Scottish Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) consultation: Scottish Government response

Our response to the public consultation on the proposal to designate 10% of Scottish seas as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) by 2026.

1 Introduction

1.1 Format of this Consultation Report

This consultation report presents the key findings from the Scottish Highly Protected Marine Areas consultation, and how these will be used for future policy development.

1.2 Background

The Bute House Agreement included the commitment to designate “a world-leading suite of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of our seas by 2026”. The public consultation on the draft policy framework, draft Site Selection Guidelines, initial Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA), initial Socio-economic Impact Assessment (SEIA), partial Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) and partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) was carried out between December 2022 and April 2023 to seek views on the policy as proposed.

1.2.1 How the consultation documents were created

The consultation documents were produced collaboratively by policy officials in the Scottish Government Marine Directorate and staff from the Scottish Government’s nature advisors: NatureScot and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC). NatureScot and JNCC led on the draft Site Selection Guidelines and the Scottish Government Marine Directorate led on the production of other consultation documents including the draft Policy Framework.

1.2.2 Engagement during Policy Development Stakeholder Engagement

Early stakeholder engagement was carried out through a series of meetings during Spring and Summer 2022. Stakeholders were introduced to the commitment and delivery plan and their input informed the development of the draft Policy Framework and draft Site Selection Guidelines. Stakeholders engaged at this stage included:

  • Association of Scottish Shellfish Growers (ASSG)
  • British Trout Association (BTA)
  • Coastal Communities Network (CCN)
  • Communities Inshore Fisheries Alliance (CIFA)
  • Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (COSLA)
  • Crown Estate Scotland (CES)
  • Oceana
  • Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups (RIFGs) including:
    • North and East Coast Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (NECRIFG)
    • Orkney Sustainable Fisheries (RIFG)
    • Outer Hebrides Regional Inshore Fishery Group
    • Shetland Fisherman’s Association (SFA)
    • West Coast Regional Inshore Fisheries Group (WCRIFG)
  • Royal Yachting Association (RYA)
  • Salmon Scotland
  • Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation (SCFF)
  • Scottish Environment LINK
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Scottish Fishermen's Federation (SFF)
  • Scottish Renewables
  • Scottish Sea Farms Ltd
  • Scottish Seaweed Industry Association (SSIA)
  • Scottish White Fish Producers Association (SWFPA) Within Government

Broad engagement was carried out across different policy areas within the Scottish Government and the UK Government, and feedback from these discussions was incorporated into the drafting of the consultation documents.

1.3 Consultation Process

The consultation was launched on 12 December 2022 and in recognition of the Christmas break, the standard period of consultation was extended from 12 to 14 weeks. A further four-week extension was given in response to feedback regarding the volume of information published, resulting in an 18-week consultation period, closing on 17 April 2023.

The consultation launch was announced by Mairi McAllan MSP, the then Minister for Environment and Land Reform[1], supported by social media content and stakeholder communications.

The consultation comprised a package of documents:

  • Consultation Paper – set out the background, process and rationale for the consultation and contained the consultation questions.
  • Draft Policy Framework - set out the proposed definition and aims of HPMAs and what this would mean for different activities taking place in Scottish waters.
  • Draft Site Selection Guidelines - described the proposed process for identifying and selecting (future) sites to designate as HPMAs in Scottish waters.
  • Initial Sustainability Appraisal - provided an assessment of any cumulative impacts (environmental and socio-economic) of the HPMA policy, based upon the draft policy framework and site selection guidelines.
  • Partial Island Communities Impact Assessment Screening Report (ICIA) - completed the first two stages of the statutory ICIA process by identifying issues that merit further exploration through research and engagement with island representatives.
  • Partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA) - presented an initial assessment of the potential costs, benefits and risks of introducing HPMAs and their potential impacts on the public, private and third sectors.

Ten public online information sessions were run concurrently within the live consultation period. Initially seven sessions were held in February 2023, but due to demand and the extended timeline of the consultation, three additional sessions were added at the times most suitable for interested parties. These well-attended sessions introduced the consultation documents and provided opportunities for participants to ask questions in advance of providing their written response to the consultation.

Responses to the consultation could be made online via Citizen Space, by email, or in writing.

1.4 Consultation Analysis

The analysis of the consultation responses was carried out independently by Griesbach and Associates. The analysis report can be found online.



Back to top