Losing our way with mapping: Thinking critically about marine spatial planning in Scotland
Marine spatial planning (MSP) is the dominant management tool for marine environments around the world and is an attempt to move beyond the sectoral governance of marine spaces. Scotland is no exception and MSP is central to its management plans. The interpretation and use of spatial data informs these plans and maps provide the backbone of the decision-making process. Whilst not refuting MSP as a governance tool, this paper examines more closely some of the inherent problems with representing marine environments spatially and how the practice of map-making inevitably interacts with social-ecological networks. Borrowing from critical cartography and Actor-Network Theory (ANT), four observations are made: 1) due to the necessary procedure of categorising and simplifying data, maps do not always accurately represent changeable marine environments and situations; 2) maps can produce reality as much as represent it; 3) mapping has become the point through which all actors and stakeholders must pass; 4) as they are obliged to pass through this point, the roles and definition of certain actors can change. This discussion of marine spatial planning in Scotland demonstrates what can be learnt from viewing marine spaces as a tightly coupled social-ecological environment.