The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters case study is located in a busy scenic coastal area to the far north of Scotland. One unique feature of the Orkney biotopes is the diversity and close proximity of many different marine habitats, from exposed wave swept inter-tidal zones, to areas of deep mud, from tidal rapids to maerl beds and saline lagoons. The ecosystem is characterised by relatively clean unspoiled habitats. The area is especially noted for its seabird populations, marine mammals, organisms endemic to high energy marine environments and organisms at the southern or northern limits of their distribution.
The most well established activities are shipping and fishing but the most important issue for marine planning is the emerging wave and tidal energy industry with the potential to occupy large areas of marine space. The Pentland Firth is a busy and hazardous major shipping route and a large marine oil terminal is located in the adjacent Scapa Flow. Other possible conflicts include those with aquaculture, recreation and marine archaeology.
The preparation of a non-statutory pilot Marine Spatial Plan is underway by Marine Scotland (the responsible department of government) which will be succeeded by statutory plans drawn up in accordance with the provisions of the recent Marine (Scotland) Act 2010.
The aim of this case study is to analyse and critique the process of the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters pilot MSP as it is developed. A principal objective of the plan, and of government policy, is to facilitate the development of marine renewable energy and the study will focus on work to anticipate the as yet unknown impacts of these new activities and their conflicts with existing uses and users. The participation of the close-knit island and coastal communities in decisions about the marine plan will also form a key part of the study.