On 25th July the Scottish Government issued a suite of consultation material under the overall heading of "Planning Scotland's Seas", which will eventually become the guiding documents for all Marine Planning and developments in Scotland's seas.

The documents include the draft National Marine Plan for Scotland, draft Sectoral Marine Plans for Offshore Wind, Wave and Tidal energy in Scottish Waters, and a draft Circular on "The relationship between the statutory land use planning system and marine planning and licensing" in Scotland.

The consultation period on these documents runs until 13 November 2013.

Please click here to view all the documents

The intention is that there will be a hierarchy of Marine and Planning policy.

The UK Marine Policy Statement, published jointly by all the UK Administrations in March 2011, sets out a vision for the whole UK marine area, and sets the framework for preparing marine plans. The Scottish National Marine Plan and any subsequent Scottish Regional Marine Plans must accord with this Statement.

The Scottish National Marine Plan (NMP) will set out strategic policies for the sustainable use of Scotland's marine resources, out to 200 nautical miles. It will provide an overarching framework outlining how marine decisions should be made. It will cover both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12 to 200 nautical miles). The NMP is actually a combination of two plans under two separate pieces of legislation: a National Marine Plan for inshore waters under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, and a marine plan for the offshore region under the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009. However the Scottish and UK Governments have agreed that these two plans will be published in one document and will be collectively referred to as the "National Marine Plan". So unless otherwise stated in the NMP, policies in the NMP will apply to both inshore and offshore waters.

Underneath the NMP, Scottish Regional Marine Plans (RMPs) will be developed by Marine Planning Partnerships, to create a basis for marine planning at a local level within the Scottish Marine Regions sea area extending out to 12 nautical miles. RMPs will be developed in accordance with the Scottish National Marine Plan and the UK Marine Policy Statement, to ensure they are in accordance with national objectives and priorities. The Scottish Marine Regions will be created under secondary legislation. The Scottish Marine Regions Order 2013 will identify and establish their boundaries and is expected to come into force late this year.

The Scottish Government is also consulting on Sectoral Marine Plans (SMPs) for offshore wind, wave, and tidal energy in Scottish waters. The intention is to adopt final SMPs in early 2014. These SMPs are intended to identify areas where further wind, tidal, and wave energy developments could take place. The consultation Plans contain 10 proposed options for offshore wind energy, 10 for tidal energy, and 8 for wave energy. It is intended that the final plans will be reviewed every two years.

The NMP includes a presumption in favour of sustainable development and use, together with other policies which are described in the consultation as important in achieving a sustainable approach to sustainable economic growth. It highlights that Scotland specialises in economic activities including oil and gas and renewable energy activities.

In the case of renewable development the NMP will provide the marine planning policy framework for strategic development of offshore renewable energy and the decisions relating to licence applications within Scottish waters. The SMPs will contain Scottish Ministers’ policies, including spatial strategy steering the location of commercial-scale offshore renewable energy development in Scottish waters.

At the same time as producing guidance on Scottish Seas, the Scottish Government is also in the process of producing a third National Planning Framework (NPF3). The issues report for NPF3 emphasises the importance of terrestrial planning working alongside marine planning to play a positive role in facilitating offshore energy development. As well as updating the support for grid infrastructure provided in NPF2, it proposes a new national development policy focusing specifically on onshore infrastructure requirements for offshore renewable energy developments.

All of this emerging policy is supported by the draft Circular which provides a helpful update and summary of the way in which the land use planning and marine licensing processes should work together for projects such as offshore energy generation, ports and harbours development, and aquaculture.