The Sea Scotland 2024 conference took place on 3rd – 4th June, providing members from across Scotland’s marine community with an opportunity to gather at the University of Stirling’s stunning campus (a very green space) to discuss how we can better share our blue space.  

The ‘need for speed’ 

Conference delegates were greeted by an inspiring keynote address by Moray Ocean Community’s Catherine Gemmell, who challenged all of us to reflect on our own unique relationships with the marine environment and consider how, through our work and personal lives, we strive to stimulate others to learn about and care for our seas.  

In her address to the conference, the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands, Mairi Gougeon, emphasised the need for speed, saying: “the oceans are reaching their capacity to help us given human impacts on them. If we don’t protect our seas, they will not be able to protect us.” However, for many in the room, the gap from rhetoric to reality is still too wide.  

With the conference underway, speakers from the Marine Conservation Society, Marine Directorate and Nature Scot discussed the challenges and opportunities that Scotland faces in meeting its commitments. While there was recognition that progress has been made on managing and protecting Scotland’s seas, there remains a feeling of frustration that despite high ambitions, the delivery of meaningful action has been too slow. 

Achieving a nature positive Scotland 

Following the opening session, delegates were split into a series of breakout sessions where discussions focused on actions needed to move Scotland in a nature positive direction. One session explored examples of ‘industry with ambition’, with presentations from Fisheries Innovation and Sustainability, Glenmorangie, and Orsted highlighting innovative approaches to sustainability. A second session showcased restoration projects across Scotland with speakers from Restoration Forth, Seawilding, and Community Association Of Lochs and Sounds, while a third session focused on the challenges of the marine Just Transition and key considerations to ensure no one is left behind.   

Day two focused on marine planning and decision making, with the early session providing an update on where we are with marine planning. A presentation from Rebecca Hackett (Marine Directorate) provided an update on the development of Scotland’s National Marine Plan 2, and the following presentations from Ian Hay (East Grampian Coastal Partnership) and Peter Hearn (RSPB) provided further insights into the needs for effective marine planning.   

The afternoon session focused on improving inclusivity in marine decision making, with insightful presentations from Morag Walker (Solway Firth Partnership), Rebecca Trinity Miller (National Trust for Scotland), and Joe Richards (Blue Marine Foundation), where experiences of working with different communities across Scotland were shared.   

These presentations set the backdrop for the afternoon breakout sessions that focused on using creative ways to communicate and solve conflicts, and ensuring that decision-making is as inclusive as possible. An exciting and evolving tool highlighted in one session was the Community Voice Method, used by the Scottish Wildlife Trust in their Oceans of Value project, which enhances dialogue on local issues using interviews, films, and public workshops. Artist Mella Shaw also explored how creative projects can inspire and amplify voices in marine conservation in a second session, and the third session, led by the Centre for Good Relations, encouraged delegates to think about how to address the challenge of managing conflicting views between marine stakeholders. 


In the beautiful grounds of Stirling University, and in the shadow of the Wallace Monument, delegates continued discussions on the presentations and learnings of the past two days, collectively recognising the need for effective marine planning, but also the need for timely action and the importance of engaging as many people as possible along the way. There is much to do, but in the words of Cabinet Secretary, Mairi Gougeon:

“Only by successfully managing our shared space can we tackle the nature and climate emergencies.” 

Next year will be Sea Scotland’s 10th anniversary and we look forward to seeing as many people as possible from across Scotland’s marine community come together to celebrate the inspiring work taking place in our shared blue space! 

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