Natural resources provide socio-economic benefits as well as ecological benefits, supporting industries and employment through opportunities for recreation, transport, and food, among many others. The coastlines and marine areas of the Solway Firth are, therefore, important socio-economic resources for the local area and beyond in Scotland and England. The productive chapter of the Solway Review describes the different sectors that have a direct benefit to the local economy. The sections within the chapter will be divided into sectors, with each section then discussing Scotland and then England separately. If there is only activity on one side of the Solway only the side with activity will be discussed in depth. This chapter of the Solway Review has been populated with the output reports from the Socio-Economic Assessment of the Scottish Solway (SEASS) and Socio-Economic Assessment of the English Solway (SEAES).

These are two separately funded European Maritime and Fisheries Fund funded projects through Scottish Government and Marine Management Organisation respectively. These assessments were informed by two main work streams:

  1. desk based and online research of relevant data, statistics, journals, and reports.
  2. consultation with stakeholder organisations.

You can find a list of the organisations which were consulted with for each report (Scottish and English) within the SEASS and SEAES reports, available here, and within ‘SEASS/SEAES Engagement‘ section within the ‘Engagement‘ chapter of the Solway Review.

These socio-economic reports were needed in light of the changing face of socio-economic aspects impacting the Solway Firth, and also for the purpose of populating the productive chapter of this Solway Review.



These two projects were both undertaken by EKOS and were completed in early 2020. EKOS created the SEASS and SEAES reports in addition to a chapter summary for each report and a one page overview summary for each report. All of these documents are available on Solway Firth Partnership’s website.

The text within the sections of the productive chapter of the review will be from the SEASS or SEAES Reports. Text from the SEASS and SEAES reports is not referenced individually.

Scroll through the subsections to find out more…

Topics covered;

These sections are defined working from the basis of Scotland’s Marine Atlas (Baxter et al, 2011) but some have been redefined, or omitted, due to the relevance to the Solway Firth.

The industry sectors have been defined using Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) coding (2007). The United Kingdom Standard Industrial Classification of Economic Activities (SIC) is used to classify businesses by the type of economic activity. Further detail is available here.

Activities included within other chapters;

Original Scotland’s Marine Atlas Chapter (Baxter et al, 2011);

Productive Solway Review Chapter;

Renewable Energy and Power Cables

Energy, aggregates, Subsea Cables and Pipelines

Gas Storage

Energy, aggregates, Subsea Cables and Pipelines

Waste Disposal

Shipping, Transport and Freight Traffic & Sport, Recreation and Tourism

Waste Water Treatment and Industrial Outfalls are of marginal economic significance in the Solway Firth and are at such low levels that meaningful economic data is not available. Relevant information has been folded into other sections, other relevant information can be found in alternative chapters of the Solway Review.

Telecommunication Cables

Energy, aggregates, Subsea Cables and Pipelines

Coastal Protection and Flood Defence

Marine Management, Education, Research and Development

Sectors which have no activity on either side of the Solway;

  • Water Abstraction
  • Carbon Capture and Storage
  • Oil and Gas Production


It is worth noting that the environmental designations are detailed in the Protected Areas section of the Solway Review and can be explored within that section. In terms of the socio-economic impact of environmental designations, these sites may limit what activities can occur within their boundaries. They may also positively contribute to the local economy through tourism, the wellbeing of residents and visitors alike, through interaction with the outdoors and protected features, and other benefits. As such, these sites have socio-economic implications on the surrounding area to be considered. Land-based designations located close to the Solway coast may also impact the socio-economics of the area, and are also relevant.

There has recently been impacts on all sectors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Lockdowns and other changes in the day-to-day activities of the public and businesses has had an impact on every sector in the UK, and marine industries are no exception. The impacts of COVID-19 are not considered within the Productive chapter due to the fact that the SEASS and SEAES reports were concluding as the first wave of coronavirus was striking the UK. Furthermore data is retrospective, and there are still ongoing uncertainties and changes. The Scottish Government has research in the form of a business survey developed and conducted to help understand the impacts on marine industries. This research is available here.


Image; The Loch Ryan Oyster Fishery Company Ltd. © Solway Firth Partnership. Photographer; Colin Tennant


The Scope of the Socio-economic review

The analysis has adopted a sector/industry focused outlook and each sector has been reviewed in terms of its:

  • economic contribution;
  • main activities and geographic distribution;
  • socio-economic and environmental pressures and impact of human activity; and
  • regional look forward which provides a qualitative analysis of future opportunities and challenges that will impact both the sector and the Solway Firth.

Where data is available, EKOS considered a 10-year period from 2009 to identify historical trends and set the wider context throughout their analysis.


Image; Straraer Harbour. © Solway Firth Partnership. Photographer; Colin Tennant


Economic Indicators

The economic contribution of the industry sectors has been measured in terms of:

  • employment – headcount and direct onsite employment;
  • turnover – annual business sales; and
  • Gross Value Added (GVA)*- the contribution (goods and services) to the economy of individual producers, industry or sectors. This can be calculated by subtracting the intermediate consumption (considered as direct input costs and overheads) from the total output (value of sales).

As part of the employment measurement in each section of the productive chapter you will see there are often location quotients shown. A location quotient (LQ) is a way of showing the concentration of employment in a specific area against national averages. LQs provide information on the representation of marine industry sectors in Dumfries & Galloway in comparison with Scotland and also the Cumbrian Solway Coast in comparison with England. The LQ compares the industry’s share of regional employment with its share of national employment – an LQ greater than one indicates a greater concentration of sector employment than Scotland or England as a whole, whilst an LQ lower than one indicates a lesser concentration.


Colour coding – the change in economic indicators (employment, turnover and GVA) is presented as a ‘traffic light system’ based on the following criteria.

Level of Change Colour Coding
Positive Change Green Text
No Change Orange Text
Negative Change Red Text


Image; West Coast Sea Products. © Solway Firth Partnership. Photographer; Colin Tennant


Geographic Scope - Scotland



The Scottish Solway Firth region covers an area from north of Cairnryan, beginning at the boundary between the Clyde marine region and the Solway Marine Region (The Scottish Marine Regions Order 2015), to Gretna within the Dumfries & Galloway (D&G) local authority area, see map opposite.

From a statutory marine planning perspective, the Scottish Solway is covered by Scotland’s National Marine Plan. The Solway also constitutes one of the eleven marine regions defined for the purpose of regional marine planning (The Scottish Marine Regions Order 2015). There are currently there are no proposals to establish a statutory marine planning partnership for the Solway Marine Region.

Scotland – Land-based Scope

A proportion of the economic value generated in the Scottish Solway is derived from land-based activity, for example, fish/shellfish processing, boat repair, and tourism operators. It is therefore important to identify and measure this land-based activity to capture the true contribution and value of activity.

The land-based assessment considers the coastal communities that are likely to be directly impacted by activity. The geographic boundary has been defined using the local authority boundary for Dumfries & Galloway (D&G).

Dumfries & Galloway Local Authority Boundary

Dumfries & Galloway Local Authority Boundary. (Source: Wikipedia CC BY-SA 3.0)

In order to provide some wider context we have looked at the national picture across Scotland to compare and benchmark activity.



The English Solway Firth region covers an area from the Scottish-English Border to St Bees Head within the boundary of Cumbria County Council, see map opposite.

From a statutory marine planning perspective, the English Solway is covered by the North West Marine Plan Area, which covers the entire North West coast from the River Dee border with Wales up to the Solway Firth border with Scotland. Although it is worth noting that the North West inshore and offshore plans will be published in one document, it is acknowledged that they remain two separate plans, with the Solway forming part of the inshore area.


England – Land-Based Scope

As noted above for Scotland, proportion of the economic value generated in the English Solway is derived from land-based activity, for example, fish/shellfish processing, boat repair and tourism operators. It is therefore important that we identify and measure this land-based activity to capture the true contribution and value of activity.

Where appropriate, and data allows, the analysis covers the following geographic areas.

English Solway Firth Area

This is based on an assessment of the coastal communities that are likely to be directly impacted by activity, and are part of the North West Marine Plan Area. The geographic boundary has been defined using 2001 and 2011 super output areas and the entirety of Allerdale local authority area, see map below.

English Solway Coast

English Solway Coast. (Source; Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA, Nomis)


Wider English Solway Firth

Some sector based economic data and information (turnover and GVA) is only available at local authority level. There are three districts that cut across the English Solway Firth – Carlisle City Council, and Allerdale Borough Council and Copeland Borough Council, see map below.

Wider English Solway Firth

Wider English Solway Firth. (Source; Map data © OpenStreetMap contributors, CC-BY-SA, Nomis)


National – England

In order to provide some wider context we have looked at the national picture across England to compare and benchmark activity.


Image; Solway Firth Partnership’s Geographic extent (Estimate) © Solway Firth Partnership.



It is important to note that there are a number of challenges when gathering and analysing data at the regional level.

These can be categorised as:

  • Availability of data – there are numerous sources of rich economic, sectoral and wider data that can be utilised within our assessment. However, these data sources are all subject to discrepancies with regards publication, in particular, the frequency of publication (monthly/quarterly/annually, and by time of year), geographic disaggregation, and data suppression. Where data allows, the format and reporting against the individual sectors is consistent throughout.
  • Data Suppression – publicly available data that could potentially identify individuals or businesses cannot be disclosed due to commercial confidentiality – this is a challenge in rural areas, and where there are a limited number of large employers operating in the area. Therefore, at lower geographic and sectoral levels, there will often be data that is not disclosed. Please note that when analysing trend data, supressed data is included to calculate the overall change.


Image; A moving boat on the Solway. © Solway Firth Partnership. Photographer; Colin Tennant


Pressures of Human Activity

The use of the marine environment to generate economic activity has the potential to create wider positive and adverse impacts on both the socio-economic and environmental landscapes. The sections will contain a qualitative review of the potential pressures and impacts generated by human activity within each sector.

Please note that there will be no comment on the likelihood or scale of any (positive or negative) impact resulting from socio-economic or environmental pressures. Where there is monitoring, legislation or regulation in place to minimise any adverse impacts this is highlighted in the text.

The pressures and impacts are considered in terms of:

  • Socio-economic pressures and impacts – this relates to social and economic impacts, for example some sectors will be important for supporting rural communities and creating jobs, however, some sectoral activity might also conflict with other marine sectors. Socio-economic pressures and impacts are categorised as either having positive or negative effects.
  • Environmental pressures and impacts – this relates to the wider environmental impacts generated through human activity, for example, the impact on water quality. The approach to assessing the environmental pressures and impacts is based on categorising the broad pressure themes and then identifying specific impacts and challenges. Environmental pressures have been classified by the following themes based on the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) Pressures-Activities matrix (Contains JNCC data © copyright and database right 2018) (Joint Nature Conservation Committee, 2019)
Environmental Pressures and Impacts;
Pressure Theme Pressures Example Impact
  • Temperature Change
  • Salinity Change
  • water flow/wave exposure change
Human infrastructure built into the marine environment will alter the water flow and could have impacts on the coastal change in the immediate area and further afield.
Pollution and Chemical
  • Introduction of hazardous substances
  • Radionuclide contamination
  • De-oxygenation
  • Nutrient enrichment
  • Organic enrichment
Diffuse pollution from agricultural run-off adding chemicals to the Solway
Habitat Change
  • Habitat damage
  • Habitat loss
  • Siltation rate change
Mobile fishing gear (trawl and dredge) may damage or destroy sensitive seabed habitats.
Other Physical
  • Litter
  • Electromagnetic changes
  • Underwater noise
  • Barrier to species movement
  • Death or injury by collision
Recreational and fishing activities can introduce litter (plastic, polystyrene, rubber, metal and glass) to the marine environment. Wildlife may become entangled in or ingest the litter.
  • Visual disturbance
  • Genetic modification
  • Introductions of Invasive Non-Native Species (INNS)
  • Introduction of microbial pathogens
  • Removal of species (target and non-target) at unsustainable levels
Human activity has introduced the American Lobster, Pacific Oyster, Acorn Barnacle and other Invasive Non-Native Species to the Solway Firth.


Scotland – Agriculture and Forestry 

While not directly related to the marine environment, farming is a significant employer in the region and is quite intensive in some areas. One of the key environmental challenges across the Solway is diffuse water pollution as a result of run-off and flooding into the water course from manure, fertiliser and soil/bankside erosion.

In Scotland the Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (SEPA) currently regulate and manage the watercourses as well as the Solway Firth for up to three nautical miles offshore. SEPA facilitates ongoing engagement with the sector to promote good farming practice and reduce/avoid polluting the watercourses/estuarine/coastal waters.

SEPA’s Diffuse Pollution Priority Catchment initiative (implemented in 2015) identifies a number of areas (Galloway and Stewartry Coastal) in Dumfries & Galloway that are failing to meet environmental standards, see SEPA map below.  Each catchment has a dedicated co-ordinator who is responsible for liaising with local land managers, organising visits and ensuring measures are implemented. SEPA are working with local farmers to improve this situation and expect to see improvements over the next few years.

The Programme was expanded and an updated diffuse pollution plan published in 2017 that covers additional sites across the Solway (for more information see ‘Priority Catchments’ on SEPAs website).

Scottish Solway: SEPA Priority Catchment Areas

Scottish Solway: SEPA Priority Catchment Areas (map limited to Dumfries and Galloway areas). (Source: SEPA)


England – Agriculture and Forestry

In England the Environment Agency (EA) currently regulate and manage the water courses, and facilitate ongoing engagement with the sector (e.g. land owners, National Farmers Union, Cumbria Farming Network) to promote good farming practice and reduce/avoid polluting the water courses.

The Solway Tweed River Basin is a cross border river basin which includes Scottish and English waterbodies that flow into the Solway and Tweed estuaries. The water quality in both estuaries is measured as ‘moderate’ (waste water and nutrient inputs), with diffuse pollution from farming/agriculture recognised as the main cause (Further detail on the water quality within the River Basin District is available from the Environment Agency, here).

There is a proposed Bill (going through Parliament at the time of reporting) that will transfer responsibility for managing water courses from the EA over to the farming community. This will likely be undertaken through the establishment of an Internal Drainage Board or individual farmers will be responsible for managing water sources within their own land.


Pressures Contributing to Climate Change

Please note that many human activities contribute to climate change through emission of greenhouse gases such as CO2. Every sector contributes to some degree and therefore this pressure has not been included within each chapter.


Image; Southerness Beach Clean Litter Collection Point. © N. Coombey


Regional Look Forward

While a review of historical trends helps set the ‘baseline’ and wider context, there is value in considering the future opportunities and challenges for the region. For example, the growth prospects of marine sectors, proposed infrastructure developments (harbour/port expansions), and any potential changes in legislation that could impact activity such as fishing quotas.

The regional look forward is more qualitative in nature, informed by forecast data and consultation with stakeholders.


Image; Portling looking across to England. © G. Reid/ Solway Firth Partnership



Baxter, J.M., Boyd, I.L., Cox, M., Donald, A.E., Malcolm, S.J., Miles, H., Miller, B., Moffat, C.F., (Editors), (2011). Scotland’s Marine Atlas: Information for the national marine plan. Marine Scotland, Edinburgh. pp 191. Available here. (Accessed 22.07.19)

Marine Management Organisation. (n.d). Marine Planning Evidence Base. Available here. (Accessed: 14.05.18)

Marine Scotland (n.d.). Scotland’s National Marine Plan Interactive. Available here. (Accessed: 06.08.19)

Mills, F., Sheridan, S. and Brown S., (2017). Clyde Marine Region Assessment. Clyde Marine Planning Partnership. pp 231, Available here. (Accessed: 14.05.18)

Office for National Statistics, Business Register and Employment Survey (BRES). Available here. (Accessed: 28.07.20)

Office for National Statistics, Annual Business Survey (ABS): custom data request from the ONS & Public data. Available here. (Accessed: 28.07.20)

Scottish Government, Scottish Annual Business Statistics (SABS). Available here. (Accessed: 28.07.20)

Scottish Natural Heritage (n.d.) National Scenic Areas Information. Available here. (Accessed: 05.08.20)

Joint Nature Conservation Committee (2019) Marine Pressures-Activities Database. Available here. (Accessed: 05.08.20)

Scottish Environmental Protection Agency (n.d.) Priority Catchments. Available here. (Accessed: 05.08.20)

Marine Management Organisation (2020). Draft North West Inshore and North West Offshore Marine Plan. Available here. (Accessed: 05.08.20)

Environment Agency (n.d.). Solway Tweed – Summary. Available here. (Accessed: 06.08.20)


Image; Bowness-on-Solway. © Solway Firth Partnership