not possible to ascertain support or disagreement for every respondent; this should be borne in mind when reading any proportions mentioned in the reporting.

1.29 The key themes were looked at in relation to individuals and organisation groupings to ascertain whether any particular theme was specific to one particular group, or whether it appeared in responses across groups.

1.30 When looking at sub-group differences, it must be also borne in mind that where a specific opinion has been identified in relation to a particular group or groups, this does not indicate that other groups agree or disagree with this opinion, but rather that they have simply not commented on that particular point.

1.31 It should be borne in mind that in the analysis of responses to a consultation, those in favour of a proposal generally give shorter answers than those opposed. This was found to be the case at many of the questions in this consultation and is reflected in the reporting.

1.32 This exercise was a consultation and not a survey. While the consultation gave all those who wished to comment an opportunity to do so, given the self-selecting nature of this type of exercise, any figures quoted here cannot be extrapolated to a wider population.

1.33 The following chapters document the substance of the analysis and present the main issues and views expressed in responses. These chapters follow the ordering of questions in the consultation document, followed by an analysis of other comments received.

1.34 Appropriate verbatim comments, from those who gave permission for their responses to be made public, are used throughout the report to illustrate themes or to provide extra detail for some specific points.


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