THE SCOTTISH GOVERNMENT has unveiled a plan designed to protect the marine environment while allowing for sustainable economic growth.
The first national marine plan sets out a number of policies which will balance the development of established industries such as oil, gas and fishing with emerging sectors such as marine renewables and carbon capture and storage.
The plan covers areas such as sustainable growth of fishing, aquaculture, salmon and migratory fish, oil and gas, carbon capture and storage, offshore wind and marine renewable energy.
Other sectors covered include recreation and tourism, shipping, ports, harbours and ferries, submarine cables, defence and aggregates.
The plan will cover all of Scotland’s 450,000 km2 of waters out to 200 nautical miles and will apply to the exercise of devolved and reserved functions.
The plan has been cautiously welcomed by environmental groups as a step-change for the marine environment, as it finally sets in motion a planning system for the sea, over 50 years after such a system was created for developments on land.
However, members of Scottish Environment LINK’s marine taskforce remained concerned that the plan set out some economic growth objectives without assessing fully their long-term environmental implications.
They were also critical of what they seen as a limited ambition for meeting the enhancement duty of the Marine (Scotland) Act and Scotland’s emissions reduction targets.
Calum Duncan, Convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s marine taskforce and Scotland Programme Manager, Marine Conservation Society said:
“We welcome the plan’s support for achieving a just society living within the limits of the environment. However, delivery will be in the details and we remain concerned that some targets and objectives fail to fully account for impacts on sea life and marine ecosystems.
“Boosting the ecological health of our seas is vital to other mainstays of Scotland’s coastal economy, such as sustainable methods of fishing and marine tourism.”
Richard Luxmoore, Senior Nature Conservation Adviser, National Trust of Scotland said:
“The National Marine plan should be a long-term strategy for our seas and arguably the future of Scotland. Our seas are getting busier with every passing year and this plan can help to ensure that developments are well-coordinated and in the long-term public interest.
“It’s not always popular to join up the dots, but climate change is happening and maximising recovery of Scotland’s known oil reserves is not compatible with our Government’s stated ambition to transition to a low-carbon economy.”
Alex Kinninmonth, Living Seas Policy Officer, Scottish Wildlife Trust said:
“As Scotland’s first ever National Marine plan this is a big opportunity to establish a blueprint for sustainable development at sea. It’s vital that the plan shapes a forward-looking marine planning system that provides clear direction, encourages stewardship, reduces conflict, helps tackle climate change and most importantly safeguards our natural heritage.”