News: Scotland’s Coastline Now Protected

February 20, 2010 by john
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Scotland’s coastline and deep water lochs, which make it one of Europe’s finest cruising grounds, will now have a degree of protection with Scotland’s new Marine Act.

The new Act, which was approved by the Scottish Parliament in early February, will impose a duty on politicians and government to protect and manage our seas including their bio-diversity, introduce a marine planning system to sustainably manage demands and to deliver a network of marine protected areas.

As some of these aspirations could contain a threat to the traditional freedom of leisure sailors, a number of amendments were successfully introduced by the Scottish Boating Alliance (SBA), a successful lobby group that was created in 2008 by RYA Scotland, BMF and other representative bodies.

A main theme of the Marine Bill was that Ministers and Public Authorities should aim to take actions which compliment the advancement of sustainable development. One of the main areas of debate was achieving the correct balance between ecological and socio-economic priorities.

Amendments suggested by SBA were designed to ensure that the interests of recreational boating as a whole were not compromised by the overwhelming importance being placed on ecological matters. As a result of pressure from a number of marine business interests, the new Scottish Marine Act states that National Marine Plans must include economic, social and ecosystem objectives.

Another issue addressed was the means of enforcement of Marine Protected Areas, and the fines received for damaging those areas, which SBA considered to be unduly harsh. Some changes were achieved, although the maximum fine for an offence remains at £50,000, compared to £5,000 in England, Wales and N Ireland.

Hugh Henderson, Chairman of SBA, and past Chairman of RYA Scotland, carried out a great deal of work to ensure that the freedom of the seas was affected as little as possible, which will be popular amongst the Scottish boating community.

The new Holyrood Cross Party Group on Recreational Boating and Marine Tourism provides a valuable means of communicating with MSPs. This is convened by Stuart McMillan MSP, who is a great boating supporter and welcomes an open forum for all interested parties.

Now that the framework of the Scottish Marine Bill is in place, subsequent legislation, which will be scrutinised by SBA, will add more detail. An important element still to come is the establishment of Scottish Marine Regions, which will provide local input and direction to Marine Scotland, the new government department.

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