A DRAFT plan developed by the government to safeguard Scotland’s seas is “not fit for purpose”, according to a new Scottish Parliament report.
MSPs on the rural affairs, climate change and environment (Racce) committee said they were “deeply disappointed” after considering the Scottish Government’s draft National Marine Plan (NMP).
They say it fails to provide “clear and concise” policies and could “create conflict” among the various users of the marine environment.
The draft plan published last month aims to balance the development of established industries such as oil, gas and fishing with emerging sectors such as marine renewables and carbon capture and storage.
It is also designed to ensure the environment is protected and enhanced where possible.
“The committee is deeply disappointed a government plan five years in the making is simply not yet fit for purpose,” said Racce convener Rob Gibson.
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“[It] does not provide a clear and concise set of policies that can be consistently applied by decision-makers and those using the marine environment.
“There is a danger the plan in its present form will create conflict by having highly prescriptive actions in some areas, while setting out vague aspirations in others. Simply put, instead of making the marine environment easier, it risks making it more difficult.”
The aim of the draft NMP is for “clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas; managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people”.
It sets out strategic policies for sustainable development of Scotland’s marine resources out to 200 nautical miles.
Planning will be implemented at a local level within Scottish Marine Regions, which will extend out to 12 nautical miles.
The report highlights a range of issues. It says general policies in the draft “provide an important framework and reinforce sustainability”, but there are concerns over how regional and national strategies will interact.
It states that the current draft does not give sufficient guidance to local authorities to ensure a consistent approach.
And it questions whether all local authorities have the necessary experience, expertise and resources to develop and implement regional plans.
Environmental groups welcomed the committee’s “well-informed” analysis, but warned against allowing the seas to be harmed for “short-term” gain.
“Getting this plan in place soon is in everyone’s best interests,” said Calum Duncan, Scotland programme manager for the Marine Conservation Society and convener of Scottish Environment Link’s marine taskforce.
“We argue the Scottish Government must look beyond the short-term growth of certain sectors and provide planners with the strategic vision, tools and resources to actively enhance our marine environment.
“Boosting the long-term ecological health of our seas is vital to other mainstays of Scotland’s coastal economy, such as sustainable methods of aquaculture, fishing and marine tourism.”
A Scottish Government spokeswoman said the government would respond to the findings “in due course”.