Publication - Consultation analysis

Planning Scotland's Seas: Scotland's National Marine Plan. Consultation Response Analysis Report

Published: 2 May 2014
Part of:
Marine and fisheries

Planning Scotland’s Seas: Scotland’s National Marine Plan was published for consultation in July 2013. Independent analysis of all written responses to the consultation has been undertaken and is presented in this report.

Planning Scotland's Seas: Scotland's National Marine Plan. Consultation Response Analysis Report


1.1 Planning Scotland's Seas: Scotland's National Marine Plan was published for consultation in July 2013 setting out the Scottish Government's vision for Scotland's marine environment. The document set marine planning in context, presented key objectives and planning polices related to achieving sustainable development and use of the marine area. The aim is to provide a single framework to manage all activity in Scottish waters, offering clarity to developers and decision makers on Scotland's priorities for sustainable use of the sea.

1.2 The consultation ran from 25th July 2013 until 13th November 2013; respondents were invited to submit their opinions and views.

Overview of respondents

1.3 The consultation attracted 124 responses. This comprised of 16 from individuals and 108 from organisations.

Overview of analysis

1.4 The consultation posed a series of general questions on the Draft National Marine Plan, followed by questions on the different sectoral chapters.

1.5 Responses were examined and key themes i.e. similar issues raised in a number of responses, were identified at each question. Sub-themes; including reasons for opinions, supporting arguments, alternative suggestions or other related comments; were also noted. The key themes were then examined to identify whether any particular theme was specific to any respondent group or groups, or from individuals.

Summary of key themes emerging

1.6 In general, respondents welcomed the opportunity to respond to this consultation, and were broadly supportive of the vision within the NMP and the principles behind this. There were a number of requests for better alignment or linkage between objectives and policies. A number of respondents provided details of changes to objectives or policies or made suggestions for additional policies that should be incorporated in the sectoral chapters

1.7 There were a number of requests for the NMP to link into other relevant Scottish, UK and EU legislation, policies and guidance. There is a perception at present that the NMP is not fully compliant with all requirements of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and other relevant legislation.

1.8 Allied to this, there were requests for the same terminology to be used across different legislation, policies and guidance to provide linkage, consistency and clarity.

1.9 There was criticism of the Draft NMP for its interchangeable use of the terms 'sustainable development' and 'sustainable economic growth'. These two terms are perceived to mean different things and their interchangeable use is seen to be confusing and lacking in clarity. Furthermore, there were requests for a consistent definition and use of 'sustainability' throughout the NMP, in line with the Draft Planning Circular which was consulted on alongside the Draft NMP.

1.10 While the approach adopted is broadly welcomed, there are some concerns that there is not enough integration across sectors, or enough detail on how integration will be brought about. A number of respondents requested further clarity on sectoral priorities and how to deal with conflicts that may arise between different marine users. Allied to this, there were requests for greater consideration to be given to the cumulative impact that differing and sometimes competing sectors will have on the marine environment.

1.11 There were calls across a number of the sectors for increased use of research and data to back up information within the NMP; particularly to ensure that data used is as up-to-date as possible. In line with this, there were also requests from a small number of respondents for further consultation on development of the NMP and greater involvement of a wide range of stakeholders.

1.12 A number of respondents requested a timescale for the implementation, delivery, management and review of the NMP, with some suggestions that this should be reviewed on the same cycle as the Draft Planning Circular. There were also a number of suggestions that the NMP will need to produce additional and/or revised guidance over time.

1.13 Integration between land and marine planning systems was mentioned often, with attention drawn to interactions and developments which involve both land and marine planning systems.

1.14 While there is an acknowledgement that balancing competing interests presents specific challenges for the marine environment, there were some concerns that the Draft NMP focuses too heavily on economic uses of the environment and not enough on the marine environment, climate change or biodiversity.

1.15 Finally, a number of respondents noted their interest in being involved in a further iteration of the NMP.

1.16 Overall, while this is seen to be an improvement on the pre-consultation version of NMP, there are still a number of requests for greater levels of detail and clarity throughout the NMP.

Key findings

Marine planning in context

1.17 A greater number of respondents (37) considered the Draft NMP appropriately guides management of Scotland's marine resources, than did not (12), albeit that a number of responses then provided qualified commentary and suggestions for changes or additions to the NMP.

1.18 Many respondents welcomed the opportunity to respond to this consultation and were generally supportive of the vision within the NMP and / or the principles behind this. That said, there were some requests for clarification or further development of some of the policies' and/ or linkage between objectives and policies. There were a number of requests for consideration and clarification as to how objectives that have the potential to conflict with each other will be managed and reconciled.

1.19 A number of respondents commented on the need for stronger links between the NMP and all other relevant legislation, guidance and policy, with some comments that as it stands at present, it does not comply with the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.

1.20 While the approach adopted was generally supported, there were comments that a greater level of integration across all sectors is needed.

1.21 While there is an acknowledgement that balancing sustainable economic growth with environmental management will be a challenge, some respondents considered that the Draft NMP focuses primarily on economic uses of the marine environment, with less focus on people, the environment and biodiversity.

1.22 There were requests for consistent use of any references to 'sustainability', with comments that the NMP interchanges the phrases 'sustainable development' and 'sustainable economic growth' throughout the NMP, thus creating confusion.

1.23 There were a number of instances where further clarification was requested, for example, on timescales for implementation, delivery and review of the NMP.

1.24 Views were relatively polarised between those who felt the Draft NMP appropriately sets out the requirements for integration between marine planning and land use planning.

1.25 A key issue for respondents was that while there is support for the integration, it was felt that the Draft NMP does not provide enough detail on how this will be achieved. Some respondents cited instances where further guidance will be required.

Key objectives and approach to policies

1.26 Of those providing a definitive response, all agreed the Draft NMP sets out the best approach to setting economic, social and marine ecosystem objectives relating to the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change. That said, a number of respondents provided qualifying commentary in their response.

1.27 There were requests for compatibility between strategic objectives and sector-specific objectives, and for the NMP to set out how prioritisation of conflicting objectives will be reconciled.

1.28 There were a number of references to the need for consistency between the NMP and relevant UK and EU legislation.

1.29 While respondents were generally welcoming of the approach adopted in the NMP, some commentary noted that marine planning needs to examine the cumulative impact across sectors and that a sectoral approach works against this. Allied to this, there were some requests for better linkage across sectors.

1.30 A number of respondents focused on climate change, with requests for consistency to ensure each sector mitigates or adapts to climate change.

1.31 There were some concerns over timescales, implementation and review of the NMP, with some suggestions the NMP should be reviewed on the same cycle as the Draft Planning Circular.

1.32 The consultation process was raised by some respondents, with requests for a higher level of consultation and engagement with all interested in the marine environment. There were also requests for a clarification of definitions used and an alignment of language with other forms of guidance and legislation.

General policies

1.33 The policies in Chapter 5 of the Draft NMP were broadly welcomed; in particular respondents supported the presumption in favour of sustainable development and use. There were a number of suggestions for changes to the general policies including further detail in some policies.

1.34 There were comments that many points are in need of clarification and that clear definitions throughout are important to ensure there is no room for interpretation of their meaning.

1.35 Respondents saw a lack of guidance or detail on how the policies would be put into practice. Stronger guidance in general and more directive policy wording were seen as necessary.

1.36 In relation to whether the policy for landscape and seascape is an appropriate approach, respondents wanted to see more detail and clarification on various elements and some considered there was not enough protection afforded for landscapes and seascapes.

1.37 Respondents suggested a wide range of possible alternative general policies for inclusion.

A guide to sector chapters

1.38 Many of the respondents who commented on this question simply said that the sectors covered are adequate. There was general support for the approach to the sectoral policies.

1.39 Respondents commented that this chapter does not have a strong spatial focus which should be addressed.

1.40 There were suggestions for improvement to the format of the sector chapters.

1.41 Respondents identified some sectors which could be broken down further.


1.42 A number of respondents noted the need for more investment in marine research.

1.43 The fisheries sector felt the Draft NMP does not give adequate support and protection, and prioritises sustainable development over the long term fishing sector.

1.44 There were also some requests for the fisheries sector to be managed nationally and not within regional planning

1.45 There were some concerns over the potential for conflict between the fisheries sector and other marine users with requests that the NMP should not include a presumption in favour of sustainable development, particularly as this may cause fishing displacement and have a negative impact on fragile coastal communities.

1.46 Some respondents commented that setting levels of MSY implies a degree of scientific certainty that does not actually exist.

1.47 Some respondents within the environment sector felt that some of the objectives are not achievable or that some are outwith the remit of the NMP.

1.48 Other issues raised by fisheries interests included the need for marine planning to reflect that between 6-12 nautical miles only EU member states with historic fishing rights have access to Scottish waters; that mobile and static gear should be referred to separately in terms of the species being fished.


1.49 More respondents disagreed than agreed that this chapter appropriately sets out the relationship between land use planning and marine planning for aquaculture. Respondents in the environment and fisheries sectors commented that the document currently provides no indication that aquaculture is regulated under the land use planning system. There was a preference for aquaculture to be integrated into marine planning processes to help clarify and create consistency across all marine activities and to create a more strategic approach to aquaculture.

1.50 There were some comments that the Draft Planning Circular provides greater detail of marine/ land use planning integration and that there should be better linkage between this and the NMP. There were also calls for the NMP to better reflect the terminology and context set out in other strategic documents.

1.51 Some respondents noted the need to be able to balance competing interests; and the potential for spatial constraints to impact negatively on the aquaculture sector.

1.52 There was a degree of support for the presumption against marine fish farms on Scotland's east coast; much of this support was qualified.

1.53 There were requests for a section on 'interactions with other users' in this chapter in line with other sectoral chapters.

1.54 Views were relatively polarised on the objective targets, with some comment that it is inappropriate to set sector-specific targets.

1.55 A number of respondents commented on the 3 year project being undertaken by Marine Scotland to identify areas of opportunity and constraint for both finfish and shellfish sectors, with the suggestion from some that targets for growth should not be set without completion of this work. There were also references to recent work undertaken by the Rivers and Fisheries Trusts of Scotland ( RAFTS) and the need for this to be referenced within the NMP.

1.56 There were some comments on the need to give greater consideration to sustainability issues.

Wild salmon and migratory fish

1.57 A key theme emerging was agreement that improved data is needed, for example data on migratory routes, stock structure and distribution. There were some suggestions that there is potential to gather data through partnership work.

Oil and Gas

1.58 A key theme emerging was the need for more recognition of the impact of this sector on climate change, with some queries as to the compatibility of the oil and gas policies with the strategic objectives and climate change policies.

1.59 There were some requests for more detail on the decommissioning or re-use of oil and gas infrastructure.

1.60 There were some concerns on the impact of the oil and gas sector, particularly with regard to the environment, such as the provision of safeguards for the historic environment.

1.61 There were also a number of calls for greater consideration of the interactions between the oil and gas sector and other sectors.

1.62 There were also a small number of requests for references to the need for co-ordination between marine and land use planning, or for other relevant legislation to be considered; for example, the UK implementation of the EU offshore safety directive.

Carbon Capture and Storage ( CCS)

1.63 A number of respondents noted their support for specific elements of this chapter or for CCS in general, with some agreement that CCS has the potential to play a key role in helping to meet climate change targets, and for Scotland to be recognised as a key player in the development of CCS technology. That said, some other respondents noted a degree of caution, given the relative newness of the development of CCS, which has yet to be proven on a commercial scale. Additionally, it was stated that impacts on the environment are unknown.

1.64 There were references for the need to integrate marine and land use infrastructures, with some requests for more reference to National Planning Framework 3 and identified National Developments.

1.65 There was some support for the re-use of suitable existing redundant oil and gas pipelines.

Offshore Renewable Energy

1.66 A large majority of those responding to this chapter considered the NMP should incorporate spatial information for Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Wind, Wave and Tidal Energy; that the NMP needs to lead this system; and that it needs to provide an overview of spatial areas identified in Sectoral Marine Plans. Furthermore, the incorporation of Sectoral Marine Plans is seen as helping to integrate policies and interactions between the offshore renewable sector and the marine environment.

1.67 There were suggestions from some respondents for the Sectoral Marine Plans to be seen as background information to the NMP rather than as stand-alone documents.

1.68 There were some requests for additional information in the NMP, for example, an explanation of the nature of the spatial information provided or how data management and decision making at a sectoral level would interact with marine planning.

1.69 The small number opposed to spatial information of Sectoral Marine Plans being incorporated within the NMP focused primarily on the need for the NMP to signpost and provide links to relevant documents.

1.70 There were requests for greater consistency between land use planning and marine planning in terms of offshore renewables, along with greater links between NPF3 and NMP. There were also comments that better integration between offshore and onshore renewables is needed.

1.71 There were a small number of comments related to the need to ensure that sustainability and the cumulative impact of developments upon the environment are taken into account. There were also references to maintaining a balance between new offshore developments and existing sectors.

1.72 The need for consultation across all interested stakeholders was highlighted by a small number of respondents; as was the need for more research to be undertaken.

Recreation and Tourism

1.73 Some respondents considered that this chapter of the NMP is not clear on the intended extent of the marine planning policies, for example, whether these policies are intended to address only development and activity requiring consent and/ or licence.

1.74 There were requests for more data to be referenced throughout the chapter and for more research to be undertaken, for example to identify key areas for activities, to ascertain how different sectors interact and the relative benefits of any interaction. There was some concern over the potential for conflict between different sectors.

1.75 A number of respondents referred specifically to coastal walking, with some requests for this to link to the NPF3 for a National Network of Long Distance Paths and Trails and for greater recognition of the social and economic benefits of a coastal path. There were concerns that new coastal developments might compromise the integrity of coastal access paths.

1.76 There were some references to the National Tourism Plan /Strategy and for this to feed into future land use and marine planning; allied to this there were calls for a consistent application across Local Authorities.

1.77 There were calls for the need to ensure the sustainable development of this sector; and the need to balance the economic benefits of tourism and recreation against the need to protect habitats and species, or the environment more generally.


1.78 Views were relatively polarised as to whether the NMP should specifically designate national significant ports/harbours. There was a degree of concern that some ports and harbours which are not designated will suffer; this in turn could have a knock-on impact on more fragile communities or tourism.

1.79 There were requests to align any designations with those already designated as National Developments in NPF3 or to consider the land use planning system to ensure consistency.

1.80 Respondents requested cross-sectoral linking, with policy integration between land use planning, marine planning and transport strategies.

Telecommunications Cables

1.81 Some of those responding to this chapter simply noted their overall support, or their support for specific elements.

1.82 Key comments were that offshore energy and telecoms infrastructures should be able to co-exist in relatively close proximity; and that there is a need to pay heed to geodiversity.


1.83 Most comments in relation to this chapter came in the form of requests for additional information such as more guidance on reserved matters or how Regional Marine Partnerships should interact with this sector.


1.84 Very few issues were raised by more than one respondent to this chapter. There were requests to include reference to the recent Crown Estate study conducted to identify aggregate deposits in Scottish waters and to include the extraction of aggregate from coastal locations using the marine environment for transportation.

Business and regulatory

1.85 Only nine respondents directly addressed potential impacts of proposals in the Plan. Of those who did, most pointed out potential negative economic and regulatory impacts.

1.86 There were also some mentions made about the relative emphasis of types of economic or regulatory impacts, without identifying these impacts as positive or negative.


1.87 Only two respondents felt the creation of a Scottish National Marine Plan discriminated in any way.

Sustainability Appraisal

1.88 Only a small number of respondents expressed either positive or negative views on the Sustainability Appraisal ( SA) document, with similar numbers commenting favourably and unfavourably.

1.89 There were some comments of the need for recognition of the incompatibility of some activities and the need for mitigation. A key issue was the growth of aquaculture.

1.90 Some respondents found the models and assertions regarding the interface between economic development and environmental protection contradictory and confusing, and liable to give rise to conflicts between competing stakeholders.

1.91 There were references to the use of the word 'sustainable' and concerns over interchangeable use of the terms 'sustainable development' and 'sustainable economic growth'.

1.92 There were concerns that the SA does not address the duty in the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 to enhance the health of the Scottish marine area.