Three Year Report on the implementation of Scotland's National Marine Plan


This report presents the report of the first review of Scotland’s National Marine Plan, for the period of March 2015 to March 2018.It addresses the legislative requirements to review the plan and report to Scottish Ministers, who will determine, based on this report, whether an updated National Marine Plan is required. Since the NMP is a policy-based plan, the review focusses on the effects of the policies, the effectiveness of the policies in achieving the plan objectives, and progress towards these objectives. 

Sea Basin(s): 
Application in MSP: 
Applied in an MSP process
Not sector specific
Type of practice: 
Stage of MSP cycle: 
Develop and implement plan
Coherence with other processes: 
Marine Strategy Framework Directive
Water Framework Directive

Questions this practice may help answer

  • What is the review and update process for Scotland’s National Marine Plan?
  • How effective has the Plan been in supporting marine management in Scotland?
  • What approaches can be used to evaluate effectiveness of a policy-based Plan?

Implementation Context

Scotland’s first statutory National Marine Plan (the Plan) was adopted and published in March 2015. The policies and objectives of the Plan set out how Scottish Ministers intend marine resources to be  used and managed out to 200 nautical miles. It supports development and activity in Scotland’s seas while incorporating environmental protection into marine decision-making to achieve sustainable management. The Plan applies to all decisions taken by public authorities which affect this marine area.

In accordance with the Scottish and UK legislation, there is a requirement to review and report on the implementation of the Plan. The first review is due 3 years after adoption of the Plan. This report fulfils the commitment. Following consideration of the review report, Ministers must then decide if replacement or amendment of the Plan is required.

Aspects / Objectives 

Address the legislative requirements with regard to review of the National Marine Plan.

The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 requires that review of the NMP reports on:

  • The effects of the policies in the plan; 
  • The effectiveness of the policies in securing that the objectives for which the plan was prepared and adopted are met; 
  • The progress being made towards securing the objectives


Two key strands of work were carried out to assess implementation and effectiveness of the Plan: 

  1. internal review in conjunction with Marine Scotland Licensing Operations Team (MSLOT), to determine the extent to which the Plan has been used in their decision making, and;
  2. broader consultation with key regulatory and decision making organisations in Scotland - through an online questionnaire, a multi-stakeholder workshop hosted by the Scottish Coastal Forum (SCF) and bilateral meetings. 

These processes looked to determine the success of Plan policies and identify policies for revision, barriers to successful implementation and Plan areas where change could be beneficial.

Main Outputs / Results

The Plan is considered useful by MS LOT as it sets the national context and objectives of the Scottish Ministers and is considered to fit well with the existing legislation that MS LOT must apply. Recent modifications of the licence application process enable better consideration and implementation of the Plan.

Planning and licensing authorities, regulators and statutory advisors stated they use the Plan and its policies in the discharge of their statutory functions. Overall, responses indicate some public authorities apply the Plan thoroughly to their decision making and service delivery, but not all are doing so with the same consistency.

It was generally commented that given the large uncertainties around the UK leaving the EU, now is not the time to amend or replace the Plan. Only when full details of the future relationship with the EU are known, will it be possible to do an effective assessment of the impact on the Plan and determine what changes are needed.

The report of the review is available online at:


Can the practice be applied in other contexts? What makes the practice transferable? What are enabling factors to have in place to ensure practice can work in another context?

The National Marine Plan Review focusses on the implementation of the policies within the Plan and is therefore very specific to Scotland. However, it may be of wider interest as an approach to evaluation of marine planning and how planning processes can be improved over time.  

Responsible Entity 

Marine Scotland

Costs / Funding Source

Scottish Government 

Contact person

Paul Haddon, Marine Scotland Planning and Policy