Highly Protected Marine Areas - policy framework and site selection guidelines: socio-economic impact assessment – methodology

This initial socio-economic impact assessment (SEIA) identifies and assesses potential economic and social effects of HPMAs and proposes a methodology for carrying out the site specific SEIAs.

Non-Technical Summary


The Scottish Government and the Scottish Green Party believe that the marine environment “should be clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse, and managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people”. The Bute House Agreement sets out several commitments to help achieve this vision, including the designation of at least 10% of Scotland’s seas as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) by 2026. HPMAs will build upon the existing network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) representing a significant increase in the overall level of protection afforded to Scotland’s seas.

The first phase of a programme of work to deliver on this commitment involves setting a Policy Framework and the development of Site Selection Guidelines. These documents will provide a guide to the subsequent process of selecting, assessing and finally designating HPMAs. The Policy Framework is being produced by Marine Scotland Directorate. NatureScot and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) are jointly producing the Site Selection Guidelines.

As the location of HPMAs have not yet been identified, it is only possible to undertake an initial socio-economic impact assessment (SEIA) at this stage involving a preliminary consideration or scoping of the type of impacts that could arise from the future designation of HPMAs and restrictions/ requirements placed on activities within HPMAs. Once sites have been selected and proposed for designation, it will be possible to undertake an updated SEIA involving spatial analysis of specific potential sites and a more detailed assessment of the scale of potential socio-economic effects. This report therefore carries out an initial scoping of potential impacts, and sets out the methodology for assessing the social and economic effects once locations have been identified.

What is Socio-Economic Impact Assessment?

Socio-economic impact assessment (SEIA) aims to identify and assess the potential economic and social effects of a proposed development or policy on the lives and circumstances of people, their families and their communities. The assessment investigates the potential cumulative economic benefits and costs, and associated potential social impacts, of implementing a proposed policy or plan.

What are the HPMAs?

HPMAs are designated areas of the sea that are strictly protected to allow the marine ecosystems within them to recover and thrive. These areas safeguard all of their marine life for the benefit of the planet and current and future generations; providing opportunities for carefully managed enjoyment and appreciation.

HPMAs will be selected in a way that complements and adds value to the existing MPA network and is mindful of decisions that have already been made and/or are underway regarding wider marine management regimes in Scottish waters. They may overlap either fully or partially with some existing MPAs in order to maximise the conservation benefits associated with stricter management approaches in a particular geographic location. HPMAs may also be located outside the current MPA network.

Marine Scotland has developed a Policy Framework to guide the selection, assessment and designation of HPMAs. This sets out the aim of HPMAs and how sites are selected, how socio-economic impacts will be considered and mitigated, and how stakeholders will be involved.

NatureScot and the JNCC have jointly developed the Site Selection Guidelines for HPMAs. The application of the Site Selection Guidelines will aim to explore the potential contribution an area could make towards achieving the aims of HPMAs. The process is driven by the presence of specific functions and resources of significance to Scotland’s seas and looks to optimise ecological, social and cultural benefits whilst minimising significant impacts where possible.

HPMAs will have strict limits on human activities in place to allow the protection and recovery of marine ecosystems. There will be activities which will not be allowed within HPMAs and activities which will be allowed within HPMAs at non-damaging levels.

How will the Socio-Economic Impact Assessment be undertaken?

The SEIA seeks to estimate the effects of the designation and management of the HPMAs both at site level and for the suite of HPMAs as a whole in terms of:

  • Potential economic impacts to marine activities;
  • Potential social impacts;
  • Potential impacts on the public sector; and
  • Potential environmental impacts (costs and benefits, including social benefits through ecosystem services).

Lower, intermediate and upper estimates will be developed to assess the potential range of impacts, reflecting a range of assumptions and possible management options that may be applied.

The estimates are used to assess the potential range in impacts associated with designation of the proposed sites. The assessment period for considering the impacts of designation is 60 years, in line with HM Treasury Green Book guidance. Within this timeframe, costs to industry are quantified and valued over a period of 20 years.

The following activities and communities are considered:

  • Aggregate Dredging;
  • Aquaculture (finfish);
  • Aquaculture (shellfish and seaweed);
  • Aviation;
  • Carbon Capture Utilisation and Storage;
  • Coast Protection and Flood Defence;
  • Commercial Fisheries (including salmon and sea trout);
  • Energy Generation;
  • Military and Defence;
  • Oil and Gas (including exploration, production, interconnectors, gas storage);
  • Ports and Harbours;
  • Power Interconnectors and Transmission Lines;
  • Recreational Fishing;
  • Recreational Boating;
  • Seabed Mining;
  • Wild Seaweed Harvesting
  • Shipping;
  • Telecom Cables;
  • Tourism (including heritage assets); and
  • Water Sports (including surfing, windsurfing, sea kayaking, small sail boat activities (such as dinghy sailing) and scuba diving)
  • The wider community.

To consider potential economic costs, an initial scoping has been undertaken, identifying individual impact pathways for each sector. Aggregate dredging, aviation and wild seaweed harvesting were scoped out of the assessment. There is currently no existing or planned marine aggregate extraction in Scottish waters, aviation is not considered to require management measures, and wild seaweed harvesting predominantly takes place above mean low water springs (MLWS) and therefore would be outside of the boundaries of HPMAs.

Detailed assessment methods and assumptions for each sector and impact pathway are set out in Appendix B. Input from stakeholders and consultees will support further development and finalisation of the methods and assumptions. All the methods generally entail making estimates of the cost of implementing restrictions and/or the impact of implementing the restrictions on operating revenues. Where possible, all impacts are quantified in monetary terms, with these values converted to current prices using the relevant Gross Domestic Product (GDP) deflators. Where impacts on economic activities have the potential to give rise to a change in the level of output, direct and indirect impacts on Gross Value Added (GVA) and employment are estimated using appropriate multipliers.

There may also be potential economic benefits for some marine sectors, and these are considered and identified where appropriate. However, quantification of economic benefits is uncertain as it is harder to predict if or where new businesses may establish, or existing businesses may expand.

Scoping and assessment methods are provisional at this stage and will be reviewed and refined in light of specific HPMA proposals.

The social impacts generated by the proposed management scenarios will be strongly connected to the nature, scale and distribution of the economic impacts (on both income and employment) and of potential benefits. Any significant loss of employment, for example generated as a result of restrictions on fishing activity, can have significant social impacts (e.g. on health, crime) and therefore negatively impact wellbeing.

Similarly, social benefits may arise that positively impact wellbeing. These could stem from new employment opportunities (e.g. in alternative fishing activities, or related to recreation or research), or from knowledge that there is a healthy/recovering marine ecosystem.

Public sector costs are estimated at national level using agreed assumptions for all sites combined and based on discussions with Marine Scotland Directorate, NatureScot and JNCC. Costs in the following broad areas are considered:

  • Site monitoring;
  • Compliance and enforcement;
  • Loss of revenue from seabed leases;
  • Promotion of public understanding; and
  • Regulatory and advisory costs associated with licensing decisions.

The ecosystem features of an HPMA contribute to the delivery of a range of ecosystem services. Management of the HPMA may improve the quantity and quality of the beneficial services provided, which may increase the value (contribution to economic welfare) of them. Impacts on the value of natural capital and ecosystem services may occur as a result of the management and/or improvement in condition of the ecosystem. However, both impacts can be uncertain for several reasons, including because the baseline conditions are not always known.

The ecosystem services analysis provides a qualitative description of the potential changes in ecosystem service provision associated with the implementation of HPMAs and associated management measures.

The cumulative impact of designating the pHPMAs will take an additive approach (i.e. it assumes that the cumulative impact is equivalent to the sum of the individual impacts within each site). In areas where there are several sites affecting a particular activity, further consideration will be given to the potential cumulative impact to describe qualitatively whether the overall impact might be larger or smaller than the sum of the individual impacts.

An in-combination assessment will also give consideration to how the significance of these impacts might vary when taking account of the total impact as a result of all pHPMAs combined with other current or planned developments to date, such as renewable energy generation development and the designation and management of other MPAs (e.g. NCMPAs and SACs), particularly where there is overlap between or proximity of these and new pHPMAs.

A series of appendices to the report provide the outcome of the scoping assessment, proposed methodologies for assessing cost impacts to sectors, and a template of the site assessment tables for reporting results for each individual pHPMA.


Email: HPMA@gov.scot

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