Highly Protected Marine Areas - policy framework and site selection guidelines: strategic environmental asessment
This initial strategic environmental report assesses the environmental impacts of the Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMA) policy.
1.1.1 The Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party Parliamentary Group have agreed to work together over the next five years to build a green economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic, respond to the climate emergency and create a fairer country. As part of this, a Shared Policy Programme referred to as the Bute House Agreement has been agreed, which aims to build a greener, fairer, independent Scotland. The Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party believe that the marine environment "should be clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse, and managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people". The agreement sets out several commitments to help achieve this vision, including the designation of at least 10% of Scotland's seas as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) by 2026. HPMAs will build upon the existing network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) representing a significant increase in the overall level of protection afforded to Scotland's seas.
1.1.2 The first phase of a programme of work to deliver on this commitment involves setting a Policy Framework and the development of Site Selection Guidelines. These documents provide a guide to the subsequent process of selecting, assessing and finally designating HPMAs. The draft Policy Framework has been produced by Marine Scotland as a directorate of the Scottish Government. NatureScot and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) have jointly produced the Site Selection Guidelines.
1.1.3 The proposed Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs are the subject of this Environmental Report, produced as part of a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA).
1.1.4 As the location of HPMAs have not yet been identified, it is only possible to undertake an initial SEA at this stage involving a preliminary consideration of the type of impacts that could arise from the future designation of HPMAs and restriction/limitation placed on activities within HPMAs. Once sites have been selected and proposed for designation, it will be possible to undertake an updated SEA involving spatial analysis of specific potential sites and a more detailed assessment of the scale of potential environmental effects.
1.2 Strategic Environmental Assessment
1.2.1 The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 ('the 2005 Act') requires that qualifying public plans, programmes and strategies be assessed for their potential effects on the environment. SEA is the process used to fulfil this requirement and includes consultation with both the public and the Consultation Authorities. The Act also sets out the information that is required to be provided in this Environmental Report.
1.2.2 A screening and scoping exercise of an initial draft of the Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs was undertaken by Marine Scotland in accordance with the requirements of the 2005 Act. A combined Screening and Scoping Report was published in August 2022, setting out the proposed approach to the SEA, including the proposed scope and level of detail. Comments were invited from the Scottish Consultation Authorities.
1.2.3 The outcome from the Screening and Scoping Report and the consultation responses confirmed the need for an SEA as there is potential for significant environmental effects to occur as a direct result of the implementation of the Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs. The proposed scope of the assessment and methodology was accepted by the Scottish Consultation Authorities (see Section 3).
1.2.4 Marine Scotland commissioned ABP Marine Environmental Research Ltd. (ABPmer) to undertake the assessment stage of the SEA and prepare this Environmental Report.
1.3 Purpose and Structure of this Report
1.3.1 The purpose of this Environmental Report is to document the findings of the SEA on the implementation of the Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs. A Socio-Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA) has also been undertaken and is reported separately. The key findings of both the SEA and the SEIA are summarised in an overall Sustainability Appraisal (SA) document.
1.3.2 The views of the public and the Consultation Authorities on the proposed management measures and the findings of this Environmental Report are now being sought.
1.3.3 The remainder of this Environmental Report is structured as follows:
- Section 2 provides background information on the Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs;
- Section 3 presents the approach to the SEA and the methods used;
- Section 4 describes the relevant components of the environment that could be affected by the Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs;
- Section 5 sets out the results of the assessment; and
- Section 6 considers the next steps in the implementation of the Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines and the SEA process.
1.3.4 The Non-Technical Summary precedes Section 1.
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