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Scotland's National Marine Plan


The National Marine Plan (NMP) provides the overarching policy framework for marine spatial planning and the sustainable development of inshore and offshore waters around Scotland. It addresses two separate pieces of legislation; the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009, which requires Scottish Ministers to seek to ensure that a marine plan is in place in the offshore region, when a Marine Policy Statement is in effect, and the Marine (Act) Scotland 2010 which directs the requirements for marine planning in inshore waters. The development of the NMP was supported by a Sustainability Appraisal, which includes Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) and a Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA), and the compiled data on the marine environment, present in National Marine Plan interactive. 

Application in MSP:
Type of Issue:
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Cross-border / trans-national aspect:
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Questions this practice may help answer

  • What is the process of marine planning in Scotland?
  • How does marine planning interact with existing governance?
  • What are the key policies which need to be considered in regional marine planning in Scotland?

Implementation Context

Under devolution, the Scottish Parliament can legislate in relation to activities affecting the marine environment in Scotland’s inshore waters, except for reserved matters. The UK Parliament legislates for Scotland’s offshore waters, but certain matters in this area have been executively devolved. Marine planning matters in Scotland’s inshore waters are governed by the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, and in its offshore waters by the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 (UK).

The two 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. Under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 Scottish Ministers must prepare and adopt a National Marine Plan covering Scottish inshore waters. In addition, the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 requires Scottish Ministers to seek to ensure that a marine plan is in place in the offshore region when a Marine Policy Statement is in effect.

The Scottish and United Kingdom Governments have agreed that a marine plan for Scotland’s inshore waters and a marine plan covering Scottish offshore waters will be published in one document and will be collectively referred to as the ‘National Marine Plan’. The ‘National Marine Plan’ therefore comprises of two Plans made under two separate pieces of legislation, and, unless otherwise stated, policies within this Plan apply to both inshore and offshore waters.

Aspects / Objectives

  • Provide a comprehensive overarching framework for all marine activity in our waters.
  • Enable sustainable development and use of our marine area - protect and enhance the marine environment whilst promoting both existing and emerging industries.
  • Provide a framework for the subsequent development of regional marine plans across Scotland.


The Plan was developed over a period of five years in three stages:

Part one of the process covered the period from 2009 to 2011 during which time UK and Scottish legislation was established for marine planning and the UK Marine Policy Statement was developed. An assessment of the marine environment was also carried out through Scotland’s Marine Atlas and the Statement of Public Participation was published in accordance with the Marine Acts. This first stage also included the development and publication of the pre-consultation draft National Marine Plan.

Part two covered the period from the pre-consultation to formal consultation between March 2011 and December 2013. It covered activities including the analysis of the pre-consultation responses and the carrying out of assessments to support the Plan, such as the sustainability appraisal. This second stage also included the development and publication of the consultation draft of the National Marine Plan, including the statutory political clearance processes

Part three covered the process from the end of the consultation in December 2013 to the adoption of the Plan in March 2015. This stage encompassed the statutory processes to finalise the Plan which included: the analysis of the consultation; the appointment of Planning Aid Scotland to carry out an independent investigation; Scottish and UK Ministerial clearance of the final Plan; and laying of the Plan in Parliament before its adoption. Alongside this, a modification report was published with the updated assessments of the Plan.

Main Outputs / Results

March 2015

Full report available at:


The National Marine Plan addresses Scotland but is of relevance to neighbouring countries, and others from the perspective of understanding the approach taken in Scotland.

Responsible Entity

Scottish Government.

Costs / Funding Source

Scottish Government, costs not known.

Contact Person

The Scottish Government

St Andrew’s House