Scotland's Blue Economy: current status review

Describes our starting position in the transition to adopting a Blue Economy approach to marine sectors, communities, and the environment. It provides us with the foundation to consider how we can track our progress and determine if significant and lasting change is occurring.

1 Introduction

1.1 Purpose

The Blue Economy Vision was published by the Scottish Government in March 2022. The Vision defines our long-term ambition for shared stewardship of Scotland’s marine and freshwater environment and wider blue economy. It sets out the need for transformative change to create fairer, more prosperous, nature-positive marine sectors and communities. By delivering the Blue Economy Vision, we will ensure that our marine assets support Scotland’s wider goal to become a wellbeing economy and tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change as set out in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation.

In order to successfully implement our Blue Economy Vision, we need to understand the current status of our marine, coastal, and inter-linked freshwater environments, the businesses that operate in them, and the communities that they support. We also need to be able to measure our progress and evaluate the effectiveness of our approach.

The first phase of delivery of our Blue Economy Vision was the publication of Delivering Scotland's Blue Economy Approach in November 2022. As part of this first phase, we have undertaken a status review to provide a clear picture of where we are now in relation to the Blue Economy outcomes. A summary of this status review was included in the Delivering Scotland's Blue Economy Approach document.

This status review document expands on those summaries and describes our starting position in the transition to adopting a Blue Economy approach to marine sectors, communities, and the environment. It provides us with the foundation to consider how we can track our progress, determine if significant and lasting change is occurring, and whether the Blue Economy approach is working.

1.2 Approach

There is a wide range of existing data that provides information on the status of Scotland’s Blue Economy. This includes data from one-off studies, as well as routinely collected survey data and annual statistics. Some relevant data, particularly related to environmental status, are collected via environmental assessments that are carried out as part of statutory frameworks (e.g. the UK Marine Strategy) or by international conventions for protecting the environment (e.g. OSPAR[1]). Other datasets are collated at national scale or regional scale.

To assess the current status of Scotland’s Blue Economy, each of the six outcomes was first broken down into a handful of key words or phrases – referred to as ‘sub-outcomes’. These key phrases were based on the text description of the outcome and each captured a discrete part of the outcome.

An initial list of data sources that provide relevant economic, social, and environmental information was compiled through desk-based research. This was then added to by internal engagement across the Scottish Government at workshops and via email. Feedback was also sought on these data sources from key stakeholders[2]. The data sources were then mapped against the ‘sub-outcomes’. Some data sources, like the Scottish Marine Assessment (hereafter SMA 2020), were relevant in more than one outcome. These mapped data sources were used to write a narrative description of the current status for each of the six Blue Economy outcomes. Where relevant, the most up-to date, available figures were used. For some data sources, the most recent data points were several years old – e.g. 2018 or 2019 – and thus pre-Covid-19, pre-EU Exit, pre-avian influenza of 2022, and pre-publication of the Blue Economy Vision, providing a useful baseline review from which to measure change.

This document is arranged as follows:

  • Chapter 2 breaks down the six Blue Economy outcomes in Sections 2.1 through 2.6 (where each of these sections is broken down into sub-sections in which evidence is reviewed),
  • Chapter 3 sets out a good practice approach to Monitoring and Evaluation, and
  • Chapter 4 provides a full list of the data sources used in this publication.



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