‘Exceptional’ regional marine plan set to be Scottish first

The proposals aim to see Shetland's waters remain clean, productive and sustainable.

‘Exceptional’ regional marine plan set to be Scottish first NAFC

A regional marine plan guiding the management of Shetland’s coastal waters and set to become the first of its type in Scotland is being considered by councillors this week.

The proposed plan says it will “build on Shetland’s existing track record of effective and sustainable marine management” and also “ensure the marine waters around Shetland continue to be clean, healthy, safe and productive”.

The draft regional marine plan, which could become a benchmark for other authorities in Scotland, will ultimately be submitted to Scottish ministers.

Its objectives cover social, environmental and economic areas, while the “overarching goal of marine planning is to ensure the sustainable development, protection and enhancement of the marine area, whilst accommodating the mitigation of, and adaptation to, climate change”.

The draft plan got an airing at a meeting of Shetland Islands Council’s development committee on Monday, where members were full of praise.

North mainland member Andrea Manson described it as a “most exceptional document”.

The plan has been drafted under Scottish Government requirements by the Shetland Islands Marine Planning Partnership, which brings together the council and the NAFC Marine Centre.

When adopted it will become the first of 11 regional marine plans in Scotland, and will replace the current Shetland marine spatial plan which acts a guidance for local development.

A 16-week consultation period on the plan was held back in 2019, which included five drop-in events held across Shetland.

Most of the representations made were incorporated into the plan, with those behind the project feeling there are “no unresolved issues” left.

The 154-page draft plan will also go in front of a meeting of the full Shetland Islands Council on Wednesday.

Coastal zone management team leader Simon Pallant told Monday’s meeting that the plan should inform decision making in areas like works licences, marine applications and leasing in industries such as aquaculture, fishing and renewables.

“We feel ready to submit the plan to Scottish ministers for adoption,” he said.

During questioning Manson asked if specific mention could be included of the now-resolved issue of oil-laden tankers lying off the coast of Shetland after leaving Sullom Voe, and while there are mentions of spills and leaks in the plan Pallant said the particular problem was outwith their control.

Shetland Central member Moraig Lyall, meanwhile, questioned Pallant if there was any concern over the isles going first in publishing a plan.

But he replied by saying he was very confident in the expertise and experience in marine planning in Shetland.

“At this moment in time, I do feel it’s testament to everyone that’s involved in this plan,” Pallant said.

“I think we’re in a good position in Shetland and I think we should be grateful for the position we’re in.”

South mainland member Allison Duncan praised the “momentous amount of work” that went into the plan, and committee chairman Alastair Cooper said he was “very, very happy” to see it come to fruition.

The development committee agreed to recommend to the council that the plan should be submitted to Scottish ministers.

Story by local democracy reporter Chris Cope

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