Political Leadership is key to delivering effective outcomes for Marine Planning in Scotland, says Holyrood’s Environment Committee.


In a report published today, Holyrood’s Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee says that leadership and guidance from the Scottish Government and Marine Scotland, in relation to the progress, development and implementation of Regional Marine Plans (RMPs)1 in Scotland, is lacking.

As a result, ten years on from the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, there has been slow progress in establishing Marine Planning Partnerships (MPPs)2 and developing RMPs. Of the anticipated eleven MPPs, only three have been established3.

The Committee’s report calls on the government to demonstrate its continued commitment to regional marine planning by publishing a renewed vision statement. This should include details of work to secure long-term finance and indicative timescales for establishing future MPPs.

The Committee heard that MPPs have been left to figure out how to develop complex plans with little advice on best practise and that there was a need for clearer guidance from the Scottish Government on the roles and responsibilities of MPPs and the process for developing RMPs from the outset.

The Committee also heard that there has been a lack of clarity in decision making processes which has led to a breakdown in trust between stakeholders and had a detrimental impact on collaborative working.

Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee Convener, Gillian Martin MSP, said:

“The Committee embarked upon this inquiry looking to hear from as many stakeholders as possible and we left no stone unturned. We announced an initial call for views. We visited Shetland, South Ayrshire and Orkney to hear for ourselves what matters most to the people on the ground. We commissioned independent research so that we fully understood international comparisons on marine planning.

“This research highlighted that successful marine planning outcomes in places such as Norway and New Zealand have largely been driven by strong local and national leadership. We believe that stronger leadership in Scotland, by both the Scottish Government and Marine Scotland, would enable our success too.”

Furthermore, the Committee’s findings emphasise that regional marine planning has the potential to be a key driver in delivering a Green Recovery and sustainable economic growth in Scotland’s coastal communities. But, it says, further financial commitment is necessary.

Gillian Martin MSP, continued:

“The current levels of finance available from the Scottish Government has the potential to make the successful roll-out of regional marine plans very challenging. We believe marine planning partnerships lack the necessary funding to perform their statutory functions and Scotland’s allocated funding is ‘significantly below’ that of international examples. The Scottish Government must ensure adequate investment is allocated for the duration of the three-year marine planning statutory review cycle.

“In addition, more needs to be done to communicate the longer-term economic benefits of regional marine planning both to the coastal communities involved and to other stakeholders across the nation. We need to recognise that Scotland’s seas are among the most diverse and productive in the world and that effective management of the marine environment will in time create a thriving marine economy. Let’s not forget that in 2018, the Scottish marine economy generated £4.3bn in gross value and provided employment for 74,200 people.”

Select additional recommendations put forward by the Committee to help reinvigorate and improve the regional marine planning process in Scotland include;

• Scottish Government to publish national guidance for regional marine planning outlining amongst others - best practise guidance for developing RMPs and stakeholder engagement; processes for selecting members of MPPs; guidance on roles and responsibilities etc.

• Scottish Government to identify how to improve the standard and availability of marine planning expertise in Scotland to meet the long-term objectives of marine planning e.g. the introduction of a CPD accredited programme for marine planning.

• Marine Scotland to provide delegates and stakeholders with a training course for new MPPs to ensure a clear understanding of the process and what is expected.

• Independent chairs of MPPs to be responsible for dispute resolution with clear guidance on the process for it, including escalating issues to Marine Scotland/Scottish Ministers where appropriate.

• Scottish Government to set clear aims and objectives for RMPs in tackling key environmental and socioeconomic issues facing coastal regions - showing how the latest scientific evidence on the health of Scotland’s marine environment aligns with wider policy ambitions such as Climate Change Plan and ambition for a ‘Green Recovery’.

• MPPs to explore options for forming research advisory subgroups to guide research support and establish the scientific evidence base for regional marine plans and the Scottish Government to provide dedicated funding to support research.

• Scottish Government to review provisions of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 to identify opportunities to improve community representation in regional marine planning and marine licensing decisions.

Notes to Editors:

1 Regional Marine Plans: implement the aims and objectives of Scotland’s National Marine Plan at a local level, allowing more local ownership of decision making and planning about specific issues in the marine and coastal environment.

2 Marine Planning Partnerships: are given powers by Scottish Ministers to develop Regional Marine Plans. MPPs are made up of marine stakeholders who reflect marine interests in their region.

3 In June 2019, the Committee agreed to examine the experience of developing and implementing RMPs in Scotland, ten years on from the Marine Planning (Scotland) Act 2010 which provided the framework for Plans.

The Act envisages eleven RMPs in total, formulated by MPPs – three have now been established in Shetland (2016), Clyde (2017) and Orkney (2020).

The Committee published its interim report on 26 June 2020.

Media information
Hilda Stewart: 0131 348 5378

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