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 Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs are the subject of this Sustainability Appraisal (SA), summarising the results of the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and Socio Economic Impact Assessment (SEIA).
1.1.4 As the location of HPMAs have not yet been identified, it is only possible to undertake an initial SA at this stage involving a preliminary consideration or scoping 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 SA involving spatial analysis of specific potential sites and a more detailed assessment of the scale of potential environmental, social and economic effects.
1.2 Sustainability Appraisal
1.2.1 The SA considers the potential environmental, social and economic effects of the adoption of the Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs and alternatives to these proposals drawing on information contained in the SEA and SEIA. It ensures that decision-making is informed by relevant environmental and socio-economic information. The SA also provides opportunities for the public to consider this information and use it to inform their views.
1.2.2 The SEA has been undertaken in fulfilment of The Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 ("the 2005 Act") which requires that certain public plans, programmes and strategies be assessed for their potential effects on the environment.
1.2.3 The SEIA has been undertaken as a matter of Scottish Government policy. The purpose of the SEIA is to identify and assess the potential economic and social effects of a proposed development or policy on the lives and circumstances of people, their families and their communities. It considers the potential economic benefits and costs, and their distribution among different groups, to inform the assessment of potential impacts on individuals, communities and society. The SEIA has undertaken an initial scoping of potential impacts, and sets out the methodology for assessing the social and economic effects once locations have been identified.
1.2.4 The findings from both the SEA and the SEIA have been combined to provide an overall SA of the Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs, to accompany the consultation document. The inputs from the SEA constitute the 'Environment' sections of the SA. The inputs from the SEIA inform the 'Economy and Other Marine Users' and 'People, Population and Health' sections of the SA.
1.2.5 The views of the public, the Consultation Authorities and the Consultation Bodies on the proposed Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs and the findings of this SA Report are now being sought.
1.2.6 The remainder of this report is structured as follows:
- Section 2 provides information on the wider MPA network, the proposed designation of the HPMAs and its policy context
- Section 3 presents the approach to the SA and the methods used
- Section 4 sets out the results of the SA; and
- Section 5 considers the next steps
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