Scottish marine policy 'not fit for purpose', say MSPs
Scottish government plans to protect the nation's seas are not fit for purpose and could even make the current situation worse, MSPs have said.
Holyrood's environment committee said it was "deeply disappointed" with the national marine plan - which has taken five years to formulate.
It aims to balance the oil and gas and renewable energy industries with the need to protect the environment.
Ministers said they would respond to the concerns "in due course".
The draft marine plan, published at the end of 2014, covers Scotland's sea areas out to 200 nautical miles and aims to protect and boost areas such as the energy industry, tourism and transport, while meeting the needs of the environment.
But the cross-party environment committee's convener, SNP MSP Rob Gibson, said it was lacking in clarity.
"The committee is deeply disappointed that a government plan five years in the making is simply not yet fit for purpose," he said.
"Multiple uses are made of our marine environment, and increasingly these are coming into conflict, but the Scottish government's draft national marine plan does not provide a clear and concise set of policies that can be consistently applied by decision-makers and those using the marine environment.
"There is a danger the plan in its present form will create conflict by having highly prescriptive actions in some areas, while setting out vague aspirations in others.
"Simply put, instead of making the marine environment easier, it risks making it more difficult."
Calum Duncan, convenor of Scottish Environment Link's marine taskforce, said: "Scotland's environment community have followed the development of the National Marine Plan closely.
"It is a chance not just to ensure developments at sea are well co-ordinated and sustainable, but also to enhance the diminished health of our seas, which is the legal duty of Scottish ministers.
"A good place to start is putting in place proper fisheries management in our marine protected areas (MPAs), but current plans allow scallop dredging and bottom trawling to continue across large areas of some MPAs."
A Scottish government spokesman said its marine plan had won "widespread support" during its consultation phase, adding: "The plan provides clarity to developers and decision makers ensuring the protection of our precious marine environment."
The spokesman said: "The Scottish government notes the committee's report and will respond in due course."