Scotland's National Marine Plan

This Plan covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore

waters (12 to 200 nautical miles). It also applies to the exercise of both reserved and

devolved functions.

4. General Policies

4.1 The Scottish Government's commitment to sustainable development is reflected in its Purpose. It is also reflected in the continuing support for the five guiding principles set out in the UK's shared framework for sustainable development:

Achieving a sustainable economy, promoting good governance and using sound science responsibly are essential to the creation and maintenance of a strong, healthy and just society capable of living within environmental limits.

4.2 Marine planning should contribute to sustainable development and use of marine resources by enabling development and use that balances costs and benefits. Development and use, provided it is undertaken in the right place and at the right time, can provide multiple benefits.

4.3 The presumption in favour of sustainable development and use is presented as an overarching general planning principle of the Plan. The General Policies are considered necessary to achieve development and use sustainably. As sustainability is an overarching principle, the environmental, social and economic policies of this Plan are intended to be complementary with one another as elements of sustainability. They are presented according to the five guiding principles and categories of High Level Marine Objectives.

4.4 All text in this chapter should be considered as planning policy. The policies apply to all development and use and are supplemented by the policies in the sector chapters. Unless otherwise stated, policies apply to both inshore and offshore waters.


GEN 1 General planning principle: There is a presumption in favour of sustainable development and use of the marine environment when consistent with the policies and objectives of this Plan.

4.5 This principle is relevant to all marine activities, but is especially relevant for the sectors that the Scottish Government's Economic Strategy [25] have identified as being key growth sectors - economic activities that Scotland specialises in. These include aquaculture and fisheries as food sectors; oil and gas and renewable energy activities; and tourism. Many of these sectors are particularly important in more remote areas of Scotland. The principle is equally relevant to existing as well as emerging activity and should be applied equally to both, subject to objectives and policies of this Plan.

4.6 Development and use of the marine area should be consistent with this Plan. This will help activity and businesses to grow while ensuring activities are undertaken in a sustainable manner that protects and enhances Scotland's natural and historic marine environment. It will also provide greater certainty as to how proposals relating to the marine environment will be considered by planning and consenting authorities.

Achieving a sustainable economy

GEN 2 Economic benefit: Sustainable development and use which provides economic benefit to Scottish communities is encouraged when consistent with the objectives and policies of the Plan.

GEN 3 Social benefit: Sustainable development and use which provides social benefits is encouraged when consistent with the objectives and policies of the Plan.

4.7 Sustainable development and use of the marine environment can provide multiple economic benefits at a community and national level, including economic growth, skills development, employment, maintaining or increasing population levels and opportunities for investment and trade.

4.8 The economic benefit of proposed development and use should be considered carefully and taken into account, appropriately and proportionately, in marine decision making.

4.9 Particular consideration should be given to opportunities that aim to provide benefit to communities, local job creation and local training either directly or through supply chain projects.

4.10 Social benefits include those directly associated with economic growth such as increased wealth, improved quality of life and community regeneration. However, benefits of an intrinsic nature such as health and well-being associated with the natural and historic environment, a choice of location and lifestyle, sport and recreation are also important. Social benefits apply not only to coastal communities but also to those who travel to and use the marine and coastal environment for employment or leisure.

4.11 The social benefit of proposed developments and increasing use should be considered carefully and taken into account, appropriately and proportionately, in marine decision making. Consideration should be given where industries and developers assist in supporting the development of onshore infrastructure, helping to achieve community cohesion and reducing social disparity. The impact of proposed development on existing activities, including those which promote health and wellbeing, should also be taken into account in decision making.

4.12 Developers will be expected to co-operate to input into practical scenarios related to the lifecycle of a project (for example construction, operation and maintenance of their development) to allow local communities to understand the socio-economic and environmental implications of a proposed development. Scenario mapping, Strategic Environmental Assessment and Sustainability Appraisal may all be helpful in doing so.

GEN 4 Co-existence: Proposals which enable coexistence with other development sectors and activities within the Scottish marine area are encouraged in planning and decision making processes, when consistent with policies and objectives of this Plan.

4.13 As development and use of the marine environment continues to increase, there is likely to be increased competition for space. One approach to managing this is to encourage development proposals which bring together activities which are compatible or synergistic in one location, to make good use of space, i.e. those which involve or allow co-existence, taking account of temporal and spatial issues.

4.14 This applies to a wide range of scenarios, including using existing infrastructure as a basis for a new activity, or taking advantage of opportunities now and in the future as technology advances, or for inshore activities to locate further offshore in tandem with other industries.

4.15 Opportunities for coexistence and synergies may be identified through existing examples, by sectors as new practices and technologies emerge or by data collection at a national or regional level. Where possible, marine planners and decision makers should encourage development or use which does not result in areas being unsuitable for future use by others ( e.g. by considering alternative designs or through licensing decisions and conditions).

4.16 Where it becomes apparent that different activities are incompatible or mutually exclusive, some areas may be identified within regional marine plans for preferential use by specific sectors. Any selection of such areas should follow:

  • A scoping exercise to determine where potential interactions may occur and the likely effect of interaction.
  • An understanding of environmental, planning and other sectoral constraints. Where appropriate, this can be developed through Regional Locational Guidance.
  • A consideration of the priorities for development and use of the area, taking account of the feasibility of taking forward expansion.
  • Sustainability appraisal considering the potential range of impacts on the environment and the range of other potential users, and others who could be less directly impacted.
  • Consideration of any cumulative impact.
  • Scenario mapping to understand the impact on the local communities.
  • Robust consultation.

4.17 Marine planning should not impede existing agreements between sectors and should seek to complement such arrangements where they exist. Where conflict over space or resource exists or arises, marine planning should encourage initiatives between sectors to resolve conflict and take account of agreements where this is applicable.

Regional Policy: regional marine plans should consider:

  • Determining sectoral incompatibilities and potential for coexistence of development and activity using appropriate mechanisms such as interactions matrices.
  • Identifying areas for preferential use by specific sectors, where appropriate, following consultation and using appropriate mechanisms such as sustainability appraisal and scenario mapping.
  • Taking account of cross sectoral agreements with regards to shared usage of the marine area.

GEN 5 Climate change: Marine planners and decision makers must act in the way best calculated to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change.

4.18 Marine planners and decision makers should seek to facilitate a transition to a low carbon economy. Marine planners and decision makers should be satisfied that developers and users have sufficient regard to the impacts of a changing climate, and where appropriate provide effective mitigation and adaptation to its predicted effects. Offshore and coastal developments should be appropriately sited and designed, and use technologies and equipment appropriate for local conditions, now and in the future. The Scottish Climate Change Adaption Programme [26] should be complied with. Where appropriate, marine planning authorities should be satisfied that adequate risk management and contingency plans are in place, particularly in relation to potential changes in storminess.

4.19 Developers and users of the marine environment should seek to address climate change through:

  • Mitigation - reducing emissions of carbon and other greenhouse gas. This will be of particular relevance in cases of large scale development and infrastructure projects.
  • Adaptation - strengthening resilience in relation to greater climate variability. Examples include allowing natural coastal change where possible and new developments having regard to possible future climate conditions (giving particular consideration to vulnerability, scale and longevity of operation).

4.20 Reducing human pressure and safeguarding ecosystem services such as natural coastal protection and natural carbon sinks ( e.g. seagrass beds, kelp and saltmarsh) should be considered. In some cases, compensatory habitat creation or enhancement may be possible and should be considered as a last resort if significant harm cannot be avoided. Appropriate proactive opportunities for enhancing natural carbon sinks and allowing natural coastal change where possible should also be considered.

Regional Policy: regional marine plans should:

  • Identify significant carbon sinks and seek to avoid colocation with potentially damaging activity; then
  • Assess the acceptability of any proposed partial loss or damage to natural carbon sinks (including any compensatory measures) through licensing or management of marine activities, balanced with priorities presented in this Plan and respective regional marine plans.

GEN 6 Historic environment: Development and use of the marine environment should protect and, where appropriate, enhance heritage assets in a manner proportionate to their significance.

4.21 The historic environment includes all aspects of the environment resulting from the interaction between people and places through time, including all surviving physical remains of past human activity, whether visible, buried or submerged. In addition to its cultural value, the historic environment can be a powerful driver for economic growth, attracting investment and tourism and sustaining enjoyable and sustainable places in which to live and work.

4.22 Those elements - buildings, monuments, sites or landscapes - that have been identified as holding a degree of significance meriting consideration are called 'heritage' assets. Some heritage assets around our coast have a level of interest that has justified statutory designation [27] (Map 3). There are also many undesignated heritage assets which also contribute positively to the cultural and social dimension of our coasts and seas and to local economies through recreation and tourism [28] .

4.23 Marine planning should help to ensure that future marine activities and developments can be carried out in a way that respects the marine historic environment and the setting of important coastal heritage assets. It can also help to increase the social and economic contribution of the heritage assets, for example by encouraging opportunities for public access.

4.24 To achieve this, marine planners and decision makers should consider implications and opportunities for the historic environment taking into account the potential impacts of development and use on:

  • Designated heritage assets - representing sites of national or international significance for which statutory requirements apply. Designated assets should be protected in situ within an appropriate setting [29] . Substantial loss or harm to designated assets should be exceptional and should only be permitted if this is necessary to deliver social, economic or environmental benefits that outweigh the harm or loss.
  • Undesignated heritage assets - those that meet designation criteria [30] or make a positive contribution should also be protected in-situ, wherever possible, and consideration given to the potential for new discoveries of historic or archaeological interest to arise.

4.25 Proposals for development and use that may affect the historic environment should provide information on the significance of known heritage assets and the potential for new discoveries to arise. They should demonstrate how any adverse impacts will be avoided, or if not possible minimised and mitigated. Where it is not possible to minimise or mitigate impacts, the benefits of proceeding with the proposal should be clearly set out.

4.26 Where the case for substantial change to a heritage asset is accepted, marine decision-making authorities should identify and require applicants to undertake suitable mitigating actions to record and advance understanding of the significance of the heritage asset before it is lost, in a manner proportionate to that significance. The resulting evidence should be made publicly accessible and copies of reports archived with the Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland [31] and the adjacent Local Authority archaeology service.

Map 3 Marine Cultural Heritage Statutory Designations

GEN 7 Landscape/seascape: Marine planners and decision makers should ensure that development and use of the marine environment take seascape, landscape and visual impacts into account.

4.27 Landscape and seascape [32] are important elements of people's enjoyment of the coastal and marine environment. They are also important as the setting for coastal communities, contributing to sense of place, economic livelihoods and quality of life. Scotland's varied coastal landscapes are internationally renowned and support a valuable recreation and tourism sector.

4.28 The Scottish Government is committed to implementing the principles of the European Landscape Convention, which includes seascapes and applies an 'all landscapes approach' that addresses developed, altered and cultural landscapes as well as more natural scenic areas. This does not preclude development or change, but recommends that it is carried out appropriately for the area's landscape character and visual amenity.

4.29 Development and use that affect National Scenic Areas, National Parks and World Heritage Sites should only be permitted where:

  • They will not adversely affect the integrity of the area or its special qualities for which it has been designated; or
  • Any such adverse effects are clearly outweighed by social, environmental or economic benefits of national importance.

4.30 In making these judgements, planners and decision makers should have regard to the qualities of the location in question, including any designation [33] . More generally, the siting and design of a development should take account of the local landscape/seascape character and quality. Potential effects on landscapes and seascapes, including cumulative effects should be considered and developers should seek to minimise adverse impacts through careful planning and design, considering the services which the natural environment is providing and maximising the potential for enhancement.

4.31 Where development has the potential to impact on wild land [34] , locally designated areas, largely developed coast, areas subject to significant constraints or largely unspoiled areas of coast, Scottish Planning Policy [35] should be considered when planning for, and taking decisions, which may impact on such areas.

4.32 Existing Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) guidance [36] on the principles of good siting and design and examples of emerging good practice should be followed. SNH Landscape Character Assessments and forthcoming SNH guidance on undertaking Coastal Character Assessment also provide useful tools in considering impacts on landscape.

GEN 8 Coastal process and flooding: Developments and activities in the marine environment should be resilient to coastal change and flooding, and not have unacceptable adverse impact on coastal processes or contribute to coastal flooding.

4.33 Over the coming decades, much of Scotland's coastline is expected to experience rising sea level and an increased flood risk, leading to greater rates of coastal change. Natural change may be compounded by human activities such as dredging, soil deposition, construction and coastal protection measures. While flooding and coastal change cannot be prevented entirely, it can be managed to reduce impacts on people, property, businesses and infrastructure.

4.34 Coastal infrastructure should generally be sited in areas less vulnerable to flooding and erosion, although there may be exceptions if a specific location is essential for operational reasons or it cannot be located elsewhere. Marine planners and decision makers should take account of national flood risk assessment and flood risk and hazard maps, prepared by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA), which identify areas at risk of significant flooding (Potentially Vulnerable Areas) along with Local Flood Risk Management Plans [37] .

4.35 The Scottish Government is working with SNH and partners to assess coastal change and map vulnerability. Marine planners and stakeholders with an interest in coastal developments should take account of these maps, when available, to ensure priorities in coastal area are managed in an integrated way.

4.36 A precautionary and risk based approach should be taken in terms of understanding emerging evidence on coastal processes and sea level rise.

4.37 Marine planners and decision makers should also be satisfied that activities and developments will be resilient to risks of coastal change, climate change and flooding over their lifetime, and will not have an unacceptable impact on coastal change. They should seek to ensure that any geomorphological changes that an activity or development bring about in coastal processes, including sediment movement and wave patterns, are minimised and mitigated, bearing in mind the potential impact on commercial interests such as fisheries and conservation of the natural environment and key coastal heritage sites. Developments which may affect areas at high risk and increase the probability of coastal change should not be permitted unless the impacts upon the area can be managed effectively.

4.38 Wherever possible flood risk management and coastal protection solutions should work with natural processes and features, encouraging managed realignment of coastal habitats such as sand dunes, salt marshes and mudflats. The protective role of geodiversity, geomorphological and natural features such as kelp beds and biogenic reefs and sandbanks should also be considered alongside opportunities for recovery and enhancement.

4.39 As well as offering flood protection, this approach will help adaptation to climate change, improve resilience of ecosystems, deliver benefits for biodiversity and support ecosystem services more generally. If and where more traditional engineered solutions are required, the appraisal process should seek to fully understand the risks of a changing climate using the most up to date robust evidence. Modelling will be required to estimate the potential impacts of the projections for a specific flood risk protection scheme. Planners and decision makers should be satisfied that coastal processes will not be adversely affected.

Regional Policy: Regional marine plans should be aligned with terrestrial development plans and reflect coastal areas likely to be suitable for development, taking into account the most recent flood risk and flood hazard maps, and forthcoming coastal erosion vulnerability mapping. Where relevant, regional marine plans should also reflect areas where managed realignment of coast may be appropriate, setting out the potential benefits such as habitat creation and new recreation opportunities. <applies to inshore waters only>

Living within environmental limits

GEN 9 Natural heritage: Development and use of the marine environment must:

(a) Comply with legal requirements for protected areas and protected species.

(b) Not result in significant impact on the national status of Priority Marine Features.

(c) Protect and, where appropriate, enhance the health of the marine area.

4.40 Scotland's marine natural resource, biodiversity and geodiversity is a valuable asset delivering a wide range of ecosystem services (see Chapter 3 - Box A), which provide a large stock of natural capital and support a variety of recreational and economic activities. Nature conservation measures play an integral role in protecting and enhancing the marine natural environment, ensuring it is healthy, biologically diverse, resilient and productive and that ecosystems continue to provide social, economic and wider benefits for people, industry and society.

4.41 Marine planners and other decision makers should act in the way best calculated to further the achievement of sustainable development and use, including the protection and, where appropriate, enhancement of the health of the Scottish marine area [38] . The Strategy for Marine Nature Conservation in Scotland's Seas [39] sets out aims and objectives to achieve this. The Strategy outlines a three pillar approach to conservation: site protection, species conservation and wider seas policies and measures.


4.42 A network of well managed marine protected areas is being established to meet national objectives and help deliver an ecologically coherent MPA network in the North East Atlantic, contributing to the protection and enhancement of the area to which the Plan applies [40] . The network will comprise of newly designated Marine Protected Areas (Map 4) as well as Natura Sites and marine components of Sites of Special Scientific Interest ( SSSI) and Ramsar sites [41] . The management requirements of each of these designation types must be met. These sites, together with other protected areas will make a significant contribution to the protection, enhancement, and health of the marine area. Improved health of the marine environment will also lead to increased resilience of ecosystems to climate change.

Natura 2000 Sites

4.43 Sites designated as Special Areas of Conservation ( SACs) and Special Protection Areas ( SPAs) make up the Natura 2000 network of protected areas. Any plan or project likely to have a significant effect on these sites, which is not directly connected with or necessary to their conservation management, must be subject to an 'appropriate assessment' of their implications for the site in view of its conservation objectives. Such plans or proposals may only be approved if the competent authority has ascertained by means of an 'appropriate assessment' that there will be no adverse effect on the integrity of the site.

4.44 A derogation is available for authorities to approve plans or projects which could adversely affect the integrity of a Natura site if:

  • there are no alternative solutions;
  • there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest, including those of a social or economic nature [42] ; and
  • compensatory measures are provided to ensure that the overall coherence of the Natura network is protected.

4.45 If an authority wishes to use this derogation, Scottish Ministers must be notified. For sites hosting a priority habitat or species (as defined in Article 1 of the Habitats Directive), prior consultation with the European Commission via Scottish Ministers is required unless either the proposal is necessary for public health or safety reasons or it will have beneficial consequences of primary importance to the environment.

4.46 Authorities should afford the same level of protection to proposed SACs and SPAs ( i.e. sites which have been approved by Scottish Ministers for formal consultation but which have not yet been designated) as they do to sites which have been designated.

Marine Protected Areas

4.47 Marine Protected Areas ( MPAs) are those designated under the Marine Acts to protect features of importance to Scotland [43] and which will contribute to an ecologically coherent network of sites. MPAs are identified according to the guidelines on the selection and development of the MPA network [44] .

4.48 The Marine Acts place a duty on all regulators to ensure that there is no significant risk of hindering the achievement of the conservation objectives of an MPA before giving consent to an activity. Where an on-going activity presents a significant risk of hindering the achievement of the conservation objectives of an MPA there will be a management intervention. This intervention will be practical and proportionate, utilising the most appropriate statutory mechanism to reduce the risk. Detailed guidance can be found in Marine Scotland's Nature Conservation Marine Protected Areas Draft Management Handbook [45] .

Sites of Special Scientific Interest

4.49 Development that affects a Site of Special Scientific Interest should only be permitted where:

  • the objectives of designation and the overall integrity of the area will not be compromised; or
  • any significant adverse effects on the qualities for which the area has been designated are clearly outweighed by social, environmental or economic benefits of national importance.

Locally Designated Sites

4.50 Locally designated natural heritage areas reflect areas of at least local importance. Where it is appropriate to do so, the Scottish Planning Policy [46] approach to local designations should be considered.

Other policies for all protected areas

4.51 In addition to complying with legal obligations for protected areas, management plans and guidance on protected areas should be followed to contribute to the achievement of site objectives. All Ramsar sites are also Natura sites and/or Sites of Special Scientific Interest and are protected under the relevant statutory regimes.

Species protection

4.52 The presence (or potential presence) of a legally protected species is an important consideration. If there is evidence to suggest that a protected species is present or may be affected by a proposed development, steps must be taken to establish their presence. The level of protection afforded by legislation must be factored into the planning and design of the development and any impacts must be fully considered prior to the determination of the application.

4.53 Certain activities in territorial waters ( e.g. those involving European Protected Species as specified in the Conservation (Natural Habitats etc.) Regulations 1994, and wild birds, protected animals and plants under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981) may only be undertaken under licence. Equivalent provisions for birds and European Protected Species under the offshore regulations need to be followed in the Scottish offshore zone in accordance with the Offshore Marine Conservation (Natural habitats, &c.) Regulations 2007.

4.54 For certain species [47] deliberate or reckless disturbance or harassment is prohibited and can only be carried out in accordance with the terms of a licence. Marine Scotland's Guidance on Protection of Marine European Protected Species from Injury and Disturbance [48] must be followed. The principles in this Guidance may also be of relevance to other species such as basking shark.

Other policies for protected species

4.55 Guidance on harassment at designated seal haul out sites [49] should be taken into account. Seal conservation areas should also be taken into account, as should recommended techniques for assessing acceptable levels of man-made pressures.

Wider seas measures

4.56 Marine planning can deliver significant improvements to management of our seas by contributing to improvement in the status of Priority Marine Features ( PMFs) and their associated habitats, species and ecosystems.

4.57 Priority Marine Features [50] are species and habitats which have been identified as being of conservation importance to Scotland. Most are a subset of species and habitats identified on national, UK or international lists. They provide a new focus for marine conservation in Scotland. The list does not currently include wild birds species, which are protected under the EU Birds Directive. Impacts of development and use on the national status of Priority Marine Features must be considered when decisions are being made, taking account of the advice of Statutory Advisors. Where planned developments or use have potential to impact PMFs, mitigation, including alternative locations, should be considered. Actions should be taken to enhance the status of PMFs where appropriate.

4.58 Consideration should be given to opportunities to enhance biodiversity and associated ecosystem services, including recovery and/or enhancement of degraded habitats or species populations.

4.59 The descriptors and targets for the achievement of Good Environmental Status ( GES) under the Marine Strategy Framework Directive are also relevant to the wider seas approach to nature conservation. Development in, and use of, the marine environment must not compromise the achievement or maintenance of GES for UK waters.


4.60 Geodiversity provides many ecosystem services, such as a diversity of seabed habitats and physical features necessary for the existence of important marine life, the basis for energy development and the attenuation of erosive forces close to shore.

4.61 Marine planning should consider opportunities to protect important geodiversity features and prevent deterioration or enhance where appropriate. Where geodiversity features are qualifying or protected features of designated sites, activities must be managed accordingly under the relevant legislation. Marine planners and decision makers should consider impacts on geology, taking into account their significance. Substantial loss or harm should be exceptional and should only be permitted if this is necessary to deliver social, economic or environmental benefits that outweigh the harm or loss.

GEN 10 Invasive non-native species: Opportunities to reduce the introduction of invasive non-native species to a minimum or proactively improve the practice of existing activity should be taken when decisions are being made.

Invasive non-natives

4.62 Invasive non-native species can cause damage to the environment, economy and health. Control is expensive and not always possible, especially in the marine environment where internationally agreed prevention measures may be needed. 'Prevention, rapid response, control' is the hierarchical approach to management of invasive non-natives currently employed. Good biosecurity practice should consider the risk of planned activities establishing new pathways for the spread of invasive non-natives and is essential. Biosecurity measures must be established in any instance where a new route for invasive non-native species is determined. SNH guidance is available for producing site and operation-based biosecurity plans for preventing the introduction of non-native species [51] .

4.63 The Code of Practice on Non-Native Species for Scotland [52] , species control agreements and orders (under the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act and international guidelines should be used where relevant to the marine environment.

GEN 11 Marine litter: Developers, users and those accessing the marine environment must take measures to address marine litter where appropriate. Reduction of litter must be taken into account by decision makers.

4.64 Marine litter poses a number of detrimental problems across the economy, environment and society. These include ingestion by and entanglement of, wildlife; wider ecosystem deterioration; public health issues; impacts on aesthetics and a wide range of economic impacts across the raft of industries reliant on our coastal and marine environment.

4.65 Opportunities to reduce and address marine litter, with reference to A Marine Litter Strategy for Scotland [53] , should be taken into account in decision making and when marine plans are being developed. In particular the integrity and function of marine and coastal ecosystems should not be compromised by litter and there should be no significant risk to wildlife, communities and human health.

Regional Policy: Regional marine plans should consider identifying measures in place to address marine litter and demonstrating how they contribute to the Marine Litter Strategy.

Map 4 Marine SPAs, SACs and MPAs within Scottish Waters

GEN 12 Water quality and resource: Developments and activities should not result in a deterioration of the quality of waters to which the Water Framework Directive, Marine Strategy Framework Directive or other related directives apply.

4.66 Marine planners and decision makers should be satisfied that impacts of development and use on water have been taken into account. With regards to the Water Framework Directive ( WFD), reference should be made to the 'ecological status of the water environment' which includes water quality, quantity, and changes to water level as well as biological aspects such as the impact of non-native species.

4.67 Marine planning and decision making authorities should ensure they have regard to any relevant River Basin Management Plans which implement the WFD and also take account of Shellfish Growing Waters and Bathing Water Directives. Supplementary plans and programmes of measures devised for the river basin district should also be taken into account. They should satisfy themselves where relevant that any development will not cause a deterioration in status of any water to which the WFD applies, subject to the provision of Article 4.7 of that Directive, and should be consistent with the requirements of related directives of the WFD including those on priority substances and groundwater. Decision makers should seek to mitigate impacts on the quality of shellfish waters, designated bathing waters and areas particularly important for immersion sports from any proposed development. <applies to inshore waters only>

4.68 The Marine Strategy Framework Directive also introduces requirements for targets on contamination and eutrophication for marine waters out to 200 nautical miles.

GEN 13 Noise: Development and use in the marine environment should avoid significant adverse effects of man-made noise and vibration, especially on species sensitive to such effects.

4.69 Noise and vibration has the potential to disturb, or be damaging to, a number of species, although the full extent of this is not known, either at an individual or population level. Consideration should be given to the effects of man-made noise and vibration [54] on marine environment and people [55] , with effective mitigation measures being adopted where appropriate. Mitigating and minimising the effects of noise and vibration on wildlife should be considered, taking account of known sensitivities to particular frequencies and source levels of sound. Significant adverse effects on health should be avoided.

4.70 Protection can be advanced with the development of systems for monitoring noise and further research that quantifies the related and cumulative risks to the marine environment. Developers should monitor loud, low to mid frequency (10Hz to 10kHz) impulsive noise. This includes use of seismic airguns, other geophysical surveys (<10kHz), pile driving, explosives and certain acoustic deterrent devices. Details of proposed work should be provided to the Noise Registry [56] .

GEN 14 Air quality: Development and use of the marine environment should not result in the deterioration of air quality and should not breach any statutory air quality limits.

4.71 Some development and use may result in increased emissions to air, including particulate matter and gasses. Impacts on relevant statutory air quality limits must be taken into account and mitigation measures adopted, if necessary, to allow an activity to proceed within these limits.

4.72 Marine and terrestrial planners should liaise to consider how air quality may be improved, particularly within or adjacent to Air Quality Management Areas.

Promoting good governance

GEN 15 Planning alignment A: Marine and terrestrial plans should align to support marine and land based components required by development and seek to facilitate appropriate access to the shore and sea.

4.73 Alignment of marine and terrestrial plans is required for successful planning and operation of marine industries and activities requiring both land and marine infrastructure, or infrastructure which straddles the jurisdiction of both plan areas. Examples include, but are not limited to, cables or pipelines, aquaculture, ports and harbours and offshore renewables, and coastal infrastructure. Maintaining access to the shore and sea is equally important. While access is essential for the economic success of marine industries and consequential social benefits, it is also equally important for recreational activities (many of which are associated with health, wellbeing and sport development) and tourism.

4.74 Marine planners should ensure compatibility with plans for any adjoining land planning area and marine region, and should work cross border to ensure compatibility where this is relevant ( Chapter 2 Marine Planning in Context; also Planning Circular - The relationship between the statutory land use planning system and marine planning and licensing [57] ).

4.75 When developing proposals, developers and users should be compliant with relevant Development Plans. They should also ensure that land based components of a development or infrastructure, such as cables or pipelines which cross the marine/land interface, do not restrict access to the marine area.

Regional policy: Regional marine plans are required to be compatible with the plans for any adjoining marine region. <applies to inshore waters only>

GEN 16 Planning alignment B: Marine plans should align and comply where possible with other statutory plans and should consider objectives and policies of relevant non statutory plans where appropriate to do so. <applies to inshore waters only>

4.76 Alignment of marine planning with other planning, regulation and management that affects the use of the marine area and its resources will be important to manage pressures, further environmental health and achieve sustainable development across the coastal area. When regional marine plans are being developed, they should also consider relevant non statutory plans or strategies to allow for integration of policies of local relevance to be included for consultation. Examples include, but are not restricted to, shoreline management plans and integrated coastal zone management plans. <applies to inshore waters only>

GEN 17 Fairness: All marine interests will be treated with fairness and in a transparent manner when decisions are being made in the marine environment.

4.77 The concept of the marine environment and its resources being managed for current and future generations and for the benefit of the nation as a whole is integral to marine planning. The marine planning system therefore operates in the long term public interest. Marine planning has a role to play balancing competing demands for marine resources and resolution of planning issues will not be able to satisfy all interests all of the time. However, it is fundamental that all interests should be able to participate on an equal basis in the planning and decision making process and that decisions should be taken in a transparent manner.

GEN 18 Engagement: Early and effective engagement should be undertaken with the general public and all interested stakeholders to facilitate planning and consenting processes.

4.78 Engagement with the public and other stakeholders should be appropriate, proportionate and meaningful. It should be undertaken as early as possible in planning and consenting processes, taking into account statutory pre-application consultation requirements where these apply, to enable a range of views to be fairly reflected. Marine users and potential users, planners and decision makers, statutory consultees, communities, representative organisations, public bodies, government and the general public should all contribute where necessary. Engagement and the views expressed should be a consideration in decision making. There should be a presumption in favour of publicising applications for marine and terrestrial components of a development together during consenting processes.

Using sound science responsibly

GEN 19 Sound evidence: Decision making in the marine environment will be based on a sound scientific and socio-economic evidence.

4.79 Marine plans and decision making will be based on a sound scientific base, drawn from a wide range of sources including the scientific community, stakeholders and users of the marine area. New social, economic and environmental and historic information will continue to improve knowledge of the marine environment and the potential impacts and benefits of its use. Gaps in evidence will be addressed through a variety of means, including but not exclusively, the Marine Scotland Science Strategy [58] , evidence gathered in support of regional planning, and marine research and monitoring mechanisms and stakeholders.

4.80 Deployment and monitoring of new technologies and development on a limited basis and limited scale will improve understanding of impacts, mitigations and the potential for sustainability prior to full scale activity. It should be encouraged by planners and decision makers subject to licensing considerations and the policies and objectives of this Plan.

4.81 Key evidence bases such as National Marine Plan interactive and Marine Scotland interactive will be updated to reflect current information.

4.82 Where evidence is inconclusive and impacts of development or use on marine resources are uncertain reasonable efforts should be made to fill evidence gaps, decision makers should apply precaution within an overall risk-based approach. This means that if impacts of an activity are uncertain, preventative measures may be required if there is concern that activity may harm human health, living resources, marine ecosystems, interfere with other legitimate uses of the sea or have other social and economic impacts. Modifications to proposals which would eliminate or minimise risk must be considered. The precautions taken should be considered based on risk, by balancing environmental, social and economic costs and benefits, and should also take account of legal designations.

GEN 20 Adaptive management: Adaptive management practices should take account of new data and information in decision making, informing future decisions and future iterations of policy.

4.83 Data collected via monitoring of development will be made available. Where monitoring, research and data collection brings to light new social, economic or environmental evidence and identifies issues to be addressed in marine plans, adaptive management practices should, where appropriate, incorporate recommendations arising from on-going strategic and project level monitoring programmes in decision making, informing future decisions and iterations of policy. Evolving technologies, innovation, new techniques and sound practices should all be considered to ensure a flexible and appropriate approach is taken to marine planning and decision making.

GEN 21 Cumulative impacts: Cumulative impacts affecting the ecosystem of the marine plan area should be addressed in decision-making and plan implementation.

4.84 Cumulative impact [59] on a resource and ecosystem service may occur because of a series of developments or activities of the same type or from the combined effects of a mix of different types of activities.

How cumulative impacts should be taken into account

4.85 Planning authorities and decision makers will consider the potential cumulative impact of activities and, using best available techniques, whether:

  • The cumulative impact of activities, either by themselves over time or in conjunction with others, outweigh the benefits;
  • A series of low impact activities would have a significant cumulative impact which outweigh the benefit;
  • An activity may preclude the use of the same area/resource for another potentially beneficial activity.

4.86 It is expected that the development of regional marine plans and sector development plans will consider these elements through processes such as Sustainability Appraisal and Strategic Environmental Assessment. Appropriate assessment may be required. Impact Assessment of the socio-economic costs and benefits may also be needed, providing further opportunity to consider a range of possible cumulative impacts. At a project level, such consideration will be given through Environmental Impact Assessment and Habitat Regulation Appraisal.

Other considerations

4.87 Benefits and adverse effects of a proposal, which may be economic, social or environmental in nature should be provided by the proposing party and weighed using information from a variety of sources to consider different impacts. Cumulative impact assessment may be appropriate even if a project is small where it is reasonably expected to contribute to cumulative impact of existing or proposed activity. However, the level of assessment undertaken for any project should be proportionate to the expected scale and impact of the project as well as the sensitivity of the environment or social or economic effect concerned.

4.88 Mitigation may be required depending on the significance of impacts. This should be evaluated in terms of whether there are any potential impacts the sustainability of the coastal and marine environment, or social well-being.

4.89 Close working across plan boundaries should exist to allow for cumulative effects of activities in plan boundary areas to be considered.


Back to top