Scotland's Marine Atlas: Information for The National Marine Plan

Scotland's Marine Atlas is an assessment of the condition of Scotland's seas, based on scientific evidence from data and analysis and supported by expert judgement.


What, why and where?

As a maritime nation with responsibility for about 6 times as much sea as land, Scotland has a long history of marine management, monitoring, research and education.

Marine management

Marine Scotland, a directorate of Scottish Government established in April 2009, is responsible for the integrated management of Scotland's seas out to the fisheries limits, generally 200 nautical miles. Its' duties cover marine planning, policy development, licensing and enforcement, as well as scientific research, monitoring and assessment of the state of the seas.

Marine Scotland is the guardian of the marine vision of 'clean, healthy, safe, productive, biologically diverse marine and coastal environments, managed to meet the long-term needs of people and nature' and is implementing the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010. It also licenses a variety of activities which will be under the new Marine Licence regime from April 2011.

Marine Scotland works with stakeholders through the Marine Strategy Forum established in July 2009. The Forum provides advice on Marine Scotland's key strategies and priorities.

There is a range of other management structures which have a marine element, including:

  • inshore fisheries: the Inshore fisheries advisory groups
  • coastal management: the Scottish Coastal Forum and local coastal partnerships
  • water management: the river basin management area advisory groups

The Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA), a non-departmental public body established in 1996, is Scotland's environmental regulator and accountable through Ministers to the Scottish Parliament. SEPA's aim is to provide an effective and integrated environmental protection system which will both improve the environment and contribute to sustainable economic growth and a greener and healthier Scotland. It works with Marine Scotland and others to achieve the marine vision and has powers from the coast out to 3 nautical miles. The main marine legislation used by SEPA includes various EC Directives, such as the Water Framework Directive, which aims to achieve good ecological status for all waters out to 3 nautical miles.

There are two bodies providing nature conservation advice. The main role of Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH), an agency established in 1992, is to promote, care for and improve the natural heritage, help people enjoy it responsibly, enable greater understanding and awareness of it and promote its sustainable use, now and for future generations. It has responsibilities for the marine environment from the coast out to the limits of territorial waters.

SNH works closely with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee ( JNCC). JNCC delivers the UK and international responsibilities for SNH and the other Great Britain conservation bodies, including their offshore marine nature conservation responsibilities. JNCC advises the Scottish Government on marine conservation from 12 nautical miles out to the limits of jurisdiction and on international nature conservation issues.

There are also two national cultural heritage bodies with complementary functions. Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation's historic environment and promoting its understanding and enjoyment. The Royal Commission on the Ancient and Historical Monuments of Scotland ( RCAHMS) collects, records and interprets information on the architectural, industrial, archaeological and maritime heritage of Scotland.

The Crown Estate Commissioners is a UK public body that manages about 55% of the foreshore and all the seabed in Scotland out to the 12 nautical mile limit on behalf of the Crown. They also manage the rights to minerals, except hydrocarbons, beyond 12 nautical miles.

Many other bodies exercise marine management and consenting roles in Scottish waters. For example, the Department of Energy and Climate Change has responsibility for the oil and gas regime, the Department for Transport for shipping and the Ministry of Defence for military activity.


The Knowledge-based Sustainable Management for Europe's Seas (KnowSeas) project is supported by the European Commission under the Environment (including climate change) Theme of the 7th Framework Programme for Research and Technological Development. The 4 year project, started in April 2009, has 30 partners from 15 countries and is coordinated by the Scottish Association for Marine Science. (1)

Research, survey and management vessels



Marine Scotland


FRVAlba na Mara






SVSir John Murray

Scottish Association for Marine Science ( SAMS)


RVSeol Mara

University Biological Station Millport



NAFC Marine Centre, Shetland

MVModer Dy

MVAtlantia II

Note: *fisheries protection vessels

Education, research and development

The Marine Alliance for Science and Technology for Scotland ( MASTS) was established in 2009 and pools the work of around 700 researchers in marine science from across Scotland. This includes much of the marine research in Scottish universities. MASTS' objective is to ensure coordination across marine science in Scotland so that it can remain internationally competitive. One of the policy related initiatives underway, at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (part of the UHI Millennium Institute), is KnowSeas. Non-environmental marine expertise is provided at university centres such as engineering at Robert Gordon, Strathclyde, Heriot Watt and marine law at Dundee.

MASTS research themes

9 joint research themes

1. Biodiversity and ecosystem function
2. Coastal zone
3. Fisheries
4. Genomics of marine organisms
5. Marine predators
6. Modelling
7. Physical oceanography
8. Platforms and sensors
9. Sustainable mariculture


  • Sustainable marine management and exploitation of the marine environment including
    • Renewable energy
    • Coastal development
    • Exploitation of bioresources
    • Marine spatial management
    • Conservation of living resources
    • Predicting the effects of climate change

Marine environmental research, advice and management activity

The International Association of Maritime Institutions is primarily an association of colleges and other organisations involved in providing education and training for personnel involved in the Merchant Navy, Towing and Fishing Industries. It includes Lewis Castle College (Stornoway), Department of Maritime Studies Orkney College (Stromness), Shetland School of Nautical Studies (Scalloway), Banff & Buchan College of Further Education (Fraserburgh) and Glasgow College of Nautical Studies (Glasgow).

There is a range of other education structures for various sectors. For example:

  • the Sector Skills Council for Science, Engineering and Manufacturing Technologies supports businesses in achieving global competitiveness through investment in skills. The marine sector covers shipbuilding and repair, boat building and repair, and marine equipment manufacture. There are a number of courses in Scottish colleges. (2)
  • the Royal Yachting Association provides a number of training centres for sailing. (3)
  • EMEC (European Marine Energy Centre) is the first centre of its kind to be created and offers the opportunity to test full scale grid connected renewable energy prototype devices in realistic wave and tidal conditions. (4)

Contribution to the economy and to marine science

The ABI provides figures for the education sector. However, the data only include private institutions and do not identify a separate marine component. As education does not generate a physical, measurable output, it is difficult to establish an accurate figure of its value and contribution to the economy.

However, examining marine research expenditure demonstrates that the sector has a valuable economic role. For example, MASTS represents a combined research expenditure of about £60M per year. In addition, NERC, Marine Scotland, SEPA, SNH and JNCC spend about £40M per year on research although some of this is also included in the MASTS figure. The Universities of St. Andrews and Stirling and the UHI Millennium Institute have the largest amount of marine research spend among Scottish higher education institutions.

Marine environmental research, advice and management activity

Research and development partnerships with industry

SARF - Scottish Aquaculture Research Forum is a registered charity and an independent company whose main aim is to support research into aquaculture and related areas. It was established as a priority action under the Strategic Framework for Scottish Aquaculture in 2004 and receives Scottish Government financial support. (5)

SISP - Scottish Industry/Science Partnerships - Marine Scotland works to improve cooperation between the Scottish catching sector and fisheries science providers, ensuring industry is closely involved in the development of scientific research. (6)

Pressures and impacts on Scotland's socio-economics


  • Employment and training
  • Supporting economic growth
  • Enhancing well being
  • Developing new technology
  • Research to underpin sustainable use


  • None identified


MPV Hirta
© Marine Scotland

Forward look

Existing work in the research community will inform future marine policy development and implementation. The Scottish Marine Science Strategy will identify government's priority areas to investigate and there is likely to be a need for collaborative research and effort and a new emphasis on understanding the socio-economics of marine activities. It is likely that knowledge will emerge on:

  • marine bio-resources, including novel chemicals, new and sustainable food supplies and bio-energy
  • increased and new forms of sub-sea oil and gas recovery (e.g. from gas hydrates, and CO2 storage) and the potential re-use of oil and gas fields for carbon capture and storage
  • new technologies for the expansion of wave, tidal and wind power
  • the seabed and its resources, especially in deep waters through increasingly detailed maps
  • new approaches to marine planning.


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