Offshore renewables - social impact: two way conversation with the people of Scotland

Findings from a piece of participatory research into the social impacts of offshore wind farms (OWFS) in Scotland. It describes innovative methods used to develop a conceptual framework, based on social values, that enables a better understanding of the social impacts of OWFs.

9 Findings from the Round 2 Dialogue

Overview of chapter

  • Verification of clusters of values and impacts from Round 1
  • Improvements to the current SIA process

9.1 Techniques for considering social values in SIA Verification of clusters of values and impacts from Round 1

The purpose of this session was to get public participants’ feedback on the way that the points made during the Round 1 workshops about the things people valued and the ways in which offshore renewables development might affect these, had been organised by the project team into sets or clusters of values and impacts.

The participants worked in two groups, with each group made up of five public participants from a range of locations, one or two members of staff from Marine Scotland, a facilitator and a note-taker. Both groups had two posters showing examples of the clusters on a map of Scotland and including sample quotes and the locations they came from. The posters provided a source of information and a focus for the conversations.

Clusters of values

Participants discussed their responses to the maps and value clusters under three main headings. Across the two groups, discussion focused on:

  • Local jobs and employment
  • Local culture and identity
  • Connectedness
  • Values related to the natural environment.

What participants liked

  • Overall, participants agreed that it was useful to order values into groupings or categories so that things that are important to people could be discussed and comparisons made between places: “– it makes sense to have it grouped under different headings – it’s a sensible starting point. (Islay)
  • Participants said that they liked the way that the map showed how different values were mentioned in different areas, for example, Glasgow would not experience the negative impacts that might be seen in other locations, but might benefit.
  • Cluster on culture:
  • The map and value clusters brought out the importance of culture. Several participants noted the strong affective relationship they feel with their local culture: ‘it’s your roots – your heart’s here’. Other important aspects related to the value of local culture included:

“Your cultural appreciation of place differs if you are an incomer – I know much more about Glasgow because I’m from there. Your heritage and what’s important differs from people who have been there for ever. There are unifying things like natural environment and family that are relevant regardless of where you’re from, though”.

  • Cultural heritage is experienced in different ways in different places: in Kirkwall the Neolithic sites are unique, whereas in Glasgow, diversity is valued: “It’s a local culture but it’s wider as well – there’s a lot to see and do in Glasgow and people come to visit. It’s your Glasgow though”.

What participants felt was missing or could be emphasised more

  • Participants said that ‘Nature and landscape’ constituted a meaningful cluster of values and one that had come out as referring to things that many participants didn’t want to be negatively impacted by offshore renewables.
  • One participant felt that there had been more emphasis in Round 1 on the importance of education in supporting the sustainability of offshore renewables: “I feel like we had a big discussion about education and the sustainability of education for this sector [renewables].”
  • Some participants felt more emphasis should be given to the value of local jobs and employment: ‘I remember lots of talk about job creation”, “we were worried about ‘boom and bust’” (as seen in the case of oil exploitation around Shetland) and the tension between, "jobs for Scotland and jobs for local people in the affected communities”. Either too many or the wrong sort of jobs were seen as potentially negative for local communities.
  • Connectedness: While participants recognised that connectedness had come up as something important in several locations, it became clear that this meant different things for different people and in different locations, for example air travel was seen as an important connection in Kirkwall.

Which values are most important

One participant argued strongly that it would be wrong to try to create a hierarchy of values, because values are inter-related and work together: “pull on one thread and they are all interconnected”. This view was supported by others in the group. The participant went on to give an example: ”So if you pull on local identity, if you let in the big guys, you could lose that local identity, culture, language perhaps. .. You lose people [because they move away] – which can’t be good”.

Impacts on value clusters

Participants agreed that the way that people had talked about the potential positive and negative impacts of offshore renewables reflected interests and concerns that align with the clusters of values identified previously. Referring to the map of impact clusters, participants commented in particular on:

  • Jobs for local people is a strong value in smaller, more isolated locations where the sustainability of the community appears to be more uncertain (Kirkwall, Islay, Helmsdale). This was not such a big issue in cities or towns with more diversified economies, like Glasgow and St Andrews.
  • The impact of offshore renewables on the nature of economic development (for example, the quality of the jobs created, the impact on existing businesses, etc) was also important: “One of the big … restaurant firms has come into St Andrews, one of the first thing they’ve done is stop ordering from the local fruit & veg shop, this has gone bust. It’s about jobs but it’s also about the values they [the new companies / employers] bring in as well” and, “We’re looking at how a development would affect that community – but for the boom and bust, if it’s only going to be for three years, what happens then, what are the knock-on effects on tourism for example.”
  • How developments can potentially affect local control and influence over decision-making, for example by engaging primarily with a small section of the local community and only over a narrow range of interests, often solely economic interests: “The local council has more of a say than the local people – they have £ signs in their eyes, anything we said or had concerns about would be overridden by the £ signs”.

Identifying the main potential impacts of offshore renewables

Participants mentioned impacts on many of the value clusters:

  • Way of Life: Jobs / career / employment: “surely if we know in advance we can train people up and it could keep the employment local again.”
  • Community: Local jobs / local industry / community sustainability: “I can say it [positive impacts] was environment, community, jobs but cannae guarantee them in the long time”
  • Community: Education / shops / housing / healthcare: “Housing, something about housing – keeping people there and keeping established businesses going with the house building.”
  • Environment: connection to nature/landscape/views/seascape: “a huge issue is the visual impact”.
  • Political/ decision-making systems: Questions related to trust and deliverability: “people don’t trust energy companies, full stop.”

Only one participant mentioned impacts of networks of family and friends with shared interests.

Overall, participants were supportive of efforts to order the things that individuals and communities see as important so that these can be used to structure discussion of these aspects. Several participants said that they had found it useful to be able to compare the different dialogue locations in relation to these value clusters. Two people said that the descriptions of the clusters ought to be unpacked, so that people could understand clearly what each cluster relates to: “I think unpacking it more would help [i.e. being specific about the value cluster’s constituent values] – for example culture is more than just…it’s about how people feel about their identity in different areas” and, “A sentence or a couple of paragraphs would help [to explain what the value cluster is all about]”. Another participant pointed out that some of the descriptors might be interpreted differently in different locations, and this made it important to have a number of examples: “What I perceive as culture has a very different meaning and context in different places – having a few more things helps you to define different areas.”

Finally, the point was made that while the clusters were relevant across locations, in understanding and assessing impacts, it is the local expression of the cluster that is important: “Clarify the importance of the local focus: in these fragile communities you need these assurances that jobs will be maintained for people in the local area – jobs for Scotland won’t cut it.”

9.2 Improving the current SIA process

This session was based around a timeline for plan-level SIA which included summary details of the tasks carried out at each stage of the SIA process (see Figure 9.1). Participants were split into three groups for this conversation. The session was designed to explore three key questions:

1. When and how should public values and the potential impacts on them be considered?

2. Is there any purpose in directly involving members of the public? If so, what would that purpose(s) be?

3. How many and what kinds of people should be involved?

Figure 9.1 SIA process for an offshore renewable plan. Please note – timescales for the SIA stages are indicative only and may be longer or shorter depending on the type of plan being assessed

Deciding if an SIA is required (4-6 weeks)

SIA is not a legal requirement. The Responsible Authority – Marine Scotland – will decide if they need to do an SIA to support the development of their draft plan.

A Responsible Authority might chose to do an SIA for a number ore reasons:

  • They are required to undertake an assessment called a sustainability appraisal and SIA can provide the social part of this;
  • To better understand the social consequences of their planning activities;
  • To demonstrate good practice and a willingness to consider social issues;
  • Because social impacts are likely to be an important issues for the plan being developed; or
  • To demonstrate a willingness to engage with certain stakeholder groups.

Scoping (2 months)

  • Relevant tools and techniques: indicators, surveys dialogue
  • During the ‘scoping’ stage, research is carried out to build up a picture of the context for the plan – the people who live there and the area itself.
  • Scoping would involve collecting information on social issues, identifying social impact objectives from other related plans and speaking with stakeholders.
  • The information gathers is then used to identify the most important social issues which are used as key themes throughout the rest of the SIA.

Assessment (2 months)

  • Relevant tools and techniques: indicators, surveys, dialogue
  • During the ‘assessment’ stage, the draft plan is assessed against the important social issues identified in scoping to identify possible social ‘impacts’.
  • Impacts can be positive (beneficial) or negative (harmful). The assessment considers the significance of the impacts – highly significant impacts will need to be considered carefully.
  • From this, suggestions are made for how positive impacts can me made better and negative impacts reduced or made less harmful.
  • The assessment is written into an SIA Report as a means of transparently documenting the findings of the assessment work. A report should include a summary of non-technical language to provide an overview of the assessment and its findings.

Consultation (3 months)

  • During ‘consultation’. The public, affected communities and other stakeholders are invited to comment on the proposed plan and the social impacts identified in the SIA.
  • This gives people the opportunity to make comments and suggestions on the proposed plan and what it might mean for them and others in terms of its social impacts.
  • All consultation responses are then reviewed to help shape the final plan.

Post Adoption (1 month)

  • Relevant tools and techniques: indicators
  • Once the final plan has been put into action (adopted), a final report is produced explaining how the SIA process made a difference in the finalised plan.
  • This part of the process helps stakeholders to understand how social impacts and the results of the consultation helped to shape the plan.

Monitoring (ongoing)

  • Relevant tools and techniques: indicators, surveys
  • Once the plan has been put into action, its performance must be monitored
  • Monitoring in SIA ensures that the plan’s social impacts were as expected and that any measures to address the impacts are working properly. It also identifies surprise impacts that weren’t predicted and that may need to be addressed.
  • Information from the monitoring helps Responsible Authorities to make better plans in the future – by learning from what works well and les well.

*Tools and Techniques:

  • Indicators – provide a possible way of measuring social values to understand whether things are getting better, worse or staying the same
  • Surveys – provides a possible way to gather data directly from members of the public on social values to find out what is important to them
  • Dialogue – dialogues are two-way conversations that bring together a diverse mix of citizens with a range of views and values and relevant policy makers and experts to discuss, reflect and draw conclusions on complex issues.

** Please note – timescales for the SIA stages are indicative only and may be longer or shorter depending on the type of plan being assessed

The session also drew heavily on findings from the Round 1 dialogue events, especially: 1) some suggested key principles for how members of the public and affected communities should be engaged in offshore renewables planning and SIA; 2) a list of different types or categories of people / community members that should be engaged; and 3) some sample strategies / ideas / methods for engaging people in these linked processes. Further details of the approach and materials used in this session can be found at Chapter 8.

The findings of this session are outlined below, ordered by the three key questions listed above. Readers should note that the quotations from the dialogue that have been used to illustrate the analysis and discussion have been drawn from the full range of participants at the Round 2 event.

9.2.1 Question 1: When and how should public values and the potential impacts on them be considered?

There are two key components to this question – when and how. The when component relates to timescale / programming issues and the how relates more to approaches and methods. Both of these components are addressed in the analysis below. This question elicited the broadest and most comprehensive discussion at the Round 2 dialogue hence it is also the most detailed section in the write-up here.

All of the groups discussed the importance of timing and timescale issues in the development of offshore renewables plans / projects and their accompanying SIA processes. A common timing / timescale theme amongst all three groups was the need for Marine Scotland (and developers at the project level) to provide sufficient information early-on to allow the public and affected communities to form a view of the proposals. There were also more specific, nuanced aspects within this theme:

Early engagement is fundamental:

“You’ve got to engage with people early-on, that’s the key”

“[Engage] from the very start”

The public should be consulted when there is enough information available to answer questions / allow informed debate but not at the point when decisions have been made:

“The public has to be involved before decision-making but there needs to be enough information – I’ve been to been meetings about housing developments where you ask questions and there’s no answers”

“Sometimes very early [engagement] doesn’t work so much, because people don’t come along – I suggest that ‘early’ is too vague”

People don’t want surprises – they want to know what’s happening from the beginning:

“For me…people, local communities, should all be engaged from the beginning, from scoping. I guess people don’t want to be surprised or thrust into things”

“I think if people are involved from the beginning it’s not so much of a shock, they’re not like – what’s this?! Where has this come from?!”

The scoping stage should provide sufficient information to allow people to do their own research and make more informed comments at the draft plan consultation stage:

“Something here in scoping so folk can go away and do their own research, so when it comes to assessment and consultation they can make informed decisions”

The participants’ strong desire for early-engagement in SIA and plan-development should come as no surprise as it aligns closely with existing literature, guidance and policy on SIA and other impact assessment processes. In his suite of International Principles for SIA, Vanclay (2003:9) highlights how “SIA should be an integral part of the development process, involved in all stages from inception to follow-up audit”. Furthermore, the EU SEA Directive 2001/42/EC includes a specific provision on early-engagement in its requirement that statutory consultation authorities and the public are given “an early and effective opportunity […] to express their opinion on the draft plan or programme and the accompanying environmental report” (EC, 2001 p.33).

Another key timescale issue identified by the participants relates to the need for continuous as well as early-engagement, the inference being that the public and affected communities should be engaged throughout the plan-development and SIA processes, at key junctures; what Partidário (2012:29) refers to as ‘decision windows’ – “the key moments for SEA [IA] action, rather than normative stages”. The participants across all three groups were keen to stress the importance of these ‘opportunities for engagement’ or ‘focus points’ as per the below:

The SIA / plan-development process should be mapped-out with opportunities for engagement made clear – this should be on the ‘letter that comes through the door’:

“The consultations I’ve been to, they don’t really set out the timeline, the letter that comes through the door should set out the timeline and when the public should get involved”

“The process should be made very clear by mapping-out the opportunities for engagement”

There should be continual engagement right the way through the process with particular emphasis at focus points:

“To be informed along the way is the most important part – continual engagement”

“[Discussion of plans] should be ongoing but it should also be at focus points”

“It’s [engagement] all the way through from the scoping stage, and giving people all the information throughout the whole process…”

This theme on continual engagement links to an important sub-theme concerning the iterative nature of the SIA and plan-development processes – consultation as a means of iteratively identifying and checking issues / impacts: “would it not be easier if the consultation was throughout because [then] you are picking out things that you think are going to affect the people and then afterwards you’re checking it”. The iterative nature of SIA is stressed in the IAIA’s SIA guidance from Vanclay et al (2015 p.7) where the specific role of engagement, participatory processes and working with communities is identified in each stage of SIA.

The themes identified above were identified by all three groups with a high degree of consensus. There were also several additional sub-themes relating to timing / timescale issues identified by one group only that are interesting and relevant. In particular there was a feeling that the public / affected communities shouldn’t be involved at every stage – “…obviously there’s a point where the main people need to go away and think about the impacts, so I don’t think the public could be involved at every stage”. This was linked closely to a feeling that peoples’ views and opinions can change throughout the process which perhaps has implications for the timing of certain types of engagement activity such as public meetings which should happen later on in the process when people are more informed and less emotional. In many respects this is intuitive – e.g. there will undoubtedly be substantial periods of time during plan-development and SIA where Marine Scotland (or their contractors) will need to go away and work on key tasks (e.g. assessment, development of draft policies etc.). However there is arguably scope to bring in the public / affected communities (and stakeholders) to discuss these draft findings, perhaps at a workshop or meeting. In terms of SEA for example, the Scottish Government’s SEA guidance (Scottish Government, 2013) highlights the benefit of involving members of the public in more informal meetings as there is no legal requirement to involve the public until the draft plan / environmental report consultation. In line with participant comments in the dialogue then, careful programming of public input could be used to capture peoples’ views and opinions at a time when they are suitably informed.

In addition to the timing / timescale issues described above, there was a lot of discussion about the ‘how’ component – i.e. possible strategies and approaches for improving public and community engagement with the marine plan-development / SIA process. A number of broader principles for engagement were also proposed. These are outlined first.

Roles and responsibilities for engagement and accountability

This principle was identified and discussed by one group only. It relates to the importance of having clearly defined roles and responsibilities for managing engagement within the plan-development and SIA processes as well as the pervading principle of accountability and transparency, particularly when things go wrong. In terms of roles and responsibilities it was felt that Marine Scotland / Scottish Government should be responsible for setting standards (e.g. policy and guidance) for public and community engagement within SIA: “responsibility should sit with the government body”. There was general agreement within the group that this should be the case. The importance of accountability and transparency for Marine Scotland / Scottish Government, developers and contractors was stressed, especially in relation to negative issues: “accountability is important – local government, Holyrood, contractors. Something negative should be noted – they shouldn’t be able to carry on regardless”. The critical importance of accountability and transparency throughout the whole plan-development / SIA process was also noted: “accountability should be mentioned and be part of the whole thing”. The importance of accountability and democratisation of process is reflected in existing literature and guidance on SIA. For example Vanclay (2003 p.9) includes mention of these issues in his suite of principles specific to SIA practice: “in all planned interventions and their assessments, avenues should be developed to build the social and human capital of local communities and to strengthen democratic processes”. Accountability is also discussed variously in Vanclay et al (2015) but principally in relation to the linked concepts of good governance (e.g. of plan-development and SIA processes), the empowerment of individuals and groups, human-rights and developer responsibilities / social performance monitoring.

Suggestions for how engagement with publics and affected communities could be improved

This principle was identified and discussed by one group only though there was some related discussion across the groups of how public meetings can become chaotic and dominated by strong voices. A suggested principle to address this was that public meetings should follow a set process to allow people to speak and avoid overt arguments: “I just think public meetings need to have a process which is not just turning into an argument”. Crucially, it was also suggested that community engagement must involve proper two-way discussion “with local people really being listened to”.

All three groups in this discussion on ‘improving the current SIA process’ identified a number of problems or issues that need to be addressed (on the basis of the understanding developed through the dialogue). These are outlined below:

Addressing / accounting for uncertainty

This issue was identified by two of the groups. In both instances the issue relates to a concern that professionals / experts working in the field of offshore renewables have imperfect data and understanding of social (and other) impacts: “how much do renewables experts know when it is such an emerging field and there are so few projects – all these renewable energy specialists come out of the woodwork and you could write down what they know on the back of a stamp!”. Closely related to this point, there was a feeling that developers, Marine Scotland and other stakeholders should endeavour to report back to publics and affected communities when they don’t have answers straight away: “the questions you’ve raised as the public, what if the group [developer, responsible authority etc] doesn’t have the answer – you need a response in the meantime, you should then look into it and let us know”. This issue is closely related to the general principle of accountability described above and related references in the SIA literature – e.g. the principle on strengthening democratic processes in Vanclay (2003).

Challenges / problems with engagement

A broad theme was identified across two of the groups capturing a range of challenges and problems with engaging publics and affected communities in offshore renewables planning and SIA. The problems identified relate primarily to either specific strategies / mechanisms for engagement or the engagement of specific groups / communities.

In the former, key issues were identified in relation to public meetings, namely that public meetings with developers can result in arguments and conflicts – “…they are having these public meetings but they just turn into an argument or a face off” – and / or they are often hijacked by people with strong voices: “it’s such a shame because it [public meetings] is such a good way of engaging lots of people but they tend to attract people who are just focussed on one thing” and “…it was people who were misinformed but had a bee in their bonnet…it made it very difficult to take control of it…because they were only interested in the thing that was important to them”. Problems were also identified in relation to the use of social media as an engagement strategy, especially the fact that not everyone is on social media: “I think social media is a really good way to reach people, but [you] also [need to] be[ing] aware that some people aren’t on social media”. Indeed there was a degree of consensus within one group that social media is not a good engagement strategy for this reason.

In the latter, a general issue was identified relating to the pressures on peoples’ time and how this can sometimes preclude involvement with consultation / engagement activities: “people don’t have a clue what is going on, really, and they have their own lives to lead”. Young people were identified as a specific group that can be hard to engage (noting that they were also identified as a group that should be targeted in engagement activities – see below): “…and I was the youngest person in the room by thirty years”. Finally, an important issue was identified in relation to local communities as a key group in terms of their ability to see things from a broader perspective: “…we need to help local people to see these compromises, and ‘zoom out’ from thinking only in terms of their local area”.

Finally all three groups identified a number of possible strategies / methods for how publics and affected communities could be better engaged in plan-development and SIA. There was a key focus on the use of specific methods / approaches to facilitate engagement and encourage higher levels of participation (recognising the challenges and problems outlined above). Crucially, two groups suggested that a ‘one size fits all’ approach would probably fail, instead suggesting that a multifaceted approaches would be more successful: “…but people engage in lots of different ways, it’s about making it accessible for the most amount of people in the most amount of ways”. There was a high degree of consensus on this issue within one of the groups.

Despite the above there was some discussion within one group about the use of social media as a tool for engagement, particularly for engaging young people: “I think social media is a really good way to reach people…it definitely helps you reach more young people”. The use of Facebook ‘events’ and social networks to raise awareness of plans / proposals and engagement opportunities was also discussed: “perhaps having an event that I could share on my Facebook and then people would share it with their friends – for somewhere the size of Orkney, I probably have a link with everyone”.

In line with the suggestion that multi-faceted approaches to engagement should be adopted there was a good deal of discussion within two groups about the use / importance of public meetings and face-to-face engagement, over and above social media. It was felt that engagement must involve face-to-face contact as well as social media: “I think it’s definitely important to talk to people directly and face-to-face, it can feel like it’s not happening [if] it’s just a survey or social media”. To this end (and notwithstanding the issues / challenges described above) it was suggested that public meetings can provide a very useful engagement strategy, particularly for reaching a large audience and providing a fora where people can ask questions: “it has to be a public meeting where you get to ask questions”. Finally there was a useful suggestion about locations for public meetings: “…it [public meetings] should be in the place where the peoples’ lives will be affected, don’t just hold it in the biggest place”.

In addition to the general engagement strategies outlined above there was discussion across all three groups of the importance of engaging young people in plan-development / SIA and possible strategies for doing so. All three groups suggested that early engagement in the sense of engaging with young people should begin at school with teaching covering issues relating to sustainability, renewables and energy more generally: “I definitely think sustainability and renewables should be a part of education”. In particular, given the timescales involved in the development of offshore renewables, it was stressed that the school children of today are the electorate of tomorrow, therefore raising awareness of these issues from a young age will help people to make more informed choices and participate more effectively in the future: “there should be consideration of renewables in schools – this is very important given the timescales of development which could be 5 years, your 15 and 16 year olds now will be your 20 and 21 year olds of the future”. The importance of engaging young people in SIA processes is discussed explicitly in Vanclay et al (2015 p.37) as part of tasks undertaken to develop a good understanding of the communities likely to be affected: “young people in general often have different views than older people, especially in relation to traditional cultural values and appropriate ways of doing things”. The engagement of young people is discussed further below as well, in relation to the other two questions addressed in this session.

9.2.2 Question 2: Is there any purpose in directly involving members of the public? If so, what would that purpose(s) be?

The discussion and response to this question is dealt with implicitly in the analysis and discussion above, namely that participants wholeheartedly supported the notion that members of the public should be directly involved in the development of offshore renewables plans and their accompanying SIAs. The broad range of themes identified in the analysis above is testament to the participants’ interest and strong feeling that engagement with the public is of crucial importance. A couple of specific, additional themes were also identified under this question, as per the below:

Challenges engaging young people

One group spent some time discussing the merits of engaging young people in plan-development and SIA. Whilst there were many positives identified there was a feeling that trying to somehow engage ‘all’ young people in a potentially affected community (e.g. at a given school) could be a drain on resources: “if you’re hitting the masses of young people – I know from being at school that most people won’t be interested. I think that this would be a drain of money”. This relates to other themes addressed under the question below in terms of young people as a group of people to engage and possible ways of reaching this group effectively.

Purpose / objectives for engagement

One group explicitly discussed the purpose / objectives of engaging the public and affected communities in plan-development / SIA. The discussion elsewhere in this conversation focussed more on process issues (the how and when rather than the why) as discussed extensively in the subsection above. One key purpose of engagement was identified focussing on the role of the public helping to inform the design of plans and projects, especially in instances where there is disagreement: “people will be able to pinch ideas in the bud if they don’t agree…having a group of people come back during the assessment – people who were very involved in the early stages of consultation”. This notion of ‘co-design’ almost is inherent to the literature on SIA. For example, Vanclay (2003 p.9) includes a principle to this effect: “local knowledge and experience and acknowledgement of different local cultural values should be incorporated in any assessment”. Further, Vanclay et al (2015) places a focus on the notion that ‘doing SIA is good business and good for business’ emphasising how the process of SIA and its constituent engagement activities can support wider policy / developer objectives, perhaps through co-design leading to better outcomes.

9.2.3 Question 3: How many and what kinds of people should be involved?

As per the above, the participants at the Round 2 event all supported the assertion that the public / affected communities should be involved. There was also some discussion across all three groups about the types of people that should be involved as well as strategies for reaching out to specific groups. The discussion of ‘how many’ people was more implicit. Key themes identified include:

Types of people that should be involved

Types of people were discussed in two of the groups. Three categories were identified, one of which seemed to be purposefully broad. The first category (identified by both groups) is children / young people with engagement through schools. This category is closely related to themes covered under other questions, especially the notion that ‘early engagement’ in SIA can be early in the sense that it engages with young people. Within this theme there was some discussion about experiences from the Scottish Independence Referendum in 2014 and the interest shown by young people, the inference being that young people in Scotland are politically engaged, interested in democratisation of process / decision-making and capable of grasping complex ideas: “it’s been shown in the past years that they [young people] have thoughts and they are often listened to”. There were specific suggestions in two groups that draft offshore renewables plans / projects should be discussed with young people in a school setting. Further suggestions for how this could be delivered / achieved are outlined in the analysis of Question 1 (when and how).

The second category of people to engage was identified by one group only and relates to people who don’t have strong opinions either way. This group was characterised as people with ‘middle of the road views’ who are often under informed and underrepresented in decision-making, the ‘silent majority’: “I think sometimes it’s the most middle of the road people [who] need to be engaged – with a topic like this [offshore renewables], there are people who are for it and people who are against it, but quite often it’s people who don’t have strong opinions who aren’t engaged”. This group is in direct contrast to those people with strong (sometimes polarised) views who are often the most heard in consultations and community engagements, as discussed above in relation to problems with public meetings as a strategy / technique for community engagement.

The final category of people to engage was identified by both groups and is a catch-all in that it suggests that all members of the community should be engaged. Within this theme, two sub-issues were identified. Firstly the notion that as many people as possible should be engaged to ensure that all issues are adequately considered: “everyone you can reach in the community should be engaged – you don’t want it to be the case that somewhere down the road someone comes out of the woodwork with an issue you’ve not considered”. Secondly, it was suggested that there should be representation from every group / interest that could potentially be affected: “there needs to be a representative from each group – talking about fisheries or tourism, a representative of that area should be involved”.

Strategies for engaging with specific groups of people

Strategies for engaging with specific groups were discussed by all three groups. In particular, the use of community liaison groups as a focus for engagement with a variety of different groups was discussed. There was discussion across all groups of how community liaison groups can be representative of the wider community, especially if membership opportunities are advertised publically: “I think community liaison groups are good…having people actually out in the community”. There was also a suggestion that community liaison groups could ‘pull in’ young people, perhaps as a sub-group. This reflects the issue described above in terms of the challenges engaging young people – i.e. that there may be limited benefit in trying to engage large groups of young people, such as a whole school.

9.3 Exploring possible techniques for considering social values in SIA

This session considered three possible techniques for incorporating social values in SIA: 1) indicators; 2) data collection though online surveys; and 3) public dialogue. Participants were split into three groups and a ‘carousel’ approach adopted, enabling all three groups to comment on all three techniques. Further details of the approach and materials used in this session can be found at Chapter 8.

This session was designed to explore three key questions:

1. How effectively / comprehensively does the technique reflect the value clusters that have emerged from the Round 1 dialogue?

2. What do you like about this as a technique?

3. When and for what purpose might you use this technique?

The findings of this session are outlined below, ordered by the three key questions listed above. Readers should note that the quotations from the dialogue that have been used to illustrate the analysis and discussion have been drawn from the full range of participants at the Round 2 event.

9.3.1 Question 1: How effectively / comprehensively does the technique reflect the value clusters that have emerged from the Round 1 dialogue?

This question sought to capture participant perspectives on the degree to which the different techniques might be able to represent and reflect the range of discrete values and wider value clusters identified through the Round 1 dialogue events (see Chapter 6). In essence, this dialogue project is suggesting that the Round 1 value clusters are potentially a better way of organising and structuring SIAs of offshore renewables plans (see Chapter 6), in which case techniques for doing key SIA tasks need to be able to incorporate and reflect these values.

Within the response to this question, participants identified highly specific aspects of the value clusters that were somehow missing or less well represented by the technique as well as general criticisms and challenges relating to the techniques.

Of the three techniques considered, only public dialogue was felt to have the ability to capture views about a broad range of values / issues. In particular it was felt that the nature of dialogue is such that it can help to understand the broader picture: “I suppose I already had some of the broader picture but it [the public dialogue] was helpful in understanding more”. The only slight issue identified with dialogue in the context of this question was that results will vary depending on the dynamics of a given community, though this is also arguably a strength of dialogue too as it could provide a space to refine a more generic list of values, to better reflect local circumstances.

Specific and general issues were identified with indicators and online surveys. In terms of indicators, participants identified a range of specific values / issues that were not adequately captured in the sample indicators presented. The indicators session focussed on the value cluster ‘transport connections / technology connections’ (see Chapter 6). All of the gaps identified related to specific aspects of connectivity. Given that transport and technology connectivity is captured relatively well by existing datasets[41], it may well be the case that similar gaps and limitations are experienced across other value clusters, where attempts are made to represent these using indicators. Some example gaps are outlined below:

  • More local level data on broadband services: the data on broadband coverage was obtained from Ofcom and is available at the Local Authority level only. At the Round 2 event data was presented for Dumfries and Galloway Council and Highland Council. Participants felt that broadband coverage is actually a more granular issue than this with service levels varying between villages in rural areas. This was also felt to be a particularly important issue for characterising this important aspect of the value cluster as “for local businesses trying to do things, broadband speed is really important”.
  • Road usage by different types of vehicle: the example indicators presented focussed on bus related public transport. Participants felt that it would be important to understand the degree to which different types of vehicle use roads: “I don’t think at the moment these indicators give an overall picture of road usage – buses is only one statistic and on the map [values mapping from Round 1] it’s not just about buses, so other data would need to be assessed”. This was felt to be especially important given the potential congestion impacts caused by construction traffic on small rural roads as well as network capacity issues – e.g. how much accessibility is provided by the road network ‘as is’: “you would need to think about the current capacity of the existing services [networks] and how this might change”.
  • Uptake of public transport services: the example data only really captured the level of public transport provision from buses. There was no consideration of how many people are using buses or the demographics of bus users. This was felt to be particularly important as “one of the big issues in Scotland is that public transport isn’t utilised”. Other missing data identified within this theme that would be highly relevant for representing this value cluster in SIA included: 1) bus waiting times; 2) frequency / how regular buses are – a key issue in more remote rural areas; and 3) how far away bus stops are from where people live.
  • Road condition: participants highlighted how a key issue for road transport connectivity is the condition of the roads themselves: “I think the roads [themselves] are really important – this affects drivers [of private cars] and buses, not just buses”. This data was absent from the example indicators presented. The accessibility provided by roads for private car users, particularly in remote rural areas, is critical for a range of other values: “transport links, your roads, that’s gonna have a big impact on communities”.

Participants also identified a general problem / challenge for indicators in the sense that they probably would not have the ability to comprehensively represent the values of all people / all communities: “is there enough information [indicators] out there that could gauges everyone’s interest? Probably not, it is too specific. So you need to have this exercise [dialogue]”. This issue is picked up further in the questions below.

Problems were identified in relation to the use of online surveys for data collection also though these were much more general and were not related to specific values:

  • Surveys / survey respondents may not be representative of the wider community: this is closely related to the problem below on challenges with uptake. In particular participants felt that with surveys it will always be hard to reach everyone (or at least a representative sample) and therefore surveys would not give you a full picture: “you can’t force people – it’s good that you are approaching different areas of a place but it still doesn’t give you a full picture”. Concerns were also expressed over who would be invited to full out the survey – e.g. it was felt that a ‘citizen’s panel’ may not be representative of the wider community.
  • Challenges with uptake: an overriding issue with surveys identified by the participants relates to the fact that you can’t force people to fill a survey in / they often end up in the bin: “you only reach people who are heavily opinionated, people who aren’t interested will just put it in the bin”. Related to this point it was felt that some groups would be more / less likely to complete a survey – e.g. it was suggested that older / retired people would be more likely to than younger people. Within this theme, suggestions were also made for how response rates could be improved, especially though 1-2-1 surveys either on the street, at your front door or over the phone: “when someone chaps on your door you’ve got more time than when you’re in a rush on the street”. One group in the carousel session felt particularly strongly that given the challenges with uptake, surveys would not be the way to go and that they would be a waste of money: “it’s a waste of money – you would be better making the answers up”.
  • Surveys may be too broad / generic: given the diversity of individual and community held values it was felt that surveys may be too broad / generic and not granular enough to capture the range of values, interests, circumstance and local knowledge held by a given community, especially where a standard survey was being used (e.g. Scotland-wide): “I don’t particularly like the broadness of surveys – I would want some local knowledge to be evident in the survey”. Related to this, it was also felt that it can be quite hard to get your point across within the confines of a survey “especially if it’s something you feel passionately about”. This issue may be particularly pronounced where surveys are entirely quantitative with no open-ended / qualitative questions.
  • Missing audiences: finally, it was felt that the nature of surveys is such that there would always be key categories of people who are less well represented in the results. Where surveys use web based platforms this could be the case for people without internet access. Young people are another group who may be missed, perhaps due to the nature of the questions asked and the format of the survey. Finally, people without strong opinions either way were suggested: “you are always going to miss certain people out [at public meetings]. For them the survey would be the first thing to go in the bin, [given that] they won’t engage face-to-face”.

9.3.2 Question 2: What do you like about this as a technique?

This question simply sought to understand what it was (if anything) that participants liked about the technique – i.e. how might it be particularly useful or effective within SIAs of offshore renewables plans. Given some of the limitations outlined in the sub-section above in relation to indicators and online surveys this question was also a focus for identifying what participants did not like about the techniques. This was the case for all three techniques – i.e. no one technique was without fault.

In terms of indicators, participants liked how indicators could potentially be one technique as part of a wider process / suite of techniques for SIA. It was also felt that indicators could be used to help scope opportunities for development (e.g. offshore renewables) to deliver enhancements / community benefit: “so could these [indicators] be used to identify carrots [community benefit opportunities]?”. This is a classical use of scoping in impact assessment (Baker et al, 2011; João et al, 2011) where the analysis of baseline data and other evidence (e.g. objectives from related plans and policies) is used to identify issues / problems that the plan / project should seek to resolve or mitigate as well as opportunities / strengths that it should capitalise on or add value to. A Marine Scotland representative pointed out that this kind of data is collected at broader scales (e.g. Local Authority scale) but might be less relevant at the level of individual communities: “what about information that we [government agencies] haven’t collected, that is specific to a particular community?”. Despite this problem, some participants said that quantitative data collected and presented through indicators could be a robust approach, where the data is from a reliable source: “facts and figures aren’t going to lie”.

There were many problems and weaknesses identified with indicators. In particular, some participants suggested that indicators are somewhat ‘one dimensional’ in that they do not explain the ‘why’ – i.e. what factors have led to the outcomes / impacts evidenced by the indicators: “how do you know what is attributed to that change?” A key example of this was discussed in relation to the indicator ‘travel time to GP practice’ – where travel times have increased, the data does not indicate if this is due to GP practices closing or the reasons for this closure. Given this it was felt that indicators could not be used as a standalone tool for SIA in that they could not on their own explain social values or represent whole value clusters: “it’s [using indicators] a good process but it can’t provide everything”.

In terms of online surveys discussion in relation to this question was more limited although participants did identify some key limitations of surveys and some possible strategies for addressing these. As outlined in the question above, participants had expressed concern about the representativeness of surveys and survey data. Specific issues were identified in terms of securing a robust sample: “something along these lines [a survey] …, if you’ve got it mailed out to enough folk, you should be getting a fairly good idea of local opinion, with the majority being represented by that percentage”. Like indicators it was suggested that surveys would not work as a standalone technique and therefore that they should be used as part of a wider process: “surveys are a way of collecting info…but I don’t think it’s the only way, it should work alongside other things”. Finally, to help ensure decent response rates, participants felt that surveys should be short, sharp and snappy: “yeah, I like a short and sharp survey – I don’t mind surveys but not one which is twenty pages long”. There was consensus on this issue across all three groups in the carousel session.

From the carousel session it was evident that public dialogue was the most popular technique, with participants identifying a range of points that they liked about the dialogue process. A particular strength identified was the notion that dialogue provides a means by which one can hear what others have to say. This was seen as having the potential to deliver a range of benefits including understanding where other peoples’ views and values overlap with your own: “hearing other folks’ worries and concerns, their thoughts and pros and cons, some of which do overlap [with your own] but others that you’d never thought of” and simply hearing what other people had to say, especially in terms of their views and values: “disagreements have come up in the dialogues but that is inevitable – what has been valuable has been hearing other peoples’ views”.

Relating to this was a feeling that participating in a dialogue can help you to reach a more informed standpoint yourself, as engaging with a wider audience helps you to understand the issues better yourself: “the more you speak to people, the wider the audience…you think, this might impact me or it might not”. Crucially, many participants highlighted how the dialogue setting provides an opportunity to hear different perspectives, even if you don’t agree entirely or if you have not been affected in the same way: “there was a young person in our group, a 16-year old, and she did have a lot to say – it was good to have that perspective, it was a different perspective”.

Other key things that participants liked about their experience of dialogue were:

  • Relevance to policy: the fact that policy-makers are interested in the publics’ perspective.
  • Visualising development proposals / values / impacts: the scenarios and mapping in Round 1 were considered helpful in this regard: “it [dialogue / scenarios] would be really useful at the early stages, to get a visual picture in your head and think of everything”. One carousel group also felt strongly that the highly visual / spatial aspect of the mapping was useful for helping to identify unexpected consequences of development. This could include various synergistic, indirect, secondary and cumulative impacts.
  • The face-to-face nature is important: feeling valued and taken into account was important for the participants and face-to-face dialogue was seen as a key means of demonstrating this.
  • Highly engaging: all three carousel groups highlighted how the dialogue process was one or more of the following: interesting, interactive, educational and imaginative. In particular, being asked questions and not just being talked at was seen as a key strength: “I did find it interesting, I wouldn’t have stayed otherwise. Just doing something, rather than just being talked at – being asked questions is better to get a feel of what this is”.
  • Self-awareness: one carousel group discussed how the concentric circles exercise was interesting in that it required participants to reflect on their own views, something that people don’t usually do.

There were also some aspects of their experience of dialogue that participants were less keen on. These are summarised below:

  • The need for simple language: one carousel group discussed how some presentations were a bit ‘jargony’ emphasising the need for simple language that can be understood by everyone: “my only criticism would be that the experts weren’t trained in public speaking – they used technical jargon. There was no effort to take it down to layman’s terms, to what Joe Bloggs would understand”.
  • The dialogue was too scripted: there was some discussion within one carousel group of how the dialogue process was too scripted and didn’t leave enough time for natural conversations: “[the dialogue] was a little bit too scripted – sometimes the conversations could be a bit more off the cuff, several times people were cut-off because of a lack of time”. This could mean that the objectives and process were sometimes a bit too ambitious.
  • The dialogue was too open-ended: in contrast to the point above, a different carousel group felt that the dialogue left too much to chance and could have been more tailored to stop people going off on tangents: “needs to be a bit more tailored, as people may go off on tangents and talk about things that are not so relevant”. This issue could be reflective of facilitators not being clear enough and keeping the conversation on track.
  • Include stakeholder participants: one group discussed how it would actually have been useful to have stakeholder interests represented within the participants: “the thing that I found disappointing was that we didn’t have representatives from the local interests”. It was felt that including strong stakeholder voices would have led to a more balanced discussion. In contrast, one person from within this group felt that including stakeholders / people with strong views would have been a bad idea.

9.3.3 Question 3: When and for what purpose might you use this technique?

This question sought to understand when within the SIA process the three techniques might be used and for what purpose(s). The answer to this question varied slightly across the different techniques.

In terms of indicators, it was suggested that the technique should be used at the beginning and end of plan-development / SIA by setting the scope and in monitoring, where the key ones could be used as performance indicators for the plan: “for me it would be right at the first and last, like a KPI”. There was some specific discussion and consensus within one of the carousel groups that indicators should be somehow linked to impacts. In impact assessment terms this is standard practice as indicators (and the depiction of the baseline and trends they provide) can be used to evaluate impact significance and also for monitoring of impacts once the plan is adopted (Scottish Government, 2013). This monitoring role was also evident where participants felt that indicators should be used to help the public understand the outcomes / impacts of the plan and to know if things are getting better or worse. When thinking about purpose, one group was worried that the indicators wouldn’t actually be monitored or acted upon: “I don’t see the point in doing this if they won’t be monitored”.

There was a good deal of discussion about the purpose and timing of online surveys. One group suggested that surveys should be used at scoping to gather initial information: “I would think it [surveys] was a first initial…when you are scoping, a way to gather initial information”. The other two groups were a bit vaguer and suggested that surveys should be used once people have a bit more information on the proposal or at least when people are a bit more informed and less emotional. It was also suggested that surveys could be used part way through to pique peoples’ interest in what’s going on and could be also be used in the draft plan stage, when proposals are set out more clearly than they are at scoping.

In terms of purpose, there was a focus on gathering information about communities and identifying differences where relevant: “I think, again, it would highlight the differences – if you live in a city you don’t know your neighbours, it’s different if you live in a small place”. It was also suggested that surveys could be used to generate ideas that could form a basis for discussion in a public dialogue.

In terms of dialogue, timing issues were discussed by two of the carousel groups. One group discussed how dialogue might be used very early-on at the stage when a project is quite conceptual and on the horizon only: “if an idea is coming up, that’s when it would be important – if there’s something that is on the horizon”. Other suggestions also endorsed early use at scoping / early stages of SIA: “it would be really useful at the early stages”. One group suggested that dialogue could be used later on in the process such as at the assessment stage to gather additional information.

Summary of key findings

The following key findings have been identified from the session on feedback and verification of clusters of values and impacts from the Round 1 dialogue (section 9.1):

The value clusters emerging from the dialogue potentially offer a better way of organising and structuring SIAs of offshore renewables plans.

From the dialogue it appeared that people tend to talk about the potential positivenegative impacts of offshore renewables using categories that align with the value clusters identified.

The following outlines key findings from the session on improving the current SIA process from the perspective of the public and affected communities (section 9.2):

The public and affected communities can and should be engaged in ‘co-design’ of offshore renewables plans and projects and associated SIA processes – this may lead to better outcomes;

Early engagement in planning and SIA is fundamental – people don’t want shocks or surprises;

Notwithstanding the above, engagement is likely to be more effective when those developing plans have some material to discuss – e.g. broad concepts or designs, plan objectives, alternatives etc – and can answer questions that people bring up;

Engagement should also be undertaken throughout the plan-development / SIA processes, especially at key focus points or decision windows, but members of the public understand that institutions and the specialists contracted by them will sometimes need to work up information on their own before bringing it back for discussion;

Key actors in the planning and development of offshore renewables should be held accountable for their actions, especially if / when things go wrong;

A ‘one size fits all’ approach to community engagement in plan-development and SIA is likely to fail – the focus should be on ‘multi-faceted’ approaches;

As many people in the community as possible should be involved;

There should be a special focus on engaging young people (the electorate of the future) and people without strong opinions (the silent majority); and

Community liaison groups could provide a useful mechanism and focus for engaging affected communities in plan-development and SIA.

Key findings from the session on exploring possible techniques for considering social values in SIA (section 9.3) are outlined below:

Participants felt that indicators and online surveys would not be able to adequately capture / reflect all social values due to issues with coverage and availability of data (indicators) and problems with uptake and representativeness (surveys);

Indicators and online surveys should only be used as part of a wider process / suite of techniques for SIA;

Participants felt that public dialogue has the potential to capture a broad range of views and values (though participant opinion could be biased here);

Participants identified a number of specific data / value gaps for indicators and several key challenges relating to the use of online surveys in SIA; and

Participants had a broad range of suggestions for when the different techniques could be used in SIA and for what purpose – e.g. it was suggested that indicators should be linked to impacts and used for scoping and monitoring.



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