Monday, 9 February 2009

Rural Affairs and the Environment


Rob Gibson (Highlands and Islands) (SNP): To ask the Scottish Executive what plans there are for the establishment of a new marine management organisation in Scotland.

Mr Richard Lochhead : Following consideration of the responses on the recent consultation exercise on Sustainable Seas for All a Consultation on Scotland’s first Marine Bill and related delivery arrangements, we plan to establish new integrated marine management arrangements for Scotland – under Marine Scotland as part of the core Scottish Government, as of 1 April.

This will enable coherent management of the seas with integration of policy alongside delivery functions, as well as contributing to the Scottish Government’s aim to simplify the public bodies landscape. Our proposals signal our commitment to a step change in marine management arrangements for Scotland.

Marine Scotland’s role will be, in partnership with others, to deliver our marine vision of clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environments within the overall Government’s purpose of sustainable economic growth. This will include, for example, working closely with bodies such as SEPA and SNH. It will manage Scotland’s seas for prosperity and environmental sustainability both by leading and working with others and in carrying out its own functions of evidence-based policy development and marine planning, streamlined marine licensing and consenting, sound science and effective compliance monitoring and enforcement.

We plan to establish a Marine Strategy Board, to be led by Marine Scotland and involving key partners with marine management interests, to deliver strategic management of Scotland’s seas.

Marine Scotland will have direct responsibility for core marine functions, which include both the existing functions of the Marine Directorate, Fisheries Research Services (Marine and Freshwater Fisheries) and Scottish Fisheries Protection Agency, and also planned new functions of marine planning, improved nature conservation measures and better integrated licensing, consents and monitoring arrangements. There is strong support for the establishment of such a body with the largest group to comment on status supporting its establishment within Government. It will build on the success of the organisation involved and will enable a strategic approach to marine management.

In light of the importance of the new body’s science function we will, as part of the new governance arrangements, also be establishing a Scientific Advisory Board to assure its scientific objectivity and credibility. We will also be developing appropriate appeals mechanisms with an independent element.

We believe it is important to establish Marine Scotland quickly so that it can begin the process of integrating and streamlining currently separate functions and processes and so that it will be well placed to deliver new functions and responsibilities, following agreement on new marine legislation, effectively and efficiently. Decisions now about its role, status and establishment will also remove uncertainties for the staff involved, partner organisations and stakeholders and help us to gain the benefits of better integrated, more streamlined arrangements more quickly.

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