National Scenic Areas (NSAs) are areas which are nationally important for their scenic quality. There are 40 NSAs mainly in the more remote and mountainous areas of Scotland all of which were originally identified in 1978 by the Countryside Commission for Scotland (CCS) in its publication 'Scotland's Scenic Heritage'. They represent the best areas of the type of scenic beauty popularly associated with Scotland and for which it is renowned. No new areas have been identified since 1978.
NSAs have been recognised within the planning system since 1980. In 2010 the Scottish Ministers issued directions to local authorities under provisions in section 263A of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 (inserted by section 50 of the Planning etc. (Scotland) Act 2006) to designate the current suite of 40 NSAs. Provisions enable Scottish Ministers to designate these in a national context if the special protection measures specified are required. NSA boundaries remain unchanged from those previously identifed in 1978 and more detailed 1:50,000 maps prepared in 1979. Scottish Natural Heritage ("SNH") have been consulted on the directions.
"Special qualities" are defined as the characteristics that, individually or combined, give rise to an area's outstanding scenery. SNH has surveyed all the NSAs and, for each one, produced an up-to-date list of the special qualities that justify their designation as Scotland's finest landscapes.
Section 263A(2) of the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 requires planning authorities to pay special attention to the desirability of safeguarding or enhancing the character or appearance of an NSA when exercising any powers under that Act in relation to any land within that NSA. Scottish Planning Policy may assist authorities in complying with this.