Four new Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) have been announced by the Scottish Government and a further 12 sites have been given Special Protection Area status.
In Scotland, 37% of its seas now fall into protected marine measures.
In Orkney, there is to be a shift of planning to Orkney Islands Council from the Scottish Government with The Delegation of Functions (Marine Plan for the Scottish Marine Plan for The Orkney Islands) Direction 2020.
OIC is delighted with this move to devolve more powers to the islands.
Commenting Chair of the OIC’s Development and Infrastructure Committee, Councillor Graham Sinclair, said:
“This is actually quite a landmark for Orkney, to be among the first three regions in Scotland to receive Delegation of Functions under the Act. In essence this means that we can begin to go forward with preparing a Regional Marine Plan for Orkney Islands Region for adoption—a plan that will protect the best interests of Orkney communities, as well as enabling local aspirations.
“This will require wide consultation with marine stakeholders, from large commercial interests to someone catching a few ‘sillocks’ for supper, and everyone in between.
“This is the culmination of many years work and OIC’s Marine Planners should all be very proud of the roles they have individually played in making this happen. It is an historic moment for all who value the coastal waters around Orkney.”
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Orkney has been lagging behind in getting this up and running with Shetland establishing theirs in 2016.
Mairi Gougeon, Minister for the Natural Environment in the Scottish Government said:
“This is an important opportunity for people and organisations living and working in Orkney to lead on the development of marine plans for their area.
“Orkney has a rich marine environment and heritage as well as an excellent track record on sustainable development and innovation. It is therefore ideally placed to use this opportunity to build on this for current and future generations.”
OIC will now develop an Orkney Marine Planning Partnership (OMPP).
Orkney Greens have voiced their concerns in that two sites in Orkney: Scapa Flow and North Orkney, are not included as Special Protection Area sites in the Scottish Government announcement. OIC have previously opposed such a designation for these marine areas in Orkney’s waters.
Councillor Steve Sankey, the Scottish Green Party OIC councillor said:
“This is an unfortunate state of affairs, and an ‘old’ Council decision that is certainly not in my name. I personally know that the Scottish Government is very unhappy with OIC’s stance, which in my view is both wrong and un-necessary for a variety of reasons.
“First, only last week the Council acquired new powers over marine planning which is very exciting, and, frankly, this is old policy stance is an embarrassment.
“Alongside this, we have a statutory duty to conserve biodiversity. Scapa Flow is perhaps the finest inland marine water in the UK and is internationally important for such birds as Great-northern divers and Long-tailed ducks.
“Secondly, Scapa Flow is already recognised in the existing planning process in National Planning Framework 3, and as a consequence any significant development proposed may be approved provided that it accords with planning policy and is of over-riding national importance.
“But lastly, and this is crucial post-COVID, we have approaching half a million tourists who we know through surveys come to Orkney because of its wildlife and natural history, injecting £70 million into our local economy.
“In short, we’re cutting off our nose to spite our face, and losing a lot of political capital as we do so.
“Is it just coincidence that we have insufficient funding for ferries, we alone lack RET, and the replacement ferry programme is subject to massive delays?I’ll be seeking an urgent review.”
Councillor Sankey’s concerns were supported by Ariane Burgess, who will be seeking election to the Scottish Parliament for the Highlands and Islands for the Scottish Greens at next May’s Holyrood election.
“Scotland is facing a nature emergency, with one in nine species facing extinction. That’s why these marine designations, hard-won by Scottish Green MSPs in budget negotiations, are so necessary.
“Scapa Flow was initially proposed because it is a vital spot for biodiversity, so it is bitterly disappointing that the previous council opposed it. The need to protect Scotland’s nature is urgent, so I’m calling on Orkney council and the Scottish Government to get back round the table to think again on giving Scapa Flow the SPA designation it needs.”
Mairi Gougeon said:
“It is our duty to help protect and enhance our marine environment so that it remains a prized asset for future generations. These designations continue Scotland’s commitment to lead by example on environmental protection.
“Not only are our seas fundamental to our way of life, they provide habitats for a hugely diverse range of marine wildlife and it is vital that we ensure appropriate protection for them.
“Scotland’s waters are home to many unique species and these designations ensure our MPA network is fully representative of our marine diversity, exceeding the proposed international target to achieve 30% of global MPA coverage by 2030.
“Protecting Scotland’s marine environment is also crucial for supporting the sustainable recovery of our marine industries and these designations will form a key element of our Blue Economy Action Plan.”
More information on Marine Planning Partnerships is available here: http://marine.gov.scot/information/marine-planning-partnerships
The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 can be viewed here: https://www2.gov.scot/Topics/marine/seamanagement/marineact
Reporter: Fiona Grahame