The Scottish Government is being urged to show “continued commitment” to the marine planning process.
MSPs on Holyrood’s Environment Committee said they were “concerned that leadership and guidance” from both the Government and its agency Marine Scotland was “lacking”.
The committee issued a report on the subject a decade after the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 was passed by the Scottish Parliament in a move which was hailed as a “new era for the management of Scotland’s seas”.
As well as introducing a duty to prepare and adopt a national marine plan, the legislation allowed for more localised, regional marine plans to also be brought in.
But MSPs in their report noted that no statutory regional marine plans have been published to date.
While 11 marine planning partnerships were anticipated, only three have so far been established, covering Shetland, the Clyde and Orkney, with regional marine plans “currently being developed” by these bodies.
The committee said the timescale for developing such plans was “broadly comparable” to other countries – but added in nations where these had been introduced successfully, such as Norway and New Zealand, “local and national leadership was important”.
The committee said they were “concerned that leadership and guidance from central government and Marine Scotland is lacking, leading to the perception among stakeholders that regional marine planning is losing momentum”.
The MSPs added: “To demonstrate its continued commitment to regional marine planning, the committee recommends that the Scottish Government publishes a renewed vision statement.”
Gillian Martin, convener of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, said as part of its inquiry into the matter they had commissioned independent research so that “we fully understood international comparisons on marine planning”.
Ms Martin said: “This research highlighted that successful marine planning outcomes in places such as Norway and New Zealand have largely been driven by strong local and national leadership.
“We believe that stronger leadership in Scotland, by both the Scottish Government and Marine Scotland, would enable our success too.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We look forward to considering the Committee’s report when we receive it and will formally respond in due course.
“Although delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic the programme to establish regional planning partnerships continues to progress.
“Following the roll-out of Marine Planning Partnerships in Shetland, Clyde and Orkney, we intend to announce the next partnerships to come forward in 2021.
“We will carefully consider the Committee’s findings to ensure that this work and further developments thereafter are informed by their conclusions.”