Developing the Blue Economy, sustaining coastal communities

A photograph of men working at Aberdeen Harbour


Key points:

  • Showcasing Scotland’s coasts and waters for sustainable growth and inclusive participation
  • Developing Regional Marine Plans
  • A new, world-leading approach to management of our sea fisheries
  • Continued to support the sustainable growth of the aquaculture sector

Healthy oceans are essential to life on this planet: they produce at least 50% of our oxygen and absorb around a third of our C02 emissions. Scotland has a long and deep history with the ocean: the health of our economy, and wellbeing as a society is closely linked with the health and productivity of our seas.

The Scottish Government recognise the contribution that sustainable tourism makes to an inclusive economy, right across Scotland, in some of our most remote and fragile communities. Our market research shows that both residents of Scotland and the rest of the world wants to experience Scotland’s unique culture, stunning landscapes, pristine environment, the food and drink that is produced here and our world-renowned hospitality.

Marine tourism is therefore a key sector for Scotland. The long term trend from 2008 to 2017 showed marine tourism GVA increased by 28% and employment by 16%. The latest statistics show the marine tourism industry provided employment for 28,300 people (headcount), contributing 1.14% of the total Scottish employment.

Marine and coastal tourism also features as a key sector in other Scottish Government work, such as City Deals, regeneration projects (e.g. our work with North Ayrshire Council) and the wider Programme for Government Commitment to develop the South of Scotland as a tourism destination.

That’s why in 2020, our next Themed year, the Year of Coasts and Waters we are showcasing Scotland’s coasts, rivers, canals, lochs and inland waters and the work we are doing to protect our marine environment and wildlife - and the many communities that rely on these world-class assets. Individual destinations are also working to grow local economies through developing sustainable tourism and the Scottish Government are actively supporting many of these initiatives.”

The Highlands and Islands of Scotland are uniquely placed to take advantage of the considerable growth potential in the marine economy. The region has extremely valuable natural assets, including 61% of the UK coastline, combined with innovative businesses, outstanding research capability, a skilled workforce and an international reputation and market reach. The potential of the marine economy has already been demonstrated within the wave and tidal energy sector by the world-leading European Marine Energy Centre in Orkney, and there is now a significant opportunity to build on this through an increased focus on aquaculture and marine biotechnology. Aquaculture is another sector that is thriving, directly employing over 2,000 people and contributing around £436M (2017 estimates) in gross value added to the economy, with significant wider impacts across the supply chain (estimated to be worth around £620M in GVA to the Scottish economy). Aquaculture and its supply chain supports more than 12,000 jobs and offers opportunities in some of our most remote and fragile communities. Farmed Atlantic salmon from Scotland is the UK’s top food export and offers the Rural Economy further sustainable growth potential. We are working closely with the aquaculture sector directly to support the development of a resilient and sustainable industry in a changing climate through the Aquaculture Industry Leadership Group and Farmed Fish Health Framework.

Building on Highlands and Islands Enterprise’s “MAXiMAR” Science and Innovation audit, HIE will seek to maximise the region’s marine innovation, technology and skills, not only for the benefit of the Highlands and Islands, but for the whole of the UK.

We are developing Regional Marine Plans which are delegated to partnerships at a local level leading to increased local transparency. The Regional Marine Plans can focus on the specific rural issues in their region.

We are contributing to tackling climate change by supporting the expansion of offshore wind through providing new guidance to industry on licensing and decommissioning, as well as providing a further £2 million this year to support innovation and help reduce costs.
We recognise the important role the ocean plays in helping us mitigating and adapting to climate change: we are establishing a new virtual Centre to co-ordinate marine climate change science and research and the Scottish blue carbon research programme is building our understanding of how marine habitats absorb and store carbon.

We are developing a new approach to fisheries management in partnership with the fishing industry and other stakeholders, establishing a world leading, sustainable fisheries management strategy, with inclusive economic growth at its heart. We will continue to support the sustainable growth of the Scottish aquaculture sector, striking the right balance across our economic, environmental and social responsibilities. To aid this, we continue to invest in the Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre. We want to foster a Team Scotland mind-set to the governance of Scottish aquaculture, one that helps prevent challenges arising and provides a proportionate approach to consenting.

We have supported maritime business and coastal communities through the European Maritime and Fisheries Fund, with £54m having been awarded since January 2016. The Coastal Communities Fund has supported projects in Scotland since 2012 and has provided over £18m to coastal projects to boost economic sustainability and provide employment opportunities to small coastal towns around the coast of Scotland.

Key resources:

Scottish Government: Marine Planning

The European Marine Energy Centre

Aquaculture Scotland

Scottish Aquaculture

Offshore wind, wave and tidal energy applications: consenting and licensing manual

SAIC (Scottish Aquaculture Innovation Centre)