Highlands and Islands SNP MSP Rob Gibson has welcomed as a massive step forward an announcement from the Scottish Government that it has commissioned a Marine Spatial Plan for the Pentland Firth and waters around Orkney.
The Marine Spatial Plan will set out opportunities for main marine energy resource area and act as a planning tool for developers, regulators and existing users of the marine environment.
This spring a Marine Bill will be brought forward by the Scottish Government in which Marine Spatial Planning will be a key component.
Mr Gibson said...
"This is a huge step forward marine development in the Pentland Firth and Orkney which will have positive ramifications for the economies on both sides of the Firth."
"Marine Spatial Planning and the Marine Bill means that it should be perfectly possible to allow development whilst protecting the environment and current practices such as fishing and shipping around the North coast and Orkney."
"This news makes the future of marine renewables development in the Pentland Firth all the closer. 2009 will be a momentous year for renewables in Caithness and Orkney. It is vital therefore that the issue of upgrading the electricity transmission grid from Dounreay to Beauty and on southwards to markets is addressed as so as possible. The economies of Caithness and Orkney rely on speedy development."
Note to editor
A draft planning framework will be available by April and will develop this into an initial marine plan, through extensive consultation, over the next 12 months. The plan will fit with the outcomes of the Marine Bill process.
Initial discussions on the plan have taken place with the Scottish Renewables Forum, The Crown Estate, SNH, HIE, Scottish Enterprise, Scottish Power, Highland Council and Orkney Islands Council and the Pentland Firth Tidal Energy Project Board
This support and strategic planning for wave and tidal power is part of a wider Renewable Energy Action plan for Scotland, due to be published by the Scottish Government in the summer.
The Scottish Government will bring forward a Marine Bill this spring that will ensure sustainable seas around Scotland. The Marine Spatial Plan will be a key part of the future management of the Pentland Firth and waters around Orkney. More details can be found here:
The Crown Estate announced in September last year an application process for commercial sea bed lease options in the Pentland Firth and surrounding area for marine energy devices. It is the first marine power location to be made available for commercial development anywhere in the UK.