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Developing the Network

Powers and Duties to Designate MPAs and MPA Network

Marine Scotland has duties and commitments to designate an ecologically coherent network under the following Acts and international agreements:

  • the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010
  • the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009
  • the OSPAR convention
  • the European Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD)
  • the Convention on Biological Diversity
  • the World Summit on Sustainable Development

The 2009 and 2010 Acts require Marine Scotland, in designating a network, to have regard to a number of issues set out in the legislation, including the extent to which designation would contribute to a UK network. However, the issues to which Ministers must have regard are not over-riding considerations and do not prevent designation on conservation grounds. Therefore MPAs have been identified for a range of marine flora and fauna that are either considered to be rare, representative, and/or threatened and declining.

Fulfilment of Duties and Commitments

As the Scottish MPA network has been developed using scientific guidelines based on the same OSPAR principles as the rest of the UK and neighbouring countries, our scientific advisers and the independent review consider the network to provide an appropriate contribution to the UK network.

The independent science review also agreed with the proposed sites for designation for all sites, the proposed features were justified scientifically, based on the quality and use of evidence as well as based on the assessments of the MPA selection guidelines.

In addition, Marine Scotland's scientific advisers and the independent review agreed with the replication and representation of the features within the proposed network and consider that the information provided does suggest the network is coherent in terms of Scottish seas. This conclusion recognises that further work is necessary following consideration of the basking shark, whale & dolphin search locations for designation and their potential contribution to a coherent network. Advice on these search locations will be provided by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) this summer.

How the Network was Identified

These MPAs are based primarily on scientific evidence, based on the MPA Selection Guidelines, and MPA search features have been used to underpin the initial selection of possible MPA locations. MPA search features, identified by SNH and JNCC, represent species, habitats and natural features of conservation importance for which spatial measures are thought to be an appropriate conservation measure.

As has been made clear throughout the process, our starting point for considering MPAs has been best available evidence. Once this best available evidence was gathered, it was assessed and analysed to ensure its scientific rigour to underpin MPA recommendations. This process included the production of data confidence assessments incorporated in the consultation on the pMPAs and the consideration of feedback received through the consultation process. SNH and JNCC have provided their responses to evidential queries raised at consultation.

This second step at which decisions are made was to consider whether the evidence can be considered to be 'sound' enough to underpin the designation, and our scientific advisers are confident in their recommendations based on this second step assessment. This view has also been reflected in the independent review of the science.

The aim has been to identify the network on a scientific basis under the principle of sustainable use.

A map that shows the new Nature Conservation MPAs is available.


The MPA consultation to fulfil pre-designation duties in both the Marine and Coastal Access and Marine (Scotland) Acts spanned 16 weeks in 2013 and a further six weeks at the start of 2014. This was 10 weeks longer than the 12 week statutory minimum to allow more time for consultees to fully consider the proposals.

Marine Scotland received 14,717 responses on the 33 pMPAs. 346 of these were individual or organisation responses and 14,371 were campaign responses. Of the 346 non-campaign responses only 12 opposed the network. A large majority of the non-campaign responses supported the designation of nature conservation MPAs.

Two reports are available on the MPA consultation - one from the original Planning Scotland’s Seas Consultation in 2013, and the other for the extra six weeks at the start of 2014.

Independent Science Review

Marine Scotland has undertaken an external independent review of the quality and use of evidence to underpin the MPA recommendations. The conclusions found the network and the identification of the MPAs to be appropriate, well-founded, and well-evidenced. The final report is now available.


To ensure the socio-economic implications of the network were considered, Marine Scotland assessed the socio-economic disadvantages and benefits of the network proposals and each MPA. Where significant concerns were raised, options and alternatives were considered to represent important features and we have worked closely with stakeholders to minimise unnecessary effects.

The Business and Regulatory Impact Assessments (BRIAS) that accompanied the consultation have been refreshed following consultation comments and further information, and are now available to view as is the updated report from the independent consultants whose analysis forms the basis for the assessments.