Scotland: Call for urgent reform of marine law –

Scotland: Call for urgent reform of marine law Published:  12 March, 2007

Ross Finnie

THE Scottish Parliament’s Environment and Rural Development Committee has called on the Executive to undertake urgent, comprehensive reform of marine environment legislation after finding existing laws complex and inadequate.

The Committee’s report calls for the introduction of a single, integrated, regulatory system to co-ordinate competing activities in the marine environment.

Reporting on its inquiry into the marine environment, the Committee identifies the huge challenge that exists in managing marine resources effectively. Scottish legislation, it insists, must be reviewed alongside reforms being planned by the UK Government.

The report recognises the immense natural, economic, social and cultural value of Scotland’s seas. Effective management is essential if that value is going to be maintained in the face of growing pressures, it says.

Committee Convener, Maureen Macmillan MSP, said: “A huge range of economic activities depend on the health of our seas – including fishing, aquaculture, tourism and leisure activities. We need to get the right legislation and management to control the pressures created by the different activities.

“The committee welcomes the increasing political focus on the management of the marine environment, and the work done by the Minister’s advisory group on the marine and coastal strategy (known as AGMACS). . . Our inquiry found that existing legislation is complex and is inadequate to protect our seas. Overlaps between devolved and reserved responsibilities add to the complexity. We need clear and ambitious objectives to direct policy. Comprehensive Scottish marine legislation must simplify regulation and resolve this complexity.”

A further essential element is the introduction of a statutory planning system to manage activities in the marine environment. This should involve local communities, but also link to national and international priorities and be accountable to the Parliament, the committee concluded.

Recommendations published today by the Scottish Executive’s Advisory Group on Marine and Coastal Strategy (AGMACS) set out a new approach to managing the different uses of Scotland’s seas.

Some of the other recommendations include:

* There should be a statutory marine spatial planning system to provide comprehensive management of the marine environment;

* Ministers should create a new Scottish Marine Management Organisation to carry out marine spatial planning, marine nature conservation and fisheries functions;

* Consideration should be given to a Scottish Marine Management Organisation having responsibilities to 200 nautical miles;

* A system of Integrated Coastal Zone Management – a process to better co-ordinate both land and sea based coastal activities – should be considered in the context of marine spatial planning;

* Ministers should explore improvements to our system of marine nature conservation for protecting Scotland’s biodiversity.

Commenting, Environment Minister Ross Finnie said: “I want to ensure the long term sustainability of Scotland’s marine environment, which supports a huge variety of economic activity.

“I welcome the report which is a significant contribution to our thinking on managing the marine environment. The AGMACS group brought together a huge range of influential players representing the environment, ports and harbours, inshore and sea fisheries and energy generation.

“I welcome the contribution they have made to developing thinking in Scotland on marine management and their conclusions that effective management will require additional powers being devolved to Scotland.

“The recommendations published today place into context the roles for governments, for local bodies and for the wide range of industries and interests that use our seas.”

The report recommends that any new system of marine spatial planning would need to be integrated with potential UK and European marine planning systems to co-ordinate these diverse interests. A Scottish Marine Management Organisation would have the substantive powers to carry out marine spatial planning in Scotland.

“We have come a long way in establishing a strategic direction for managing the marine environment more effectively,” Mr Finnie continued. “There is still much for us to do to take forward the work of the Group, but I’m pleased today’s recommendations are founded firmly on the principles of sustainable development.

“The AGMACS process has been extremely valuable and I thank all those involved. We will now look to progress the recommendations outlined in the report.”

The full text of recommendations can be viewed at: is published by Special Publications. Special Publications also publish FISHupdate magazine, Fish Farmer, the Fish Industry Yearbook, the Scottish Seafood Processors Federation Diary, the Fish Farmer Handbook and a range of wallplanners.