Marine spatial planning

A change in approach

The approach to environmental protection has developed and adapted over the years. Initially there was a focus on single species conservation and then the realisation that special places need to be identified to protect the habitats that single species depend on throughout their life-cycle. In recent times there's been a growing awareness of the need to manage at an even larger scale and an ecosystem based approach has evolved.

In essence this means that you have to understand the interactions between living things and their physical environment and to manage these together to maintain an appropriate balance. Well-managed, healthy ecosystems provide many benefits and are valuable to society. For example, they provide transport routes, food sources, raw materials, renewable energy sources, protection from floods and leisure and recreation opportunities. People interacting with the marine environment also benefit from it in terms of their wellbeing and it creates a sense of place and cultural identity.

Marine Planning in Scotland

The Marine (Scotland) Act (2010) introduced a new marine planning system that led to the creation of Scotland's National Marine Plan. The Plan, adopted in March 2015, covers both territorial and offshore waters which extend out to 200 nautical miles. It is intended to help guide and manage the competing demands on Scotland’s seas as well as providing mechanisms for licensing and enforcing marine conservation. The Marine (Scotland) Act also created a mechanism for forming new protected sites for both natural and historic interests of national importance and for their sustainable management.

Marine planning also requires the creation of regional plans for 11 defined Scottish Marine Regions and where possible for 10 (non-statutory) offshore marine regions which extend from 12nm. The 11 Scottish Marine Regions extend around the coastline of Scotland - Solway, the Clyde, Argyll, West Highlands, Outer Hebrides, North Coast, Orkney Isles, Shetland Isles, Moray Firth, North East and Forth and Tay. An illustrative map of these regions can be found here.

© Emily Burton