Scottish Government Blogs

October 7, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank
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Marine Scotland Staff Clean Up: 1 October 2015

There have been five separate clean-ups since the last update, one of which included us being joined by Steven Shaw, Danny, Alan and Steven ShawEnvironmental Manager for Aberdeen City Council, on the 1st of October. We discussed potential improvements to the area including the installation of bins, with closed lids, at the top of paths going down to the shore and information signage showing what is being done to keep the shore clean.marine litter example 011015 pic 3

Marine clean-up stats to date:

Over 80 volunteers have participated;

  • Bottles and cans recycled total = 3,615;
  • Full bin-bags of waste total = 177 and
  • Person effort, in minutes, collecting = 14,540 (242 hrs).

marine litter example 011015 pic 2marine litter example 011015

October 6, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank
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MRV Scotia: Survey 1415S Programme

Duration: 5-16 October 2015

Sampling Gear:

  • Midwater trawl PT160 x 2
  • Edgetech broadband towed system
  • Seabird 911 CTD
  • Go-pro camera system(s) with additional sensors (depth, temp, attitude etc)
  • Towed hydrophone array
  • Lowrance echosounder system
  • Simrad WBAT autonomous broad band sounder system
  • Rod and line systems.
  • Electronic load shackle for weighing catch.
  • Scanmar trawl eye sensor.

Overall Objectives:

  • To estimate mackerel density and abundance in the area of the Shetland Isles
  • To investigate the use of a broadband system as a means to determine mackerel size
  • To study distribution of cetaceans and their relationship to mackerel shoals.

Specific Objectives:

  1. Calibration of Edgetech Broadband system.
  2. Calibrate Sv and TS gains on the Simrad EK60.
  3. Obtain acoustic data from mackerel using the Edgetech broadband system.
  4. Obtain biological samples of mackerel from schools by trawling.
  5. Trial deployment options for the Edgetech broadband system.
  6. Obtain acoustic data from mackerel using the Simrad WBAT autonomous broadband system.
  7. Compare the echo returns from a low cost portable sounder system with those from the calibrated Simrad EK60 echo-sounder system.
  8. Deploy a lightweight AU Go-Pro camera system into the mackerel schools to observe behaviour.
  9. Deploy MSS Go-Pro system on PT160 net
  10. Deploy MSS Go-Pro lander system onto the sea bed to identify fish traces on un-trawlable ground.
  11. Visually observe marine mammal distribution and activity during daylight hours.
  12. Obtain towed hydrophone acoustic recordings of mammal vocalisation during survey transects.
  13. Compare netsonde traces of mackerel in the net with those seen using the cable less Scanmar trawl eye system.


All gear will be loaded inAberdeenon 2 October.  The vessel will departAberdeenon 5 October and make passage for Loch Erribol, where a calibration of all drop keel mounted acoustic transducers will take place (approximately 8-12 hours at anchor).  Crew training and trial deployments of fishing gear will take place en route to the calibration site as convenient for the fishing master.  (Note that weather conditions may preclude this activity, in which case the survey transects will commence with acoustic calibrations taking place when conditions are suitable).

In addition, during calibration, an investigation of the acoustic output of the broadband system will be attempted using a standard target below the suspended towed body.  In the event that there is insufficient depth for this exercise in the selected anchorage this may be done later in the open sea with the vessel drifting if weather conditions allow.  Time period for the broadband system investigation is likely to be six to eight hours.

Scotia will make her way to the survey area after the calibration has been completed.  The proposed survey area and possible survey track is shown in Figure 1.  However, this is based on the expected position of the Scottish pelagic fleet which will be fishing for mackerel at this time.  Contact will be maintained with the commercial fleet using email, cell phone and radio communication and the survey area/design may be altered to reflect any changes in the fish distribution.  The survey design will consist of a combination of parallel transects running east/west, or zig-zags into and out from the coast at normal steaming speed (approximately 10.5 knots).  When areas of suitable shoals are encountered work using the broadband system will then be concentrated in that area.

A small boat transfer or short port call may be made, as convenient, after 9 October to allow A Fenwick off the vessel.  This is likely to be from Scalloway or Lerwick depending on the progress of the survey and position of the mackerel schools.  Note this will not be a 24 hour port call.

Acoustic data will be collected at four frequencies (18, 38, 120 and 200 kHz) on a 24 hour basis. While transecting, a towed hydrophone array will be deployed over the stern of the vessel and will be recovered prior to any fishing operations.  The towed hydrophone will not restrict the vessels movement when at survey speed.

Fish schools seen on the echosounder will be identified using a pelagic trawl (PT160).  Trawling operations will be carried out at any time in a pre agreed period, probably between 09:00 and 21:00 hours.  The vessels netsonde systems will be required to monitor catch density and position of schools in the water column during trawling.  The SH80 sonar will be used to collect acoustic data and direct trawling operations.

Biological sampling of all species caught will be carried out as per standard sampling protocol with 5 otoliths per cm length for each haul plus required length and weight data.

A vertical CTD dip will be carried out immediately following a pelagic trawl or once a day if trawling has not taken place, this will require the vessel to use its DP system to remain on station.

Deployment into mackerel schools of the fishing rod mounted Go-Pro camera/sensor system will be done either from the hanger deck in DP or with vessel drifting depending on the conditions.  The opportunity will be taken during some tows to deploy the MSS net mounted Go-Pro system on the net.

Go pro systems may be deployed onto the seabed if schools are seen in un-trawlable areas.

The ships thermo-salinograph will be run continuously to obtain sea surface temperature and salinity throughout the survey area.

Figure 1: Provisional Survey track 1415S.

Figure 1 Provisional survey track 1415S

October 5, 2015
by Ruth Allen
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Undersea lost world – found!

Tantalising evidence that there might be a unique and unknown ecosystem lying off the coast of Scotland has led to the discovery of a lost world beneath the sea.

Following up on a research cruise in Scottish waters in 2012 when scientists spotted previously unknown creatures brought up from the seabed, a collaborative expedition set sail aboard the Marine Scotland research vessel Scotia to the deep waters off Rockall. The aim was to establish whether the evidence they had previously gathered did indeed point to an ecosystem never before discovered around the British Isles.

The specimens from the previous cruise had pointed to a unique and unknown ecosystem.  As the specimens were chemosynthetic species, it suggested the presence of cold seeps.  Cold seeps are where hydrocarbons and fluids seep from the deep sea floor supporting specialist bacterial communities that then form the basis of the food chain supporting highly diverse and specialised communities of marine animals. These types of marine ecosystem were only discovered as recently as the 1980s. If the suspicions of the scientists were to be true this would be the first cold seep system in this area of the North Atlantic, the nearest other examples being off the coast of Norway and in the Gulf of Cadiz, Spain, thousands of kilometres away.

 Read the full MASTS Deep Sea Press Release

Further Information


October 5, 2015
by blog administrator
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Humza Yousaf: Refugees are coming to Scotland – here’s how you can make them welcome.

Humza Yousaf speaks to refugees on the island of Lesbos.

The Scottish Government has made it clear to the UK Government that Scotland will take its proportionate share of refugees coming to Britain. As Minister for Europe and International Development, I chair a task force which is designed to help smooth the transition for the adults and children preparing to come to Scotland. We’re holding meetings on a regular basis with key stakeholders, such as charities, councils and unions, to ensure Scotland is well prepared.

Scotland is a caring and compassionate country and I’m sure few people have been able to look at the truly heart breaking images of refugees without feeling emotional. Last week I travelled to the island of Lesbos, where I discovered that the scale of this humanitarian disaster was even worse than I thought. It is heartbreaking to see men, women and children trekking across Europe with their whole world on their backs. It is hard to believe that this is 21st century Europe and that this is happening on our doorstep.

Refugees in camps on the island of Lesbos.

I have been overwhelmed by the heartwarming response of Scots up and down the country who have asked me what they can do to help the world’s most vulnerable people. It was inspiring to meet, and to see at first hand, the work and humanity of the aid workers, who were working tirelessly to save lives and to offer support to the thousands of people arriving daily.

Humza Yousaf with the Red Cross.

We anticipate refugees will begin arriving in Scotland before Christmas. It’s vital that communities across Scotland play a part in giving families and individuals a warm welcome. But what can we all do to help?

 1. Pledge your support

I have been blown over by the volume of support shown by people across Scotland so far. I recently met with volunteers at Glasgow the Caring City. Together, we helped load materials and supplies onto a lorry bound for Novi Sad in the Balkans. 17 tonnes of warm winter clothing has been kindly donated by the Scottish public. The message charities are feeding back is that they too have been moved by the unrivalled generosity and compassion towards refugees, and the donations to them of clothing and other goods. Further, that the more immediate need that they have now is for there to be a move to monetary donations, in order to ensure that the donations of clothing and other goods can be channelled to the right places. For a list of some charities to donate to you can follow a link to our website

Some of the donations received by Glasgow the Caring City.

2. Fundraising ideas

There are so many unique ways to fundraise and it’s something people of all ages can get involved in. You could organise a cake sale, a coffee morning, a sponsored walk, a charity ball or a marathon, the list is endless. I recently met with the Bradley family from Fife. They were so moved by the refugee crisis that they organised a walk from the Kingdom to the Scottish Parliament and raised an impressive £4,000 for those most in need. It’s easy and safe now to set up a “just giving” page, as these websites show:, ,

3. Work with others – don’t reinvent the wheel

When organising a fundraising event it might be useful to form a small committee to discuss ideas. Once your event has been established, think about drumming up publicity. Social media is a great way to spread the word. Local radio and newspapers may also be interested in picking up on your story, and don’t forget to inform your local MSP/MP. When you start collecting money, ask people to Gift Aid their donations. It means you can raise an extra 25p for every £1 donated by a UK taxpayer. As above, online websites such as ‘Just Giving’ can also work well as people can donate via credit or debit card.

4. Teach English

Many refugees cannot speak English. Not being able to communicate is a huge barrier to social inclusion. It can be a difficult process for refugees; they can feel socially isolated and may struggle to find employment. Could you help a refugee to read, write and speak English either in your home or in your local community?

5. Befriending services

It’s important that refugees are made to feel part of the community they live in. Moving to a new country, especially under difficult circumstances, must be terrifying. The results of befriending can have a significant, positive impact on people. It can provide those in need with a new direction in life and can increase self-esteem. Saying hello and arranging to meet for coffee could make all the difference. A number of parents have recently been in touch to offer play dates with refugee children.

6. Scotland Welcomes Refugees

The Scottish Government and Scottish Refugee Council recently set up a dedicated website in response to the humanitarian crisis. Latest figures show we’ve had more than 1, 200 of pledges of support. If you’ve been inspired by some of my suggestions then why not give just five minutes to help make a difference? If you would like to volunteer to teach English, befriend or assist a refugee in any other way then fill out our online form at

7. Social media

Negative rhetoric surrounds the refugee crisis at times. Words like ‘migrant’ and ‘swarm’ do nothing to help these individuals. Show your support by taking to social media and sharing a picture holding up a sign with the hashtag #IWelcomeRefugees.


For more information visit the Scotland Welcomes Refugees website or follow @RefugeeScotland on Twitter.

October 5, 2015
by SG Admin
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The bowel movement

Diane Primrose – Marketing Manager

Don’t worry, I’m not about to over-share…

I’m talking about Detect Cancer Early’s latest campaign, encouraging people aged 50-74 to join the bowel movement by completing their bowel cancer screening test.

More people are returning their kits than ever before in Scotland which is great – around half a million every year in fact –  however the uptake of the Scottish Bowel Screening Programme is sitting at 57.6%.

By acknowledging the fact it’s not the nicest thing to do while reminding them they’re not alone – and it could save their life – the campaign hopes to encourage those currently putting off doing their test to reconsider.

The test remains the most effective way to find bowel cancer early – when you’re 14 times more likely to survive.

Two familiar faces, who have personal connections to bowel cancer, appear in the new TV advert – Fred MacAulay and Clare Grogan – but there are many more stars in there who have helped kick-start Scotland’s bowel movement.  You can see them all in action here: 

Continue Reading →

October 2, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank
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MRV Alba na Mara: Survey 1515A Programme

 Duration: 3-22 October 2015


  • Pyramid frame + calibration mesh
  • Large camera drop frame
  • Large bongos + flow meters + plankton kit
  • Day grab table
  • HD TV system + Lights
  • Armoured cable + spare + axle stands
  • Stereo TV System


1515A will survey the waters around the Small Isles Marine Protected Area (MPA).  It is the primary objective to survey monitoring sites previously surveyed in 2012, 2013 and 2014 that support Scotland’s Priority Marine Features (PMFs).  1515A will extend survey activities to possible control areas outside the MPA. Work from these surveys will be used to determine the effect of MPAs established in Scottish waters.  A secondary objective will be to survey additional control sites in the area surrounding the Small Isles that provide suitable substrate for the tall sea pen, Funiculina quadrangularis.  Data from both work streams will contribute to a potential impact (BACI) study once protective measures within the MPA are introduced.  Potential surveys boxes are shown in Figure 1.  Plankton tows within the Sound of Canna will also be conducted, targeting the larvae of the fan mussel, Atrina fragilis (Figure 2).


  1. To survey known populations of priority marine feature (PMF) species within and outside the Small Isles MPA.
  2. To conduct further assessments of Funiculina quadrangularis abundance within the Smalls Isles MPA and areas outside.
  3. To assess the extent and density of Atrina fragilis aggregations within the Sound of Canna.
  4. To conduct larval tows using the large dual bongo net within the Sound of Canna and nearby waters.
  5. To survey areas outside the Sound of Canna that may provide suitable habitat for further Atrina fragilis aggregations.
  6. If time/weather allows, to conduct exploratory surveys in areas outside the SMI MPA that may provide suitable controls for hard substrate PMF aggregations (i.e. Leptometra celtica, Parazoanthus anguicomis and Swiftia pallida.

Benthic survey:

UW TV surveys of the seabed at various sites inside and outside the Small Isles MPA will be carried out during 1515A.  The survey will utilise the HD drop camera system (using the large drop frame and, later, the pyramid frame) deployed from the aft of the vessel.  Species type, species densities and substrate type (assessed visually) will be classified for each video transect post-survey.  RoxAnn sediment data will also be collected at each site.

Larval dispersal:

1515A will sample plankton from the water around Canna (Figure 2).  This programme of work will target the larvae of the fan mussel, Atrina fragilis, and follows on from plankton surveys conducted in June 2012 (survey 1012A), September 2013 (1213A) and September 2014 (1714A).  Sampling will be conducted using the large (1 m diameter) dual bongo net.  Dual samples will be stored separately in isopropanol and ethanol.

Figure 1: The Small Isles MPA with proposed survey boxes marked (For objectives 1,2,3,5,6).

1515A Small Isles MPAs Figure 1a
1515A Small Isles MPAs Figure 1b
1515A Small Isles MPAs Figure 1c

















Figure 2: Potential plankton tows for Atrina fagilis larvae (Objective 4).

1515A Potential Plankton tows Figure 2a1515A Potential Plankton tows Figure 2b


October 1, 2015
by SG Admin
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Putting People First

John Booth – Head of Marketing and Corporate Communications@johnbooth224

It feels wholly appropriate to be writing this blog about the Scottish Government’s new communications plan  (pdf – 29.9Mb) while sitting in the lobby of Google’s HQ in London. If there’s a company that knows a thing or two about how to meet the needs of users then surely it’s Google.

And that’s what we’re all about in SG Comms: putting people first. Which is precisely why we chose that title for this year’s plan. We put the audience at the heart of what we do so that our communications reach the right people, at the right time, in the right way.

This is our second annual plan. It’s a bit of a look back at the year past (which was quite a year: it’s not often your work includes a referendum, the Commonwealth Games and the arrival of a new First Minister!) but more importantly a look ahead.

Continue Reading →

October 1, 2015
by Lyndsay Cruickshank
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Nuffield success for Skye

Nuffield student SkyeOn Friday the 4th of September I had the privilege of supporting our Nuffield student for this year, Skye Arnott from Albyn School in Aberdeen, at the celebration event in Surgeon’s Hall in Edinburgh.

Skye completed an excellent and extremely topical project called “Can we predict jellyfish blooms?” by analysing all the available data and a significant number of plankton samples, collected at Stonehaven as part of the weekly monitoring programme.

There was great interest in Skye’s poster and project and she confidently and enthusiastically answered all the questions which professional scientists, members of the public and  fellow students put to her.

I really did enjoy what will almost certainly be my last Nuffield celebration event, but there was a serious side, and I am very proud to report that Skye was awarded a Crest Gold award for her project.

The Nuffield Bursary scheme demonstrates that Scotland’s educational system is producing top class students and that given encouragement and opportunity, Scotland’s scientific future should be assured with young talent like this on the way up!

I also want to thank Dr Kathryn Cook and Jens Rasmussen without whose hard work and guidance none of the projects would have been possible, or as good as they were.

John Dunn

September 30, 2015
by blog administrator
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Fiona Hyslop: BBC Charter review stakeholder event

Last week I joined a cross-section of Scotland’s broadcasting sector to consider the question `What does Scotland want from the BBC Charter Renewal process?` at the Scottish Youth Theatre in Glasgow.

The Scottish Government has – for the first time – secured a formal role during the process of BBC Charter renewal.

This offers us the real opportunity to shape our media for the next ten years and beyond, by setting out an ambitious, realistic programme of change which will not only realise the ambition of the BBC and our other broadcasters and producers in Scotland, but will also benefit our wider communities.

Fiona Hyslop delivering keynote speech.

Over the past few months, my officials and I, have met with a range of stakeholders in order to get a clear sense of their views on Charter renewal and this event was an opportunity to move this discussion forward, while offering more information on our ideas to enhance and support the broadcasting sector in Scotland.

Those ideas include our proposals for a more representative, federal BBC and our plans for the creation of a new TV and radio channel to support both the demands of our audiences and to help further grow the sector in Scotland.

A panel of representatives including BBC Alba and BBC Scotland spoke about the opportunities that this review offered and to the industries desire to make use of the changing ways that we access media to ensure that the world class content that Scotland produces can reach new global audiences. This was followed by smaller sessions where separate strands, such as funding and governance, were explored and discussed.

Top left clockwise: Stuart Cosgrove addressing audience; groups discussing ideas and proposals; and the panel feat representatives from BBC Scotland and BBC Alba.

I was greatly encouraged not only by the passion shown by all who attended but also in the way that our diverse stakeholders were able to come together and really engaged in a productive debate.

I now look forward to considering the ideas and discussions that emerged from the event – I believe a strong, meaningful and realistic ask from Scotland can be developed from our discussions.

It was clear to everyone present, just what a vital and ambitious sector that we have in Scotland and that’s why I’m determined to ensure that we get the very best for Scotland from the on-going BBC Charter renewal process.

This Government believes in the principle of public service broadcasting and that’s why I have also written to the UK Secretary of State, John Whittingdale, to express my strong opposition to any proposal to privatise Channel 4. We want to see a stronger television and film production sector across the UK and in Scotland and this isn’t achieved by privatising national institutions.

On the BBC Charter, we will host another Stakeholder event in December, where I will set out the results of our on-going debate and how I intend to take this forward with the UK Government.

You can watch Fiona Hyslop’s speech in full on YouTube.


September 30, 2015
by Ruth Allen
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Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) Report Card launched

The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) launched its latest Report Card today at the Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland (MASTS) annual science conference in Glasgow. It focuses on how climate change could affect the implementation of marine biodiversity legislation – and in particular legislation used to establish marine protected areas.
Key findings in the 2015 MCCIP Report Card include:

  • Climate change is rarely explicitly considered in marine biodiversity legislation, but mechanisms generally exist that could enable climate change issues to be addressed.
  • The potential impacts of climate change on marine protected areas include species being gained to or lost from sites and, in certain cases, the entire network.
  • Flexibility is required in responding to climate change impacts on marine protected areas so options such as designating new sites, abandoning old sites and revising management measures may all need to be considered.

With over 1,250 designated features (species and habitats) in the UK marine protected area network, identifying where and how these habitats and species are likely to be affected by climate change will be a critical step in managing marine protected areas.

At the current stage of development for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive, further practical consideration of how climate change could affect targets for the achievement of Good Environmental Status is required.

Chair of the MCCIP Report Card Working Group, Dr Matthew Frost, said: This first major review of the implementation of marine biodiversity legislation in the UK in the light of climate change was a significant undertaking for MCCIP but one that we think is particularly timely. Our report shows that despite some potential challenges for implementation and a need for some further detailed analyses, much of the legislation does contain mechanisms that allow changes occurring as a result of climate drivers to be taken into account. We hope this work will be useful to all those with responsibility for implementing or developing legislation.”

UK Minister for the Marine Environment, George Eustice, said: We are committed to improving our natural environment and delivering on our manifesto commitment to create and conserve the UK’s Blue Belt. The Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership’s (MCCIP) valuable work is helping us to understand the potential impacts of climate change on our waters and the implications for marine life and habitats. Monitoring and gathering evidence is crucial to help us address climate change issues.”

Scottish Government Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Environment Richard Lochhead, said: I welcome today’s report from the Marine Climate Change Impacts Partnership (MCCIP) – who are playing a vital role in helping us understand the impact of climate change on marine biodiversity. The findings will be useful as we seek to manage marine protected areas in the face of a marine climate that is slowly changing.

“The Scottish Government is already taking action on legislating for the impact of climate change to our marine environment through the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and our recently adopted National Marine Plan. The report shows the value of working together to protect the marine environment and provide significant and robust scientific data which will help inform future policies to protect our marine environment.”

Further Information