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Scot Marine Act FINAL

Scot Marine Act FINAL

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Published by: CoastNet on May 16, 2010
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In February, the Marine (Scotland) Bill was passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament and received Royal Assent in March becoming the Marine (Scotland) Act and complementing the Marine and Coastal Access Act. But what does this mean in reality for managing Scotland’s marine resources? Rhona Fairgrieve from the Scottish Coastal Forum* (SCF) delves further.

Passed unanimously by the Scottish Parliament, the Marine (Scotland) Act joins the UK Government’s Marine and Coastal Access Act as landmark legislation for planning and managing our marine resources and the uses made of them. Just what are the key elements of this Act, the differences and similarities with the UK Bill and what will implementation of this legislation mean in practice?


The Marine (Scotland) Act applies in Scotland’s territorial waters, from the Mean High Water Mark out to 12 nautical miles (nm). Under the Scotland Act 1998, which devolved powers to a Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh, this area is entirely within the scope of Scottish legislation although some activities such as defence and merchant shipping remain reserved to Westminster. Beyond 12nm, the UK Marine and Coastal Act’s provisions are in place in the waters around Scotland. However, a ground-breaking agreement between the Scottish Government and Defra in 2008 allows Scottish Ministers to make decisions on the area right out to 200nm, subject to Westminster’s agreement. This system of executive devolution is designed to reduce problems with overlap between different marine jurisdictions and allows Scottish Ministers de facto control over planning and nature conservation matters from the shoreline to the limit of Scottish fisheries waters.

Scotland’s Marine and Coastal resource
• Over 11,000km of coastline (when measured at the 1:50,000 scale) • 130 inhabited islands • 20% of the Scottish population lives within 1k of the coast; over 70% lives within 10k • Scotland’s territorial sea (from coastline to 12nm) represents 53% of the total area of Scotland • Marine industries and assets generate over £2.2 billion for the Scottish economy • Around 50,000 jobs supported by marine resources (excluding oil and gas) • Scotland’s seas are home to 40,000 species, including 6,500 species of animals and plants

Three aspects of the Scottish Marine Act are directly comparable with the UK Act. It: 1. establishes a mechanism for marine planning 2. modernises and streamlines the marine consenting process 3. provides for the creation of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the Scottish equivalent of MCZs, allowing areas of national importance for nature conservation and historic wrecks to contribute to an ecologically coherent network of sites The Act also provides Scottish Marine Enforcement Officers with more flexible enforcement powers, allowing them to monitor and enforce the marine licensing and conservation provisions.

There are some fundamental differences between the two Acts. The Scottish Act for example does not formalise coastal access as this was dealt with under the Land Reform Act 2004. Neither does it modernise inshore fishery management, which is dealt with under separate, though related, policy although it does modernise legislation relating to the management of seals. Finally, it does not directly create a Marine Management Organisation (MMO) as that is already in place.

In April 2009, the Scottish Government created its own MMO by reorganising three existing policy divisions (Scottish Government’s marine and coastal policy functions, the scientific capacity from the Fisheries Research Service

The Edge
www.coastnet.org.uk/theedge | May 2010

Ian Hay

Rhona Fairgrieve

Far left: Common seals hauled out on sands, Angus, North East Scotland. Left: Salmon farm, Orkney.


and the enforcement element of the Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency) to create a new Marine Directorate, known as Marine Scotland. In force now for a year, Marine Scotland has driven the passage of the Marine (Scotland) Act through the Parliamentary process. This gives it an unparalleled understanding of the legislation’s component parts with members of the Bill Team now moving to posts that will deliver what has been created by the framework Act.

for consultation during 2011. It will tie in with Scotland’s terrestrial National Planning Framework, which already highlights major infrastructure developments in coastal areas. These include the reconfiguration of port facilities and the building of a fith crossing over the Firth of Forth. Finally, from 2011, the ‘regional’ level will be developed so that stakeholders feel they have an input to Regional Marine Plans, which will complement the National Marine Plan and add greater detail to its proposals. As part of the secondary legislation process, Marine Scotland will shortly carry out a consultation exercise on potential boundaries for Scottish Marine Regions (SMRs), with the intention that these are confirmed by the end of 2010.

Ian Hay

Regional Marine Planning Partnerships
The Scottish Marine Act provides for Marine Planning Partnerships (MPPs) to be created so that the responsibility of developing Regional Marine Plans can be devolved from Marine Scotland to the local level. This is a fundamental difference between the two Acts; the UK Act only allows for the UK MMO to undertake marine planning in its area of jurisdiction. The role of Scotland’s well-established network of Local Coastal Partnerships (LCPs), and the more recent Scottish Sustainable Marine Environmental Initiative (SSMEI) pilot projects that examined how marine planning might be done, is unclear at present. Consideration will need to be given to what role they may play in the new regime. For example, where there are multiple local authorities around a Firth (estuary) it may be more appropriate for an independent organisation such as an established LCP with a track record in delivering ICZM to act as lead authority in the creation of a Regional Marine Plan.

Undoubtedly, 2010 will be a challenging and interesting year as the devil in the detail emerges and the different parts of the Act settle into place. Marine Scotland will be focussing on a number of key aspects to flesh out the framework created by the Act. Most notable of these aspects will be developing the marine planning process within Scotland’s territorial waters and liaising with Defra and the MMO so that the new consenting regimes are consistent across the UK.

Marine planning in Scotland will occur as part of a three tier process. At the top is the ‘international’ level, where Scotland will interact with England, Northern Ireland and neighbouring states around the North Sea. At the ‘national’ level, a draft National Marine Plan for Scotland will be developed during 2010 and will be put out

The balance between environmental and social/economic aspects is the subject of much supporting work.

Rhona Fairgrieve

Left: Daily flight from Glasgow to Barra, Outer Hebrides. Lifeline air link runs the only scheduled service that makes use of a beach as its runway.

The Edge
www.coastnet.org.uk/theedge | May 2010


Scottish Natural Heritage and the Scottish Association of Marine Science are considering objectives relating to marine ecosystems and socioeconomic elements, which will feed into the development of the National Marine Plan and subsequent documents.

Rhona Fairgrieve

Who is going to do all this planning is another aspect that is under consideration. Suddenly, the idea of Marine Planners is much in vogue but creating a new breed of specialist from scratch to satisfy the expected demand across government and industry will not be easy. Marine Scotland is adamant that marine planning shall not just be a wholesale exporting of the terrestrial planning system offshore. In a previous article on the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act, Alex Midlen concluded that there seemed to be in-built tensions between the environmental bias of marine planning and the socioeconomic bias of the existing terrestrial planning regime. Although there is uncertainty about the new system and similar issues may well arise in Scotland, there seems to be less outright angst about it at this stage. This may well be due to the process of developing the Bill, which was started under the previous Scottish administration in 2005 and was deliberately intended to be inclusive and achieve consensus between nature conservation interests and marine industries. Sustainable economic development has been the key driver behind the Scottish Marine Bill – this is not an ‘environmental’ Act per se, although it is designed to have positive effects on the marine environment through planning, improved licensing and management regimes.
Above: Traditional fishing boat and creels, Vatersay, Outer Hebrides.

Looking ahead, the next 12 months should see many of the outstanding issues either resolved or at least progressing towards resolution. Work on the Marine Policy Statement will set the context for all the devolved administrations’ relationship with the UK Marine and Coastal Act. The development of a draft Scottish National Marine Plan will consider that level of marine planning and will get to grips with the amount of information required to support it. Finally, decisions will be made about how marine planning can be cascaded to the regional level and what will be required to make this work. There has been much hard work to get us to this stage and there will be even more to set the Act into motion. For a Politics geek who has one foot on dry land and the other beyond MLWS, it has been a momentous time. And it’s going to get even more interesting as the theory becomes practical reality.

*Rhona Fairgrieve runs the Scottish Coastal Forum, a stakeholder body that advises the Scottish Government on matters relating to coastal policy issues. Since 1996, the SCF has contributed to the development of coastal and marine policy through a succession of initiatives run by different administrations.

More information on the Marine (Scotland) Act UK More information on the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act

The Edge
www.coastnet.org.uk/theedge | May 2010


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