Publication - Impact assessment

Scottish Crown Estate strategic management plan: environmental report

Published: 10 Sep 2019
Marine Scotland Directorate
Part of:
Marine and fisheries

Strategic environmental assessment (SEA) of the consultation draft of the Scottish Crown Estate strategic management plan.

Scottish Crown Estate strategic management plan: environmental report
2 Approach to the SEA

2 Approach to the SEA

2.1 Purpose of this Environmental Report

2.1.1 SEA provides a systematic process for identifying, reporting and mitigating the environmental impacts of the proposed Plan via the following distinct stages:

  • Screening - determining whether a plan requires a SEA;
  • Scoping - establishing significant environmental topics, setting the environmental baseline, developing the approach to the assessment and consulting with SEPA, SNH and HES via a Scoping Report;
  • Environmental Assessment - assessing the likely significant environmental impact of the Plan and consulting on both the draft Plan and Environmental Report; this Environmental Report sets out the findings of the SEA;
  • Post Adoption Statement - how the assessment and the consultation results have been considered within the finalised Plan. Developing the monitoring strategy to assess progress once adopted;
  • Monitoring - monitoring significant environmental effects and taking appropriate remedial action for any unforeseen significant environmental effects;
  • SEA Activities to date.

2.1.2 The establishment of an interim body, Crown Estate Scotland (Interim Management) was pre-screened as having no or minimal effects on the environment as proposals were regarded as largely procedural in nature. Therefore, SEA was not required.

2.1.3 Prior to its introduction to Parliament, the draft Crown Estate Bill was screened as having no likely significant environmental effects (for example, as proposals would operate within the context of existing PPS and would build on current practice). Therefore, SEA was not required.

2.1.4 The Strategic Management Plan is a qualifying plan in accordance with Section 5(4) of the 2005 Act, and therefore screening was required. Given that the proposal was considered likely to have significant environmental effects a combined screening / scoping report was produced.

2.1.5 At each stage of the assessment process, there is a requirement to consult the statutory Consultation Authorities. These are Historic Environment Scotland (HES), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) and Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). The combined screening / scoping report was submitted to the Consultation Authorities in April 2019 for the statutory consultation period of 5 weeks. The report set out initial information on the likelihood of significant effects arising from the draft Strategic Management Plan. It also provided an initial view on the proposed approach to the assessment including the evidence base that would be used to inform it.

2.1.6 Comments from the Consultation Authorities on the Scoping Report have helped to inform the content of the draft Plan and the SEA process. The SEA has subsequently progressed over the course of May to August 2019 in parallel with the preparation of the Plan itself.

2.2 SEA Methodology

2.2.1 The draft Plan has been assessed to ascertain the potential for significant environmental effects. The approach for predicting the environmental effects of the Plan, the consideration of mitigation and enhancement measures and implementing a monitoring programme are described in this section.

2.2.2 At scoping stage it was considered that, given the extent of the land and property managed by the Scottish Crown Estate which spans rural, coastal and marine assets, all environmental topics should be scoped into this SEA due to the potential for likely significant effects to occur across all topics. However, in cognisance of the complexity of the Crown Estate and the views of the Consultation Authorities on the Scoping Report, the baseline and subsequent assessment have been tailored to the nature and location of the SCE assets.

2.2.3 Due to the nature of the Plan and the hierarchy in which it sits, the assessment has been undertaken at the strategic, national level taking into account the broad spectrum of the assets.

2.2.4 The assessment is set out in a narrative style. A series of SEA objectives and assessment questions have been developed to assist in the prediction and evaluation of potential effects of the draft Strategic Management Plan on the environment (see Table 3). These SEA objectives have been informed by the environmental baseline (sections 4 and 7), and focus on the key environmental issues relevant to the assessment. Whilst the report is set out in a narrative style, these questions and objectives have informed the findings of the assessment process. A series of constraints maps has also assisted in presenting the baseline information, as well as exploring the relationship and interactions between the draft Plan and the environment.

2.2.5 In addition, a broad natural capital approach is used to help describe the multiple benefits the environment provides and to identify relevant environmental factors that the SEA can protect or enhance. The Scottish Crown Estate includes a wide range of natural capital assets, including, forests, moorland, rivers, lochs, farmland, coastal areas as well as the seabed. As stated in the Natural Capital Asset Index[24] a range of benefits or ecosystem services can be derived from these assets including:

  • Provisioning services - such as provision of meat and crops from agriculture, water, minerals, timber, and energy (essentially the products obtained from ecosystems);
  • Supporting services - of natural processes such as nutrient and water cycling (necessary for the production of all other ecosystem services);
  • Regulating services - such as vegetation removing pollutants from air and water, trees and plants controlling the rate of soil erosion and regulating local climate and flood protection, pollination from insects and carbon capture and storage (which lead to additional benefits that we can derive from the result of natural processes);
  • Cultural services - such as natural spaces attracting tourism and recreational use, physical and mental health benefits and cultural heritage (connected to human behaviour and values, spiritual experience and sense of place).

2.2.6 The assessment will discuss how the changes to the management of the estate have the potential to affect the natural capital assets and the availability of benefits.

2.2.7 The assessment is focussed at the level of the objectives, priorities and policies of the Plan. Explanatory text is provided to support the assessment findings and set out recommendations for mitigation and monitoring.

2.2.8 Where appropriate the assessment evaluates the reversibility of positive and negative environmental effects, the risks, probability, duration, frequency, magnitude and significance of the potential effects (positive, negative, short, medium and long term) and the potential secondary (or indirect), cumulative and synergistic effects associated with implementing the Plan.

2.3 Consideration of Reasonable Alternatives

2.3.1 The 2005 Act requires that the Scottish Government identify, describe and evaluate the likely significant effects on the environment of any 'reasonable alternatives' to the draft Plan, taking into account its objectives, and geographical scope. The extent to which alternatives for the programme could be considered reasonable was influenced by the relevant legislative and policy context.

2.3.2 The Scottish Crown Estate Act 2019 places a duty on the Scottish Ministers to prepare a plan for the management of the Scottish Crown Estate and therefore a 'do nothing' option of no Strategic Management Plan is not a reasonable alternative.

2.3.3 As part of the assessment process, alternatives were considered around the themed objectives, priorities and policies. Examples of how alternatives were considered for elements of each theme are summarised below. The Objective/Priority/Policy under each theme to which the possible alternative most relates is noted in each case.

Theme 1: Delivering Benefits and Realising Opportunities:

2.3.4 Preferred Objective/Priority/Policy (1): Scottish Crown Estate assets should be managed for the benefit of Scotland and communities, with market value being charged for sales or leases, unless the manager of the asset can demonstrate that wider benefits of equivalent scale will be delivered - The preferred option of requiring market value unless other benefits can be delivered is a requirement of the Crown Estate Act 2019 and there is no alternative to this approach.

2.3.5 Preferred Objective/Priority/Policy (2): In order to realise the benefits potential, and in recognition that some land and property has been acquired over time for specific investment purposes, there is likely to be sales of assets or parts of assets over the five year period of the Plan, particularly on land or at the coast in response to requests for public benefit purposes or opportunities to increase value to Scotland, recognising that the seabed is a national strategic asset that Scottish Ministers do not wish to become fragmented.

2.3.6 Possible Alternative: To not sell any Scottish Crown Estate assets - This would restrict the capital value of the estate to the future value of current assets and forego potential opportunities for increasing the capital value and revenue of the Scottish Crown Estate and wider benefits which could be achieved through sale of an asset and reinvestment of the proceeds. The capital value of the estate would be eroded unless the capital value of the current assets was maintained. Therefore this alternative is not considered to be in keeping with the overall vision of the plan.

2.3.7 Preferred Objective/Priority/Policy (6): Scottish Ministers would like managers to consider the potential for investments that contribute to the achievement of Scotland's Climate Change Plan, and would also like managers to consider the potential for increased investment activity for the purpose of regeneration for community or national benefit, including land on the coast around ports, harbours and other infrastructure, to realise opportunities for Scotland and local economies, and for these investments to normally be prioritised over other new commercial property investments.

2.3.8 Possible Alternative: To take a narrower view and keep the Scottish Crown Estate as it is and not invest elsewhere - A possible alternative to this aspect of the Plan is that the discretionary powers to consider these benefits are not used, and to continue with an approach that is more similar to the current situation under the Crown Estate Act 1961 where the assets are managed mainly on a commercial basis with the aim of maintaining or enhancing revenue and the capital value. The Act includes new legal powers and duties to take account of wider economic, social and environmental benefits, as well as the financial return to the estate, when making decisions on the management of the estate and individual assets. This alternative would disregard these benefits and continue to manage assets on a purely commercial basis and has therefore been discarded as not in keeping with the overall vision of the plan.

2.3.9 This would also be more likely to lead to foregoing potential new marine and coastal investment opportunities with a consequent impact on the capital value and revenue of the Scottish Crown Estate and the delivery of wider social, economic and environmental benefits. The impact on revenue from marine assets would also impact negatively on the potential net revenue available for coastal communities and limit the opportunity for any resultant environmental and other benefits arising.

Theme 2: How Scottish Crown Estate assets are managed:

2.3.10 Preferred Objective/Priority/Policy (8): The diversity of the Scottish Crown Estate means that a one size fits all approach to management is not practical and there are potential benefits of local control, management or enhanced input to decision-making within the national governance framework provided by the Scottish Crown Estate Act, and this framework provides the potential for different approaches in different parts of Scotland.

2.3.11 Preferred Objective/Priority/Policy (9): It is anticipated that by the end of the five year period there will be a variety of managers of Scottish Crown Estate assets with individual assets managed at the appropriate level and opportunities through either transfers, delegations or pilots for councils, communities and other eligible organisations to contribute to or control decisions on how assets are managed and used.

2.3.12 Possible Alternative: Devolve management of all assets to local authorities, community organisations or Scottish harbour authorities - Not all local authorities or communities may have the desire to manage the assets in their area or the property, rights and interests or the functions are better managed at the national level. Therefore this is not considered to be in keeping with the overall vision of the plan, and is not considered to be a reasonable alternative.

2.3.13 Possible Alternative: Retain management of all assets at the national level - The second alternative of retaining management of all assets at national level would limit community empowerment and control and it would not follow the principles of The Smith Commission's recommendations or of the 2019 Act as passed by Parliament. Therefore this alternative is not considered to be a reasonable alternative.

Theme 3: Revenue, Management of Liabilities and Other Issues:

2.3.14 This theme was scoped out as the objectives, priorities and policies relate to administrative or procedural matters or concern the future provision of advice which will be non-binding in nature.

Table 3: SEA Objectives and Assessment Questions for each Topic

SEA Topic

SEA Objectives

Assessment Questions

Material Assets

To promote the sustainable use and management of material assets

Does the Plan help to ensure sustainable use and management of SCE assets?

Does the Plan require high quality and resilient design, protect and make most effective use of SCE assets?

Biodiversity, flora and fauna

To protect, maintain and where appropriate enhance biodiversity

Does the Plan promote the protection of designated and non-designated habitats and species?

Does the Plan promote the connectivity and integration of priority habitats?

Population and human health

To protect and enhance human health and wellbeing in relation to SCE assets through improved environmental quality

Will the Plan affect any aspect of the environment which contributes to human health and wellbeing e.g. air and water?

Will the Plan enhance public amenity?

Soil and Geodiversity

To maintain or improve soil quality and prevent further degradation of soils

Will the Plan safeguard soil quality, quantity and function?


To protect and enhance the state of the water environment and manage flood risk

Will the Plan contribute to reducing levels of pollution?

Will the Plan ensure the sustainable use of water resources?

Will the Plan reduce or increase the number of people or properties at risk of flooding?


To maintain or improve air quality and reduce emissions of key pollutants

Will the Plan contribute to reducing emissions of key pollutants to air?

Will the Plan contribute to reducing levels of nuisance?

Climatic Factors

Reduce vulnerability to the effects of climate change, contribute to mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change

Does the Plan support development of renewable energy / low carbon technologies?

Does the Plan contribute to reducing existing and avoiding new GHG related to SCE assets?

Does the Plan support adaptation to climate change?

Cultural Heritage and Historic Environment

To preserve and enhance historic buildings, archaeological sites and other culturally important features

Does the Plan protect and promote the historic environment?

Landscape and Visual

Protect and where appropriate enhance the character, diversity and qualities of landscapes associated with SCE assets

Does the Plan help to protect and enhance landscape character?

Does the Plan help to protect and enhance landscape setting?