Marine licences are required for licensable marine activities below mean high water spring tide level and in the waters of estuaries, rivers or channels, so far as the tide flows at mean high water spring tide.
It is not permitted to carry out a licensable marine activity except in accordance with a marine licence.
Examples of licensable marine activities
- construction of offshore renewable generating stations
- construction in/over the sea, or on/under the seabed (e.g. breakwaters, piers, land reclamation, submarine cables, outfalls, slipways, bridges, jetties, seaweed farms etc.)
- deposits in the sea or on/under the seabed (e.g. the deposit of dredged material at sea)
- beach replenishment
- finfish and shellfish farms - potential hazards to navigation only
- removal of substances and objects from the seabed
- deposit and use of explosives
We administer the following functions for projects and activities in Scottish waters on behalf of Scottish ministers.
Approvals, consent and licensing guidance
In addition to a marine licence, projects and activities may require further approvals or consents, including:
The below publications provide further guidance on the approvals and consent process.
European Protected Species and basking shark licensing
All cetacean species (whales, dolphins and porpoise) are European Protected Species. If any activity is likely to cause disturbance or injury to a European Protected Species, a licence is required to undertake the activity legally.
A licence may be granted to undertake such activities if certain strict criteria are met:
- there is a licensable purpose;
- there are no satisfactory alternatives; and
- the actions authorised will not be detrimental to the maintenance of the population of the species concerned at favourable conservation status in their natural range.
The licensing of Marine European Protected Species in Scotland is shared between several regulators depending on the purpose and location of the activity in question. For activities taking place within 12 nautical miles of the coast (the Scottish Territorial Sea), EPS are protected under The Conservation (Natural Habitats, &c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended). For commercial activities, including geophysical or seismic surveys (including those related to oil and gas), port and harbour developments and the installation of renewable energy devices Marine Scotland (on behalf of the Scottish ministers) is the licensing authority. For activities relating to scientific research or conservation, NatureScot is the licensing authority.
For activities taking place in Scottish waters beyond 12nm (the Offshore Marine Area), EPS are protected under The Conservation of Offshore Marine Habitats and Species Regulations 2017. Marine Scotland (on behalf of the Scottish Ministers) is the licensing authority for all activities except those in relation to certain reserved matters (including oil and gas). Please contact us using the details below if you require further information in relation to this.
Additionally, if an activity taking place in the Scottish Territorial Sea is likely to cause to disturbance or injury to basking sharks (Cetorhinus maximus), a licence is required to undertake activity legally. Marine Scotland (on behalf of the Scottish Ministers) is the licensing authority for commercial activities under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended). For activities relating to scientific research or conservation, NatureScot is the licensing authority.
The below forms are used for EPS licensing:
Marine licence application determination process
We determine marine licence applications following the statutory processes in the Marine Acts. The target determination timescale for a routine marine licence application is 14 weeks from receiving the completed application and supporting documents and receiving the application fee payment. Longer timeframes are likely for more complicated cases (for example for an EIA project or where objections are received). The process may include consultation with the public and stakeholders and further assessments may be required depending on the representations received. Each application is assessed based on its own merits and at the end of the process, we may grant a licence subject to appropriate conditions or refuse the application.
For further information, please see: