Marine planning

Scotland’s marine environment provides a variety of goods and services that are essential to the daily lives of almost everyone in Scotland. To ensure that we can continue to benefit from our marine environment, it is essential to seek a balance between the different economic, social and environmental demands on ocean space and to minimise our impact on the marine environment as far as possible. Marine planning provides the primary means of achieving sustainable marine management in Scotland.

The introduction of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (known as the ‘Marine Acts’) established a new legislative and management framework for the marine environment, allowing the competing demands on the sea to be managed in a sustainable way across all of Scotland’s seas. Marine planning matters in Scotland’s inshore waters governed by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, and by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 for our offshore waters.

The Marine Acts created a tiered approach to the development of marine planning in the UK and Scotland. The UK Administrations share a common vision of having clean, healthy, safe, productive and biologically diverse oceans and seas. The jointly adopted Marine Policy Statement (2011) provides a consistent high-level policy context for the development of marine plans across the UK to achieve this vision.

Scotland’s  National Marine Plan (2015) provides a comprehensive overarching framework for all marine activity in our seas. It  sets out a policy framework to help determine if a new or existing marine activity is environmentally or economically sustainable and suitable for the area and serves as the primary guide to decision-making on the use of marine space and resources in Scotland. For some types of sector-specific activity, such as renewable energy development, the NMP sets out sector-specific policy requirements to ensure their compatibility with existing uses from social, economic and environmental perspectives.

Scotland’s Marine Assessment 2020 (SMA2020) portal reports on our vision for the seas, as set out in the National Marine Plan: ‘Clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environments, managed to meet the long-term needs of nature and people’. It also provides an assessment of the condition of the Scottish marine area, including a summary of the significant pressures and human activites in our Scottish Marine Regions and Offshore Marine Regions.


Find out more about our actions:

  • at a national level, by creating and reviewing Scotland's first National Marine Plan (2015)
  • at a regional level, by creating Scottish Marine Regions and supporting Regional Marine Planning Partnerships
  • at a sectoral level, through the publication of the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind (2020) and the development of the Sectoral Marine Plan for Offshore Wind to Innovation and Targeted Oil and Gas Decarbonisation, to support the sustainable development of offshore renewable energy
  • through management of the Scottish Crown Estate


We have also:


Bills and legislation




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