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Land - Statutory Designated Areas

High Level Summary of Statistics Trend Last update: Tuesday, October 3, 2017

Statutory Designated Areas

Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are notified as areas of outstanding quality to protect their flora, fauna, geological or physiographical features. At 31 March 2016, there were 1,423 SSSIs in Scotland, covering a total of 1,022,000 hectares (13% of land in Scotland).

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) are designated under the 1992 EC Habitats Directive to protect certain species and habitat types throughout the EU. Special Protection Areas (SPAs) are designated under the 2009 EC Wild Birds Directive (consolidated version of 79/409/EEC) to safeguard the habitat of a number of wild bird species. Ramsar sites are designated under the Convention on Wetlands of International Importance. At 31 March 2017, there were 253 SACs, 153 SPAs and 51 Ramsar sites in Scotland.

The area of terrestrial and inshore marine SACs rose from 0 ha in 1995 to 963,000 ha in 2004 and remained broadly stable, rising slightly to 987,000 ha in 2016 and then to 2,367,000 in 2017. This large increase was due the Inner Hebrides and the Minches cSAC, covering over 1,381,000 hectares, which was submitted to the EC in Sept 2016. 

In 2017 there were 11 offshore SACs covering a total area of 3,095,000 ha.

The area of SPAs rose from 26,000 ha in 1991 to 1,297,000 ha in 2011 and has remained broadly similar since. In 2009, Scottish Ministers classified 31 marine extensions to existing seabird breeding colony SPAs around Scotland's coasts and classified six new SPAs for golden eagle in 2010 which contributed to the large increase in SPA area of 639,387 ha between 2009 and 2011. There are also 30 nature conservation Marine Protected Areas that have been designated to protect marine wildlife and habitats, covering an area of 6,140,000 ha – around 50% greater than that covered by SACs.

A designated site may be protected by more than one designation. For example, around 52% of SPAs and 86% of Ramsar sites are also designated as SSSIs.

Statutory Designated Areas 1991 to 2017


View chart data

Source: Scottish Natural Heritage

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