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Scotland’s National Marine Plan: Sustainability Appraisal Report


This report summarises the findings from a 2013 Sustainability Appraisal (SA) of a draft version Scotland’s National Marine Plan (NMP). SA of the draft plan is required by the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act (2009). The environmental component of the SA is also required under Directive 2001/42/EC and the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. The SA has considered the potential social, economic and environmental effects of the draft plan, and alternatives to the plan.

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
Type of practice:
Stage of MSP cycle:
Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
Coherence with other processes:
Key words:

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What are the potential social, economic and environmental effects of the Plan?
  • How is Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) applied to MSP?
  • How are interactions between different policies assessed?

Implementation Context

This report was undertaken in 2013 to inform refinement of the draft National Marine Plan. The NMP provides policy guidance for the development of 11 Regional Marine Plans, being developed by Regional Marine Planning Partnerships (RMPPs). SA identifies the likely socio-economic and environmental impacts of plans and policies, and alternatives to them. Taking place at an early stage in the plan preparation process, it ensures that decision making is informed by relevant environmental and socio-economic information. SA provides opportunities for the public to consider this information and use it to inform their views on the draft plan or policy.

Responsible Entity

Scottish Government.

Costs / Funding Source

Scottish Government, costs not known.

Aspects / Objectives

The report was undertaken to address the requirements of the UK Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, the Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) Directive 2001/42/EC and the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.


This is a strategic-level appraisal of national-level planning policies and sectoral objectives and policies, which broadly assesses their expected effects. A series of key questions (‘sustainability appraisal objectives’) is used to structure the assessment. Information about the existing marine environment has been used to inform the appraisal and define these appraisal objectives. The appraisal identifies the individual and collective effects of the draft plan’s policies and objectives on: the economy (including other users of the sea); communities, population and human health; and environmental features.

The appraisal identifies positive and negative effects, including ‘cumulative’ effects. The assessment has been systematic, and the findings are recorded in a series of tables. The significant impacts are described in detail in the Sustainability Appraisal Report.

The alternative approaches to the preparation of the draft NMP were considered at the start of and during the marine planning process, and these have been assessed by the SA.

Main Outputs / Results

June 2013, full Report here:

The objectives and policies of the draft NMP recognise and address the potential for effects on biodiversity, while recognising that the NMP will work in conjunction with the overall legislative and policy framework for the marine environment. Many recognise the need for development and use to be sustainable. In addition, some sectors include policies to deal with specific issues. For example, the policies for sea fisheries focus on managing fishing to ensure sustainability of fish stocks.

The objectives and policies of the draft NMP recognise and address the potential for effects on the historic environment, water, air quality, seascape / landscape, climate and marine sediments, but conclude that the policies and current legislation should interact in such a way that significant effects are not expected.

In terms of socio-economic effects, these are considered to be largely positive. The cross-cutting and sector-specific policies of the two policy frameworks will work to avoid and, where appropriate, reduce the potential adverse effects of development on coastal and marine communities (including social effects) and on the coastal and marine environment.

It is noted that much will depend on the implementation of the cross-cutting and sectoral policies, and the regional marine planning system will have a crucial role to play in this regard, as will marine licensing and town and country planning.


The report is specific to Scotland, but is of interest in the application of Sustainability Appraisal, the SEA Directive and how to evaluate the impacts of cross-cutting policies.

Contact Person

The Scottish Government

St Andrew’s House