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.


1 Sciencewise is an internationally recognised public engagement programme which helps to ensure research and policy is informed by the views and aspirations of the public. The programme is led and funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI). Sciencewise supports policymakers and research funders to carry out public dialogues on issues with a scientific or technological component. At the time this project was carried out, Sciencewise was funded by BEIS.

2 Note that Collingwood Environmental Planning Ltd is now part of Eunomia Research and Consulting Ltd

3 Social impacts can be positive (beneficial), negative (harmful) or more often than not, they may be mixed resulting in benefits for some groups and harm / costs for others. Impact assessment processes, such as SIA, are intended to identify the full range of impacts (positive, negative and mixed) that could be caused by a proposal and to air these in a transparent manner, supporting better decision-making.

4 An example of a socio-economic assessment is Planning Scotland’s Seas: Developing the Socio-Economic Evidence Base for Offshore Renewable Sectoral Marine Plans In Scottish Waters Final Report (Marine Scotland/ABPmer, 2014)

5 An overview of social impact assessment: Working paper to inform Marine Scotland work on social impacts (Howell and Haggett, undated)

6 Ibid

7 Guide to Social Capital (ONS, undated): [accessed 05/10/14]

8 Planning Scotland’s Seas (ABPMer / Marine Scotland), for example, states that “Social impacts have been described and quantified where possible. This approach based on the ‘capitals approach’ of ensuring that stocks of social capital are maintained over time.” (p 13)

9 ONS, 2014, Measuring social capital p 4.

10 Establishing an agenda for social studies research in marine renewable energy (Kerr et al, 2014) [not available online]

11 Lewis Hurley, personal communication, August 28, 2014.

12 A more detailed discussion was provided in the project Inception Report

13 In the Inception Report, wellbeing was also mentioned as a third concept. However, wellbeing is explicitly included in the list of SIA impact categories (‘Environment, health and wellbeing’)

14 This covers three types of social capital: 1) bonding social capital – close ties between families and friends, good for “getting by”; 2) bridging social capital – weaker ties across different groups, good for “getting on”; and 3) linking social capital – links between citizens, professionals, experts etc, central to building trust.


16 Sciencewise guiding principles (2013) [accessed 22/01/16]

17 Fawcett, J. and Granville, S. (2014). Planning Scotland’s Seas: Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Wind, Wave and Tidal Energy in Scottish

Waters. Analysis of Consultation Responses. Why Research for Marine Scotland, 2014. p 5

18 Ibid, p.11, section 3.15

19 Ibid, p.18, section 3.69

20 Ibid, p.12, section 3.24

21 Ibid, p.15, section 3.43

22 Ibid, p.17, section 3.59

23 Ibid, p.18, section 3.65

24 Dedoose homepage: [accessed 05/08/15]

25 Vanclay et al (2015) IAIA Social Impact Assessment Guidance: 2

26 Whilst this dialogue project was prompted by concerns in relation to SIAs undertaken at the plan level (see Chapter 1), it was recognised that engaging dialogue participants on social values and impacts at this more strategic level would be difficult due to the abstract / less defined nature of proposals (e.g. the focus on broad search areas for offshore renewables rather than specific development proposals with defined parameters). Instead, the Round 1 discussion focussed on the four hypothetical scenarios for offshore renewables developments / projects. These scenarios were developed in close collaboration with Marine Scotland and were designed to be entirely realistic in terms of the scale and magnitude of development proposed (e.g. the area encompassed by onshore and offshore development, number of jobs, additional vessel movements, port and harbour requirements etc). The scenarios provided a vehicle by which social values and impacts could be discussed at a scale and level of detail that was meaningful for the participants. The Round 1 dialogues were not designed to replicate the planning / consenting process for development in the marine environment, but the scenarios undoubtedly prompted discussion about projects. Although Marine Scotland specialists provided relevant technical input, no developers involved in offshore renewables projects (or organisations representing their interests) participated in the dialogue so some comments relevant to project level issues were not scrutinised or followed up within the Round 1 events. Readers should note therefore that the quotes within this section did not benefit from a developer’s perspective to support a more balanced assessment / scrutiny / validation.

27 Ibid

28 Ibid

29 Ibid

30 Ibid

31 Ibid

32 Ibid

33 Ibid

34 Ibid

35 Ibid

36 Ibid

37 Ibid

38 Ibid

39 Ibid

40 Ibid

41 The sample data used in the Round 2 dialogue was sourced primarily from Scottish Neighbourhood Statistics (SNS): [accessed 12/11/15]


43 Directive 2001/42/EC:

44 1) How much do you know about renewable energy installations (wind, wave, tidal) in the sea? (Scale: Everything – nothing at all); (2) To what extent do you think that offshore renewable energies will affect your life? (Scale: Not at all – Change completely) (3) How positive or negative do you think that the development of offshore renewable energies will be for you? (Scale: Very positive – Very negative)



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