Sectoral marine plan for offshore wind energy

Aims to identify sustainable plan options for the future development of commercial-scale offshore wind energy in Scotland, including deep water wind technologies, and covers both Scottish inshore and offshore waters.

6. Action Plan 

As outlined above, there are a number of actions which will need to be completed by regulators, developers and other stakeholders to ensure the successful implementation of the Plan and facilitate further offshore wind development in our seas.

6.1 Further seabed leasing for Scottish Waters

The UK Offshore Wind Sector Deal highlights the importance of regular future seabed leasing rounds for offshore wind development, which in turn is tied to the commitments regarding future CfD rounds. 

The final Plan will provide the spatial framework for the first cycle of seabed leasing by Crown Estate Scotland (ScotWind). 

Option and Lease Agreements for commercial-scale offshore wind farm development under the first cycle of ScotWind leasing should only be made for areas of seabed identified in the final Plan (i.e. final POs).

The final Plan will be reviewed prior to any future seabed leasing rounds via the iterative plan review, to ensure it is a contemporary and accurate document.

Developers should consider and address the conclusions of the final Plan and SA reports when preparing leasing, consent and licence applications, as appropriate.

It is anticipated that further rounds of ScotWind will occur around 24 months after completion of the first cycle of leasing.  Furthermore, developers with a specific focus on innovation/test and demonstrator projects <100 MW or those with projects aimed at the decarbonisation of the oil and gas sector in Scotland should note section 2.5, above.

6.2 Governance of Plan Implementation

A formal governance structure is required to support the implementation of the Plan and facilitate the iterative plan review process. Amendments were made to the governance structure outlined in the draft Plan and SA, to reflect comments provided by stakeholders. The roles and responsibilities of the groupings, to be formed upon adoption of the Plan, are outlined in Table 2 and Figure 19.

Table 2 Governance structure - outline

Group Role/Function
Scottish Ministers
  • Responsible for approving and adopting the SMP
  • Responsible for approving amendments/updates to the SMP
  • Responsible for granting/refusing consent/licenses for individual offshore wind projects
  • The final decision making power rests with Scottish Ministers.
Sectoral Planning Programme Board
  • Comprised of key officials from relevant policy areas across Scottish Government, as well as representatives from Marine Planning and Policy, Marine Scotland ("MPP").
  • Considers advice and evidence received from the Technical Advisory Group, Ornithology Working Group and Sectoral Evidence Group.
  • Provides recommendations to Scottish Ministers regarding the need to revise or update the Plan (iterative plan review process), including the need and scope of further assessment. This will be on the basis of the evidence submitted to it, which may justify the need to revise or update the Plan.
  • External advice may be sought as appropriate.
  • Chair: Deputy Director, Marine Scotland
  • Secretariat: MPP
  • The group will meet at least once per annum, or more frequently if circumstances require.
Technical Advisory Group
  • Comprised of representatives from the statutory consultation bodies - NatureScot, the Joint Nature Conservation Committee ("JNCC"), Historic Environment Scotland ("HES") and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ("SEPA").
  • In addition, representatives from Marine Scotland Science ("MSS") and MPP will be formal members of the Technical Advisory Group.
  • Chair: Head of Planning, Development and Crown Estate Strategy Unit, MPP
  • Secretariat: MPP
  • Meets on at least an annual basis to consider Plan-level issues.
  • Provides advice and report to the Programme Board regarding continued application of plan-level mitigation measures, the need for revisions to the Plan (as adopted) and further research/evidence/guidance requirements.
  • This advice will be informed by consideration of the evidence provided during by the Sectoral Evidence Group, consideration of other policy, legislative and regulatory changes which have occurred over the time period, outputs of project-level assessment and other research programmes and the spatial context (i.e. development which takes place after adoption of the SMP).
  • The evidence submitted and considered may likely pertain to fields outside the expertise of members of the Technical Advisory Group (e.g. fisheries). In such cases, the Technical Advisory Group (and Programme Board) will be required to seek further advice and representation from the relevant stakeholders (i.e. from the Sectoral Evidence Group).  These views will support the formulation of advice and production of the Report.
  • The decision has been taken to restrict membership of this group to the statutory consultees (as defined by the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005), with the addition of JNCC given geographic coverage of the Plan. Other stakeholders will have the opportunity to provide input via the Sectoral Evidence Group and as above if issues pertaining to their area of interest arise.
Sectoral Evidence Group
  • Formed of a wide range of sectoral interests (i.e. drawn from the current Steering Groups formed to support the planning process), i.e. commercial fisheries, commercial shipping and navigation, renewables industry.
  • Membership shall be as follows; Crown Estate Scotland; Highlands and Islands Enterprise; Marine Scotland Science; Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups; RSPB Scotland; Scottish Enterprise; Scottish Fishermen's Federation; Scottish Government; Scottish Renewables; UK Chamber of Shipping; and WWF Scotland.
  • The exact operation of this group will be confirmed following adoption of the Plan. 
  • This grouping will be asked to provide evidence/representations to support the iterative plan review process or  may be asked to provide further representations/evidence to the Programme Board and/or Technical Advisory Group on specific issues.
  • This grouping will be able to provide further evidence (relevant to the implementation of the Plan and the iterative plan review process) as it becomes available, for consideration by the Technical Advisory Group and Programme Board however, at a minimum an annual call will seek any relevant responses.
Ornithology Working Group
  • Formed of relevant ornithology experts (drawn from the current ScotMER ornithology receptor group), i.e. NatureScot, JNCC, MSS and Scottish Environment Link ("SE Link"). 
  • Crown Estate Scotland will also be formal members of this group.
  • Chair: MPP 
  • Secretariat: MPP
Role in relation to application of Plan-level mitigation measures for Plan Options E1 and E2 (Error! Reference source not found.)
  • To be formed immediately upon adoption of the Plan to define the scope and nature of regional surveys and research work, including assessment of survey outputs, in relation to development within Plan Options E1 and E2.
  • The recommendations will be formed in consultation with relevant Option Agreement holders (or their representatives). Option Agreement holders, however, will not form part of the membership of the Ornithology Working Group.
  • The Ornithology Working Group will then provide advice to the Programme Board (this is due to the replication of members on the Technical Advisory Group with the relevant expertise and to avoid unnecessary duplication). The Programme Board will then confirm the final survey and research requirements and these details will be communicated to developers via Marine Scotland.
  • Developers will be advised to complete the surveys and assessment by Marine Scotland, prior to the submission of any licence/consent application.
  • Survey and assessment outputs should be provided by developers to the Ornithology Working Group, prior to the submission of any licence and consent applications, in the format directed by Marine Scotland, to support the iterative plan review process and further planning and licensing/consenting decision-making processes.
Wider role – iterative plan review process, application of plan-level mitigation measures (i.e. E3, NE2-NE4 and NE6), defining research requirements
  • To assist in identifying and addressing evidence gaps (relating to ornithology) that constrain potential development within the Plan Options and are required to be addressed to inform future planning exercises.
  • The Working Group will provide guidance in the production of an 'Ornithology Roadmap', which will be prepared by a contractor(s) (appointment process currently underway). The Roadmap will identify ongoing research and any specific actions required to produce the evidence base for assessing ornithological constraints.
  • Upon completion of the Roadmap, the Working Group will work with the appointed contractor(s) to support the production of a 'Programme of Works' – a detailed programme of works to address strategic research projects that can be implemented within the short to medium term to initiate Roadmap actions.
  • The Working Group will also be asked to;
    • Provide views regarding the continued application of plan-level mitigation measures in relation to Plan Options E1-E3, NE2-NE4 and NE6;
    • To provide advice/views regarding whether further research or guidance is required to inform planning and consenting; and
    • Consider the findings of future project-level assessments, relevant research programmes and the wider spatial context and provide advice regarding the potential implications of these changes for the Plan (as adopted).

6.3 Submission of new evidence

The process for continued submission of new evidence (which the draft Plan and SA referred to as the Annual Forum) is a key mechanism to support the Plan implementation and iterative review processes. Key stakeholder representatives, who form part of the Sectoral Evidence Group, will be asked to provide details of emerging evidence and research, which could have a bearing on the implementation of the Plan and resultant development on at least an annual basis, but will have the opportunity to provide this evidence as it emerged.

The evidence submitted may have arisen as a result of technological advances, scientific evidence, project survey and monitoring (including of the effectiveness of mitigation measures) and or as the result of project-level assessments. The request for new evidence, to support iterative plan review, should not be an opportunity for further public consultation on the Plan. Should sufficient evidence be presented, which Scottish Ministers consider justifies the need to review the Plan, then public consultation will occur at the appropriate stage in the planning process. It is currently anticipated that the Plan will be reviewed at Year 2 (although this may occur earlier if sufficient justification is provided).

The scope of evidence submitted will be restricted to ensure it is only relevant to the Plan and its implementation. Discussions within the Sectoral Evidence Group could follow a similar approach to that taken recently regarding consideration and discussion of emerging assessment methodologies for projects in the Forth and Tay region (2020). Further details regarding this process will be provided in due course.

The first annual request for evidence from the Sectoral Evidence Group will be undertaken one year after the adoption of the Plan. The exact process and functioning of the Sectoral Evidence Group will be confirmed after the adoption of this Plan. The Technical Advisory Group shall provide the Report of findings to the Programme Board.

Members of the two Steering Groups formed to support the planning process would be approached to provide relevant evidence. The Steering Group members were as follows:-

  • Crown Estate Scotland;
  • Highlands and Islands Enterprise;
  • Historic Environment Scotland;
  • Joint Nature Conservation Committee;
  • Marine Scotland Science;
  • NatureScot;
  • Regional Inshore Fisheries Groups;
  • RSPB Scotland;
  • Scottish Enterprise;
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency;
  • Scottish Fishermen's Federation;
  • Scottish Government;
  • Scottish Renewables;
  • UK Chamber of Shipping; and
  • WWF Scotland.

In addition, the chairs of the ScotMER Receptor-Specific groups and Regional Marine Planning Partnerships, as well as Local Authorities, will be approached to provide any relevant evidence or advice. Other representative bodies and stakeholders, such as Fisheries Management Scotland, will also be approached.

Evidence submitted will be considered by the Technical Advisory Group for its relevance and appropriateness. A summary of all evidence provided (as it may likely pertain to fields outside the expertise of members of the Technical Advisory Group, e.g. fisheries) will be summarised and presented to the Programme Board by officials. Where members of the Technical Advisory Group do not have the specific knowledge/expertise to assess this evidence, the Technical Advisory Group will be required to seek further advice/representation from the relevant topic specialists (e.g. drawn from the Sectoral Evidence Group).

The Programme Board will then use this information to provide recommendations to Ministers regarding whether there is the need to review the Plan at this juncture (e.g. earlier than the planned review at Year 2) or whether the Plan remains reflective of current scientific understanding and knowledge. This report will be published online.

The Programme Board and Technical Advisory Group will also consider evidence submitted in light of other policy, legislative and regulatory changes which have occurred over the time period and the spatial context. Further, we anticipate that we will have an improved understanding of transmission and grid connection issues, as individual projects progress through the pipeline, which may have a bearing on the Plan.

Figure 19 Governance structure - process
Image Description Below

Figure 19 Description:

Evidence Group

The Evidence group will:

  • Be asked to consider and propose any new evidence which could require the Plan to be reviewed/revised, on at least an annual basis (although evidence can be provided as it emerges).
  • Members of the Evidence Group will provide further advice/representations to the Advisory Group and Programme Board, as required.

Advisory Group

The Advisory Group will be asked to:

  • Facilitate and provide input into the Annual Call for Evidence;
  • Take further advice and/or representation from relevant stakeholders (where required); and
  • Provide advice to the programme Board on the outputs of the Annual Call for evidence and emerging research, in accordance with members’ roles as statutory consultation bodies.

Sectoral Plan Programme Board/Scottish Ministers

Scottish Government decision whether to review the Plan.

  • The Programme Board can request further advice or representation from the sectoral Evidence Group, the Advisory Group or Ornithology Working Group, if necessary.

6.4 Developing the evidence base - linking to the ScotMER Research Programme and other strategic research programmes 

The planning process has been informed by extensive technical planning work and stakeholder engagement. The evidence gathered has been used to inform the Opportunity and Constraint model and to inform the assessments in the SA and the baseline and spatial data presented in the RLG.

The planning process and SA have identified potential gaps in knowledge and data which may need to be addressed at plan and/or project-level. For example, via the completion of regional-level ornithology surveys and research in the East region or an update to the existing guidance regarding collision risk assessment for migratory bird species. In addition, scientific advisors have concluded that existing evidence relating to marine mammal abundance and distribution in the Plan regions needs to be collated and reviewed, to support future planning and assessment and identify any future priorities for research in these regions.  Early work to progress this objective was published in July 2020.[45]

The Programme Board and Technical Advisory Group will consider and advise on how to bridge any data or knowledge gaps identified in the assessments, or any emerging evidence gaps, in order to inform the iterative plan review process.

A number of strategic research programmes already exist and are undertaking work to address these gaps. Further, project-level assessment and monitoring may provide data and evidence which can address these gaps. As this evidence becomes available, it is anticipated that it will inform future plan and project-level assessment accordingly.

Following adoption of the final Plan it is anticipated that these strategic research programmes will seek to address the identified and emerging evidence gaps, in order to facilitate future offshore renewable energy in Scottish waters. A summary of these strategic research programmes follows and further information is also provided in the HRA report.

The ScotMER programme has been established to improve the understanding and assessment of the environmental and socio-economic implications of offshore renewable energy developments. Whilst our understanding of our marine ecosystem and the impacts of climate change is increasing, there are still knowledge gaps and data limitations that remain which result in uncertainty in current environmental baselines. ScotMER involves collaboration from industry, environmental NGOs, SNCBs and other interested stakeholders to identify and address high priority research gaps and builds on previous work undertaken by the Scottish Offshore Renewables Research Framework.[46]

The following seven specialist ScotMER groups have been established to identify and prioritise evidence gaps which are detailed in 'evidence maps'. These maps are then used to inform the supporting research framework:

  • Ornithology;
  • Marine mammals;
  • Fish and fisheries;
  • Diadromous fish;
  • Benthic;
  • Physical processes; and 
  • Socio-economics.

The evidence maps provide a clear indication of the priorities, shared across stakeholders, for each receptor and drive ongoing and future research programmes. These evidence maps are reviewed regularly to stay current with emerging research and policy priorities. Further, it facilitates a joint working approach with other UK and international groups with an interest in renewables and seeks to develop and maintain an understanding of the research landscape at Scottish, national and international levels. 

As research which addresses these knowledge gaps progresses, it will provide evidence to inform further project-level assessment, as well providing invaluable input into the iterative plan review process.

Further detail regarding linkages to the ScotMER research programme and specific knowledge gaps relating to the potential effects of offshore wind farm developments on seabirds is provided in the HRA report. 

Licence and consent conditions for individual projects require participation in the ScotMER programme (according to the impacts of the individual project) and the relevant Regional Advisory Group ("RAG"), to ensure that outcomes from project-specific monitoring effort informs strategic research work and can contribute to the iterative plan review process. 

In addition to ScotMER, a number of other collaborative research initiatives exist, whose outputs will inform the iterative plan review process, including (but not limited to);

  • Offshore Renewables Joint Industry Programme for Offshore Wind;
  • The Marine Mammal Scientific Support Research Programme (managed by the Sea Mammal Research Unit);
  • Joint Cetacean Protocol;
  • The Co-Ordinated Agenda for Marine, Environmental and Rural Affairs Science; and
  • The Scottish Marine Renewables Research Group.

6.5 Grid infrastructure and connectivity

Further examination of grid infrastructure and connectivity, in light of the potential additional capacity to be delivered by the Plan, will be required. Current infrastructure and available capacity for the short-term emphasises that whilst Scotland's potential resource is significant, there are still obstacles that will need to be addressed in order to ensure that development in Scotland can be viable and competitive, especially in more remote regions. Offshore Renewable Energy Catapult ("ORE Catapult") are currently engaged in an examination of these grid infrastructure and connectivity issues and possible solutions, including the use of novel technologies and approaches. The results of this study will inform the iterative plan review process and any future revisions to the Plan and will be considered in any future assessments (as appropriate). 

6.6 Relationship with the National Marine Plan and emerging Regional Marine Plans 

The strategic aims of the Plan align with those of the National Marine Plan (2015), which addresses interactions between renewable energy development and other marine users. Development within any of the POs will need to take account of the National Marine Plan.

Regional Locational Guidance has been prepared as part of the Plan process, to support further project-level spatial planning within POs and this guidance should be consulted by developers and regulators.

Regional Marine Plans will be prepared by Marine Planning Partnerships within the eleven Scottish Marine Regions (extending out to 12 nautical miles). Regional marine plans must be prepared in accordance with the National Marine Plan (unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise). Marine Planning Partnerships will be required to take into account this Plan, once adopted, when preparing their Regional Marine Plans. 

Regional level analysis and assessment will address the gap between strategic and project level assessment and these regional-scale assessments will be considered as part of the iterative plan review process.



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