Designated Areas1: 1991-2013
Area (thousand hectares)2
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs)3,4 protect flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features of outstanding quality in terrestrial and coastal environments. In Scotland, SSSIs are notified by Scottish Natural Heritage under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 (which amended the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act). On 31st March 1991, SSSIs covered a total of 804,000 hectares (ha) but this has steadily increased and on 31st March 2013, there were 1,429 SSSIs in Scotland, covering a total of 1,022,604 ha (about 13% of land in Scotland).8
Special Areas of Conservation (SACs)5 are designated under the 1992 EC Habitats Directive to protect certain species and habitat types throughout the EU. Special Protection Areas (SPAs)6,7 are classified under the 1979 EC Wild Birds Directive (which was codified in 2009) to safeguard the habitat of certain wild bird species. Ramsar sites are designated under the 1971 Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (commonly known as the Ramsar Convention). In 2013, there were 240 SACs, 153 SPAs and 51 Ramsar sites in Scotland.
The area of SACs in the terrestrial and inshore environment rose from 0 ha in 1995 to 963,000 ha in 2004 and has since remained broadly stable, rising to 974,197 ha in 2013. In 2010, the UK Government's nature conservation functions under the EC Birds and Habitats directives in Scottish offshore waters were devolved to Scottish Ministers. In 2013, there were 9 offshore SACs in Scottish offshore waters covering a total area of 2,912,610 ha. This is an increase of 2,082,000 ha from 2012, mainly due to the introduction of the UKs largest offshore marine SAC at Hatton Bank, which measures 1,569,000 ha in area. The area of SPAs rose from 26,000 ha in 1991 to 657,000 hectares in 2009 and then almost doubled in size to 1,297,000 ha in 2011, a level it has remained at in 2012 and 2013.
A site may be protected by more than one designation. For example, in 2013 around 65% of SACs, 52% of SPAs and 86% of Ramsar sites by area are also designated as SSSIs.
Email: Callum Neil