Scotland’s National Marine Plan (“the Plan”) was adopted on 25 March and published on 27 March.  The Plan has been adopted by the Scottish Ministers to satisfy the requirements of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009.  As a result, the policies in the Plan will apply within and beyond the 12 nautical mile territorial sea limit unless specifically stated otherwise.

The Plan sets out policies for the management and sustainable development of Scotland’s marine resources.  It contains a number of general and sector specific objectives and policies.  Spatial planning in the marine environment will also be implemented at a regional level through Regional Marine Plans, which must comply with the Plan unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise.

The Plan and any Regional Marine Plan(s) will perform a similar function to development plans in the onshore planning regime.  Decisions on the approval and enforcement of consents in the marine environment, such as marine licences, must be made in accordance with the Plan and any Regional Marine Plan(s), unless relevant considerations indicate otherwise.

The Plan also recognises the interaction between onshore and marine planning and the importance of collaboration between the relevant authorities in each regime.  A Circular is also being published to sit alongside the Plan and offer guidance on the relationship between onshore and marine planning.

Some points to note from the Plan include:

  • There are strategic objectives to maintain biological diversity and to ensure that the introduction of energy, including underwater noise, is at levels that do not adversely affect the marine environment.
  • There are high-level marine objectives for infrastructure to be in place to support and promote safe, profitable and efficient marine businesses and for understanding of the marine environment to continue to develop through new scientific and socio-economic research and data collection.
  • There is a presumption in favour of sustainable development and use of the marine environment when consistent with the policies and objectives of the Plan.
  • There is a general policy that marine planners and decision makers must act in the way best calculated to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change and another that early and effective engagement should be undertaken with the public and stakeholders in consenting processes.
  • The sector specific objectives and policies cover a wide range of sectors including fisheries, oil & gas, carbon capture and storage, renewables and shipping, ports, harbours and ferries.  For example:
    • there is an objective for the oil & gas sector to maximise the recovery of reserves through a focus on industry led innovation, enhancing the skills base and supply chain growth;
    • there is an objective for Scotland to be at the forefront of the development and deployment of CCS technology, putting in place successful commercialisation projects which promote the utilisation of existing infrastructure;
    • there are objectives for the renewables sector to maximise economic benefits by securing a competitive local supply chain and to align marine and terrestrial transmission grid planning and development in Scottish waters;
    • there is a policy for the Scottish Government to work with DECC to prolong oil and gas exploration and production whilst ensuring that the level of environmental risks associated with these activities are regulated;
    • there is a policy for developers to follow the Scottish Government Good Practice Principles for Community Benefits from Offshore Renewable Energy Developments; and
    • there is a policy, applying within the 12 nautical mile limit, that maintenance, repair and sustainable development of port and harbour facilities in support of other sectors should be supported in marine planning and decision making.