Scotland's National Marine Plan

This Plan covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore

waters (12 to 200 nautical miles). It also applies to the exercise of both reserved and

devolved functions.

15. Defence

Objectives and policies for this sector should be read subject to those set out in Chapters 3 and 4 of this Plan. It is recognised that not all of the objectives can necessarily be achieved directly through the marine planning system, but they are considered important context for planning and decision making.




The Royal Navy, Army and Royal Air Force use Scotland's seas for defence purposes. They require:

  • The ability to deploy and develop a flexible and broad range of capabilities.
  • The exclusive use of certain areas during particular times of the year.
  • The use of exemptions in planning law for the purposes of national security.
  • To retain the statutory right to close areas in internal waters and create
  • by-laws for complete closures and exclusions.

Key references

Scotland's Marine Atlas: Information for the National Marine Plan. Chapter 5: Productive / Defence Pages 182-183

National Marine Plan interactive ( NMPi). Productive / Defence section

Part 1: Background and context

15.1 Scotland's seas and coasts are important for military training exercises, test and evaluation facilities and are critical for operational reasons. The Ministry of Defence ( MOD) coastal establishments and the adjacent seas are used for maritime training activities and surveillance of potential threats to the country's offshore interests. Defence activities that use the marine environment, directly or indirectly, in support of operational capability are diverse and include naval vessels (including Royal Fleet Auxiliary) aircraft, naval bases, navigational interests, underwater acoustic ranges, maritime exercise areas, amphibious exercises, coastal training ranges and coastal test and evaluation ranges.

15.2 MOD submarine and other exercise areas and firing ranges are illustrated in Map 13. The major training activity twice yearly, is the NATO Exercise Joint Warrior, a combined forces exercise conducted mainly in the northern approaches. These waters, including those of the Inner Hebrides, form the Scottish Exercise Areas, part of the overall Practice Exercise Areas. These are marked on navigation charts and cover large areas of sea which are used extensively for training throughout the year. These maps are available on NMPi.

Map 13 Military Practice Areas around Scotland

15.3 The largest military establishment in Scotland is HM Naval Base Clyde which provides a base port for Naval ships and submarines and gives support to visiting UK and overseas vessels. In addition, the MOD currently provides Royal Navy Search and Rescue ( SAR) services from HMS Gannet, based at Prestwick Airport and Royal Air Force SAR from RAF Lossiemouth both operating Sea King helicopters. The UK Aeronautical Rescue Co-Ordination centre is also currently based at Kinloss barracks, formally RAF Kinloss. The MOD's SAR helicopters will be withdrawn in a phased programme during the period 2015 to 2016 and replaced by a new UK wide contracted SAR helicopter service under the Department of Transport.

15.4 Whilst defence is a reserved issue there is a benefit in identifying the implications of defence marine use for other marine users and to minimise potential impacts.

Part 2: Key issues for marine planning

15.5 The military use of the Scottish marine environment varies in its geographic extent (Map 13) and intensity relative to training and operational needs over time. Using by-laws under the provisions of the Military Lands Act 1892 and 1900 and the Land Powers Defence Act 1958 the MOD can regulate and restrict the use of sea areas either temporarily or permanently. Military firing ranges are not in constant use and where appropriate other activities are permitted where consistent with operational requirements. However, in these areas, permanent installations will be at risk from live firing damage and are therefore unlikely to be compatible. In these situations restricted activities often have positive impacts and potential benefits for nature conservation.

15.6 Post-war sea-dumping was endorsed by Government as necessary to reduce munitions stocks. Dumping on the UK continental shelf ceased in 1972, and was stopped entirely in 1992 under the OSPAR Convention. The main disposal site for the UK was the Beauforts Dyke area off the south west coast of Scotland. Activities involving the seabed, such as certain fishing practices, may be restricted in munition areas. Such areas are well documented and information is available for users such as the fishing community.


15.7 The presence of the MOD in Scottish waters and the variety of its activities means it interacts with a number of other marine users. Key interactions of particular interest to marine planning include:

15.8 Sea fisheries: The fishing industry can be displaced by MOD activities, usually by temporary restrictions to areas or the presence of munitions dumps. The industry and the MOD have an agreed code of conduct which aims to resolve conflicts arising from respective activities.

15.9 Aquaculture : Aquaculture developments may lead to navigational issues and possible disruption to MOD activity and so may be restricted in some areas.

15.10 Oil and gas, CCS and marine renewables including wind and wave and tidal: MOD activity has little impact on existing infrastructure, although conversely the development of new marine infrastructure may, in some cases, lead to navigational issues and possible disruption to MOD activity. Radar activity can also be affected by some installations and development requires careful consideration. However, mitigation measures such as design considerations and navigation marking can help address some of these issues in certain circumstances.

15.11 Recreational boating activity: Some recreational activities such as yachting may be restricted on a temporal basis in areas such as the Clyde.

15.12 Shipping/boating: The Right of Innocent Passage granted by United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea ( UNCLOS) could, in certain circumstances, significantly disrupt MOD operation where, e.g. vessels from a marina regularly cross a range danger area in territorial waters. In such cases, by-laws could not be enforced against the Rights of Innocent Passage and firing would have to cease. By-laws continue to be enforceable within internal waters.


15.13 The MOD is committed to the protection of the natural and historic environment and complies with relevant legislation. However, it is recognised that defence-related activities, including extensive test and evaluation functions, may pose risks to the marine environment and the MOD may be exempt from legislative duties on grounds of over-riding public interest in some cases. Where the MOD is exempt from environmental legislation it seeks to achieve similar levels of environmental protection by the application of internal managed measures often in consultation with Scottish Natural Heritage and other statutory nature conservation bodies. In order to minimise the environmental impact of all MOD activities in accordance with environmental legislation, the MOD has developed an electronic charting system [145] in partnership with UK Statutory Conservation Bodies.

15.14 Scotland's Marine Atlas details the main environmental issues relating to defence activity.

15.15 The main issues of relevance to marine planning are:

15.16 Introduction of non-native species: Naval shipping, like other shipping, has the potential to unintentionally introduce non-native and possibly invasive species to Scottish waters either by carrying them on underwater surfaces or when discharging ballast water. The MOD reduces these risks by proactive maintenance of its vessels' hulls and responsible management of ballast water on board. Where reasonably practicable, MOD vessels are fitted with ballast water treatment systems in accordance with the International Maritime Organisation Convention on this matter.

15.17 Noise: Certain sonar activity and use of live explosives can have impacts on marine species, including disturbance of behaviour and, in worst case, fatalities. The MOD complies with relevant legislation as well as guidance on the protection of marine European Protected Specie [146] s and has put in place management arrangements to ensure that negative impacts are avoided wherever possible.

15.18 Habitat change/species disturbance: Operational activity including the development of ports has the potential to impact on habitat and species and the MOD has put in place internal procedures to ensure that these impacts are avoided wherever possible. These include sustainability appraisals and environmental assessments.

15.19 MOD operations in Scotland are conducted in accordance with Scottish environmental legislation. Where exemptions or derogations from Scottish environmental legislation applicable to Defence are sought, the MOD should introduce standards and management arrangements that produce outcomes that are, so far as reasonably practicable, at least as good as those required by legislation.

Climate change

15.20 Whilst climate change is likely to affect MOD-owned facilities and assets, and its operations in Scottish waters, appropriate adaptation measures will be brought forward, as appropriate, by the MOD to address these challenges. Adaptation of this sector remains a reserved issue for the UK Government. The MOD has a target to reduce fossil fuel consumption by 18% by 2020/21 (against 2009/10 baseline) [147] .

Part 3: Marine planning policies

SocialDEFENCE 1: To maintain operational effectiveness in Scottish waters used by the armed services, development and use will be managed in these areas:

  • Naval areas including bases and ports: Safety of navigation and access to naval bases and ports will be maintained. The extent to which a development or use interferes with access or safety of navigation, and whether reasonable alternatives can be identified, will be taken into account by consenting bodies. Proposals for development and use should be discussed with the MOD at an early stage in the process.
  • Firing Danger Areas (Map 13): Development of new permanent infrastructure is unlikely to be compatible with the use of Firing Danger Areas by the MOD. Permitted activities may have temporal restrictions imposed. Proposals for development and use should be discussed with the MOD at an early stage in the process.
  • Exercise Areas (Map 13): Within Exercise Areas, activities may be subject to temporal restrictions. Development and use that either individually or cumulatively obstructs or otherwise prevents the defence activities supported by an exercise area may not be permitted. Proposals for development and use should be discussed with the MOD at an early stage in the process.
  • Communications: Navigations and surveillance including RADAR: Development and use which causes unacceptable interference with RADAR and other systems necessary for national defence may be prohibited if mitigation cannot be determined. Proposals for development and use should be discussed with the MOD at an early stage in the process.

Economic Social Marine EcosystemDEFENCE 2: For the purposes of national defence, the MOD may establish by-laws for exclusions and closures of sea areas. In most areas this will mean temporary exclusive use of areas by the MOD. Where potential for conflict with other users is identified, appropriate mitigation will be identified and agreed with the MOD, prior to planning permission, a marine licence, or other consent being granted.

Economic SocialDEFENCE 3: The established code of conduct for managing fishing and military activity detailed in the documents 'Fishing Vessels Operating in Submarine Exercise Areas' [148] and 'Fishing Vessel Avoidance: The UK Code of Practice Fishing Vessel Avoidance' [149] will be adhered to.

Regional Policy: Regional marine planners and defence interests should engage on a proactive basis to ensure that the operational requirements of defence are taken into account in the development of marine plans.

Part 4: The future

15.21 In the future, defence activity will require:

  • The ability to maintain operational effectiveness throughout Scottish waters.
  • Continued use of Scottish seas for training in all aspects of defence, including test and evaluation activities.
  • Continued access to HMNB Clyde as the base port for Naval vessels.
  • To be able to manage the potential impacts from marine reserves/ MPA protection measures.
  • Safeguarded use of the Scottish Exercise and Danger Areas and defence surveillance and communication capabilities (including RADAR).
  • Maintenance of arrangements with the fishing community and fisheries in accordance with the agreed code of conduct relating to the de-conflicting of respective activities.


Back to top