Category Archives: Marine policy

Smart Sustainable Inclusive Blue Growth

4th Atlantic Stakeholder Platform Conference, Glasgow 

If the potential of the blue economy is to be realised, strategy must be based on local need and local communities must be key stakeholders – this was the message from Jerry Lundy, Committee of the Regions.

The Atlantic Action Plan was adopted in 2013 with the aim of revitalising the marine economy in its five partner nations – France, Ireland, Portugal, Spain and the UK. The Plan has four priorities:

  • To promote entrepreneurship and innovation.
  • To protect, secure and enhance the marine and coastal environment.
  • To improve accessibility and connectivity.
  • To create a socially inclusive and sustainable model of regional development.

The Action Plan was an invitation to the private sector, the research community, regional and national public bodies and others to develop projects based around these four priorities. A Support Team was set up to offer guidance, project development support and to help find funding for projects.

Each year a stakeholder conference facilitates networking, helps identify project partners and scope funding opportunities. As current chair of the Atlantic Strategy Group, the UK hosted this 4th conference in Glasgow which focussed on the 4th priority ‘Regeneration across Generations: socially inclusive sustainable development of the European Atlantic seaboard’.

The lack of dedicated funding was highlighted as a key challenge – trying to identify the most appropriate funding stream and then going through the complex and lengthy application process has made it very difficult for small-scale innovative projects to get involved.

Some of the projects coming through are fantastic and it’s well worth having a look through the 17 that were nominated for awards to see if any are relevant to your own community. Projects involving Scotland include:

  • Cool Route: increasing marine tourism and its reach into local economies along a new route from Cork to Tromsø in Western Norway.
  • Circular Ocean: tackling marine pollution by looking at ways to use discarded fishing nets including in 3D printing, waste water treatment and reinforcing building material.
  • TAPAS: Tools for Assessment and Planning of Aquaculture Sustainability.
  • ATLAS: developing new tools to better explore the Atlantic ecosystem on a trans-Atlantic scale.
  • Smart Fish: development of a new electronic tag to monitor seafood from harvest to plate.

At the event we heard about the Bio Base North West Europe project that has brought together a range of partners to provide financial, technological, training, networking and political support to enterprises innovating in biobased products and processes – one project that has been helped to get off the ground is Celtic Renewables which is developing next generation biofuel using waste from malt whisky production.

One project achieved a special award for reaching so many people across different communities and generations. Set up by a small group of women, the IAIA Association of Solidarity Needlework (IAIA means granny in Spanish) is a non-profit organisation offering “Yarn Therapy” in nursing homes, senior centres, schools etc.  Families donate balls of wool and a network of over 400 volunteers knit, crochet or use other needlework to make blankets and items that are then donated to refugees.  In 2015/16 the group decided to knit for a blue cause: to protect our marine environment and celebrate the World Oceans Day – 300 blue blankets, 3,000 scarves and 1,000 endangered knitted animals were produced and showed in schools, day care centres, museums and at the Ministry.

Workshops attended at the event included:

Year of Scotland’s Coast and Water 2020:  marine tourism has been identified as a key growth area and a range of projects were highlighted – Cool Route, West Coast Marine Tourism Collaboration led by Argyll & the Isles Tourism Co-operative, development of a Maritime Skills course at Argyll College UHI, Sail West Project and the Hebridean Whale Trail.  The difficulty of balancing growing tourism with local infrastructure and conservation was highlighted – ‘identity mapping’ was a technique used in Holland to put the local community in control of development.

Community-led Local Development: opportunities for fisheries communities and co-operation: Scotland’s whole coast is covered by Fisheries Local Action Groups (FLAGs) but very few projects are coming forward for funding – only 33 in Scotland compared to Ireland’s 190.  Information for each country can be found from the support unit FARNET.

Fair Isle gets its Marine Protected Area

Scottish Government approves Fair Isles Demonstration and Research MPA

On 26 October, Roseanna Cunningham, Scotland’s Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform, announced  the designation of the Fair Isle Demonstration & Research Marine Protected Area – Scotland’s first ever designation of this kind.

Great result for 25 years of Community effort 

The news comes on the back of decades of community effort campaigning for improved protection for Fair Isle’s waters. Fair Isle is famed for its migratory bird populations and attracts visitors the world over. A small and remote island, located around 40km from the nearest land, the local economy is reliant upon a healthy marine environment to underpin their wildlife tourism industry. Fair Isle records a greater diversity of bird species per unit area than anywhere else in Britain and Ireland, due to its location as first landfall for migrants moving across both the North Sea and Atlantic Ocean, and often records unusual avian visitors not found elsewhere in the UK. In addition, seventeen species of seabirds breed on Fair Isle, however populations of these have declined from c. 250,000 in total in the 1980s and 1990s to just over 100,000 in 2010, with species such as kittiwakes, arctic skuas, puffins, shags and arctic terns showing the most rapid declines. This is not only an issue for the biodiversity of Fair Isle, but also represents a threat to the island’s main industry – wildlife-based tourism.

FIMETI ‘s role crucial for campaign success

The Fair Isle Marine Environment and Tourism Initiative (FIMETI) was established in 1995 as a partnership between the Fair Isle community, the National Trust for Scotland and the Fair Isle Bird Observatory Trust to work toward the long-term protection and sustainable management of the seas around the island. The proposal for the Demonstration and Research Marine Protected Area (MPA) was developed in 2011 by FIMETI on behalf of all residents of Fair Isle, and had full support of other stakeholders using these waters.

Fair Isles MPA’s 2 objectives

The Fair Isle MPA is ultimately designed to protect the island’s sea bird populations (and associated bird tourism industry) and has two objectives:

  • to conduct robust research on population decline of seabirds,
  • to demonstrate the social and economic value of a healthy marine environment to the Fair Isle community and others.

It differs from Scotland’s nature conservation MPAs in that rather than specifically protecting species of European importance it is specifically targeted toward carrying out research to demonstrate sustainable marine management approaches.

Piloting a partnership approach

Speaking about the news, former FIMETI representative Nick Riddiford said, “I am delighted that 25 years of community effort to safeguard our seas has reached this milestone. Its goal as the first Demonstration and Research MPA in Scotland is to pilot a partnership approach towards sustainable marine management of benefit to all.”

“The sea plays a huge role in the economic, social, cultural and environmental wellbeing of the isle. The designation will make a big difference for Fair Isle.”


Blue New Deal workshop

The Blue New Deal

The Blue New Deal is a UK-wide initiative, led by the New Economics Foundation and working in collaboration with a range of stakeholders, to support good jobs, increased economic sustainability and resilience for coastal communities through a healthier coastal and marine environment.

Free New Blue Deal workshop: 

Tuesday 26 July 2016 – 12:00 to 17:00                                                                                  University of Aberdeen

This one-day workshop is an opportunity to discuss Scottish coastal communities, coastal economy and marine environment.

It wants to bring together:

  • Private, public, third-sector stakeholders representing coastal and marine issues in Scotland (incl. fisheries, aquaculture, energy, tourism, coastal management)
  • Stakeholders representing the interests of Scottish coastal communities (including local councils, coastal partnerships, community groups, business networks)

You will talk about:

  • What needs to happen to deliver a vision of good jobs and increased economic sustainability for coastal communities through a healthier marine environment
  • Discuss how the Blue New Deal initiative can help strengthen existing efforts towards these goal

The output will feed into a UK-wide action plan, to be launched in autumn 2016.

Visit the Blue New Deal website to find out more.

Register your interest by June 6 by clicking here.

If you have any questions, please contact Fernanda Balata:


Community Marine Workshop: buying into Marine Scotland’s Vision and strategy

Community Marine Workshop: buying into Marine Scotland’s Vision and Strategy

Organised by Flora and Fauna International, the recent Community Marine Workshop held on 7 and 8 May 2016  was very informative about all issues surrounding  MPAs and community involvement.

The Marine Scotland strategy  about MPAs was presented in detail:

Marine Scotland Vision: 

Clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse marine and coastal environment that meets the long term needs of people and nature.

Marine Scotland Strategy 

  • Site protection:
  • Species protection
  • Wider measures

The Scottish MPA network

  • 30 nature conservation MPAs protecting habitats and species such as maerl beds, coral gardens, and common skate.
  • 47 Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) to protected species and habitats such as bottle nose dolphin, coral reefs and seals.
  • 45 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for colonies of seabirds such as puffins and kittiwakes.
  • 61 Sites of Specific Scientific Interest (SSSI) for the further protection of species from seabirds and seals to habitats from sea caves and rocky shores.
  • 194 seal haul-out sites, where seals are protected from harassment.
  • Five seal conservation areas to protect vulnerable local populations of common seals. These areas cover Moray Firth, Shetland, Orkney, Firth of Tay and the Western Isles.

20% of Scottish seas are now protected by MPAs.

See more in this presentation by Sebastian Howell from Marine Scotland: Sebastian Howell_MPAs

The event also featured inspiring community presentations about Fair Isle, South Skye and Little Loch Broom, as well as COAST, who charted the milestones of their journey to successfully establish an MPA for Arran.

Fair Isle Demonstration and Research MPA


The community on Fair Isle has been actively campaigning for a Demonstration and Research MPA to be set up on the island which has witnessed a worrying decline in its sea-bird population during the last decades. The D&R MPA seeks to look into the causes of this decline, address it and research the socio-economic benefits of marine conservation for local communities.

Inge Thomson, the singer and performer from Fair Isle and her father Stewart showed the  film made on Fair Isle about the need for a D&R MPA and made an impassioned plea for people to support  their proposal.

To have your say, click on this link to the Scottish Government consultation which ends on 26 May.





Land reform needs to look seaward.

pressed from  the Scottish Community Alliance , 24 Feb 2016 briefing

Anyone following the recent twists and turns of the Land Reform Bill’s passage through Scottish Parliament will have noticed a distinct stiffening in the resolve to produce a Bill that has real bite. Much of this effort to date has focused on achieving greater transparency as to who actually owns land. It now seems that this Bill is effectively laying the groundwork for a much wider programme of reform to follow. Glen Smith, researching for his PhD at Tromso University in Norway, argues that the marine environment needs to figure much more prominently in the debates to come.

By Glen Smith, University of Tromso

For the past three years I have been engaged in research into how marine spatial planning will affect the management of Scotland’s coastal, foreshore and inshore areas (up to 12 nautical miles from the coast). The new planning system will be guided by the National Marine Plan (2015), and regional plans will be formulated within the 11 new Scottish Marine Regions. Marine planning partnerships – comprised of local experts, practitioners and stakeholders – will work within each of these regions to tailor the plans to local needs. The system is designed to allow more local ownership and decision making about specific issues within their area.

In the course of my work I have become less interested in the technicalities of planning at sea, and more interested in what this new infrastructure means for local democracy and the voice of coastal and island communities. For several reasons it appears that the democratic foundation of marine spatial planning in Scotland might not be as strong as is claimed.

Firstly, the consultation system supporting decision making in the marine environment is far from perfect, and often exclusive. The Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST), for example, has faced this problem. COAST is one of the UK’s leading community marine conservation organisations. Their achievements are quite remarkable, including the establishment of Scotland’s first no-take zone in Lamlash Bay in 2008. However, despite the high level of local support, the organisation has been denied input into consultation on the management options for marine protected areas and is unlikely to be represented in the new local planning partnership. It appears that COAST will be overlooked in the latest governance infrastructure for marine resource management.

Secondly, marine spatial planning immediately raises questions over the role of the Crown Estate (Commission). This organisation owns and manages over half of Scotland’s foreshore and almost the entire inshore seabed. It negotiates leases on this space with any new actor wishing to develop a project, as they will require anchorage or some point of contact to the seabed. Although stringent environmental regulations and impact assessments are followed, the democratic input by local communities into these lucrative business deals is often limited. For many, marine management is an exclusive realm dominated by those bodies who possess the skills, knowledge, and expertise in the field: Marine Scotland; the Crown Estate; Scottish Natural Heritage; the Joint Nature Conservation Committee.

For planning in Scotland’s seas the starting point is typically ‘blue growth’, project development, nature conservation, and conflict resolution. These are challenging issues that do indeed require careful planning. However, the starting point is rarely local democracy, subsidiarity, or strengthened communities, even though the government is committed to improving these aspects of Scottish life.

The key to raising the profile of coastal and island communities may lie in introducing a new concept into land reform debates. I propose we call it ‘marine land’. The 2014 report by the Land Reform Review Group clearly states, “the land of Scotland in this context is the territorial land area of Scotland, including Scotland’s seabed out to the 12 nautical mile territorial boundary” (p16). And yet this area is rarely more than name-dropped in debates over land reform (and, indeed, in the rest of that report). Seen from a governance and decision-making perspective, the Crown Estate is a private landowner. So why do we not consider more radical ways to increase input by communities in marine resource management, such as community buyout of marine land?

Critics will cite the lack of expertise and funds in communities, the need for a unified vision for Scotland’s seas, and concerns over the true intentions of communities owning the seabed. My research is focused on imagining what a new governance system might look like that addresses such concerns. Following through with the planned two-stage reform of the Crown Estate is an important element, as is continued strong guidance from the National Marine Plan. The potential roles of local councils, development trusts, and Community Land Scotland all need to be considered. Communities will also need to be able to count on localised scientific support. The devil is in the detail, and the details are complex.

Terrestrial examples have proven that land buyout by communities can be risky. They need to be financially stable. Local governance structures need to be flexible, yet robust. And what happens if they fail? Who takes responsibility?

But successful projects have brought measurable community benefits such as job creation, population retention (and growth), increased investments and improved facilities, as well as less quantifiable benefits such as social trust, belonging, a sense of place and identity, and new local democratic institutions.

I do not advocate the immediate sale of all ‘marine land’ to communities. But I do propose that we address the worrying absence of the seabed in land reform debates. And I propose that we address the worrying absence of community development in marine spatial planning.