© Kat Stephenson

Ambitions for Scotland announced - MCS comment

By: Calum Duncan
Date posted: 5 September 2017

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon set out a big Programme for Government in Scotland’s Parliament, with a range of new bills and policies designed to help meet the challenges of the twenty first century head on, including recognition of a ‘moral obligation to tackle climate change’.

© Kat Stephenson

From the historic announcement that ‘we will design and introduce a deposit return scheme for drinks containers’ to progressive commitments to ‘create a research programme on blue carbon and evaluate options to create a deep sea national marine reserve’, ‘improve the protection given to Priority Marine Features outside Marine Protected Areas’ (in the wake of the scallop dredge damage to Loch Carron) and ‘commit £500,000 to begin to address litter sinks around the coast’ there is much to welcome. If future generations are to look back to 2017 from a cleaner, more sustainable Scotland, these and many other welcome commitments in the Programme mean that ‘business as usual’ can really no longer be an option.

The Programme includes important commitments with real potential to help clean up our seas and beaches. As founding partners of the Have You Got The Bottle campaign, we are particularly delighted with the commitment to introduce a deposit return system for drinks containers, and also the finances promised to help coastal communities tackle the blight of coastal litter. I would like to thank all of our dedicated beach-clean volunteers who have gathered the evidence over many years to help us reach this exciting point.

As custodian of vast swathes of Europe’s deepwater environment, we also applaud the vision to evaluate a national deep sea marine reserve for Scotland and, for our pressurised inshore seas, to improve protection for priority marine features across their range. As we are just beginning to learn about the value of coastal and seabed habitats for locking up carbon, we welcome the proposed research programme for blue carbon.

However, the Programme lacked detail on the next steps needed to ensure Scotland’s Marine Protected Area network is coherent and well-managed. We await work to put in place management measures for the remaining inshore sites and on the required nature conservation MPAs for basking sharks, minke whales and other features to ensure the network sufficiently represents Scotland’s marine wildlife.

We were also surprised to see no mention of the proposed Inshore Fisheries Bill, which is urgently required to help modernise inshore fishing and deliver spatial management in particular, yet look forward to helping ensure an ecosystem-based management footing for both fisheries and aquaculture, industries that urgently need future-proofing.

Significant strides have been taken by the Scottish Government in marine conservation in recent years, and there is much to welcome in the Programme for Government, so we look forward to continued constructive engagement for the long-term benefit of Scotland’s seas and the many communities that rely upon them.

Actions you can take

  1. The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2017-18 in full
  2. Browse Scotland's Marine Atlas
  3. Find out more about Scottish Wildlife

Did you know?…

Scotland has 10% of Europe’s coastline

MCS established its Scotland office and programme in 2000 in Edinburgh

To the shelf limits, Scotland has 61% of UK waters, of which 23% are now in existing or new ‘marine protected areas’