Save Scottish Seas


Running history of MPAs in Scotland


This timeline is not a comprehensive history of marine conservation in Scotland (although this would be a welcome and worthy project!). It tries instead to quickly summarise the key legislative stages and events in the development of a network of Marine Protected Areas in Scotland over recent years alongide the broader UK and international context. For a longer, more detailed overview of the development of marine conservation in the UK, see the excellent topic note from the UK MPA centre which charts marine conservation legislation and policy in the UK up until 2007.


February – The Sea Fish (Prohibition on Fishing) (Firth of Clyde) Order 2022 (SSI 2022/5) is published, restricting all forms of commercial fishing between February and April for the recovery of spawning cod. LINK members gave evidence to the RAINE committee and reflected on this outcome in a blog.

March – Scottish Government consult on a proposal to make the Red Rocks and Longay emergency MPA a permanent designation. LINK’s response can be found here.

December – The Red Rocks and Longay MPA is adopted in Parliament on a permanent basis! LINK’s Parliamentary briefing is here. This MPA is a crucial step that may help to recover the critically endangered flapper skate, and recognises the vital contribution of local community members in identifying and reporting areas of ecological importance.


March – On 10th March, Scottish ministers designated the Red Rocks and Longay urgent MPA. Located in  the Inner Sound of Skye, this MPA aims to protect Flapper Skate, after the discovery of an important nursery area.

June – Sea Scotland conference takes place online, with sessions focusing on ocean recovery, circular economy, just transition and ocean literacy.

LINK members respond to the National Marine Plan review.

August – The Scottish Government – Scottish Green co-operation agreement included commitment to “add to the existing MPA network by designating a world-leading suite of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of our seas” by 2026 in both inshore and offshore waters”


January – LINK’s Marine Group submit their response to the ‘Giant Strides’ Marine Tourism Strategy for Scotland, highlighting the need to keep environmental safeguarding at the core of its objectives.

February – COVID-19 becomes a global pandemic. Many environmental events and key decision-making opportunities for 2020 are cancelled or postponed, including COP15 (Biological Diversity) and COP26 (Climate Change).

March – The Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 is 10 years old! (And the MPA network is still incomplete!)

June – The Scottish Government’s EU Continuity Bill is first published, the first step to maintaining EU Environmental Standards in Scots law once the Brexit transition period is ended. See LINK’s initial response here.

The Animals and Wildlife (Penalties, Protections and Powers) (Scotland) Bill is passed in the Scottish Parliament, including late amendments to ban lethal predator control methods for seals and to review the use and impacts of Acoustic Deterrent Devices (ADDs) (commonly used at fish farms to repel marine predators). A late amendment on strengthening penalties for fishing infringements within MPAs was not passed.

October – The Scottish Government announced the designation of the West of Scotland MPA. It is the largest MPA in Europe, and aim to protect deep-sea marine ecosystems.

December – The Scottish Ministers announced the designation of 16 new protected areas. They included 12 special Protection Areas and four Marine Protected Areas for mobile species.

LINK’s Marine Group published its Ocean Recovery Plan, a vision and comprehensive roadmap for restoring the health of Scotland’s seas by 2030.


February – Proposals for 2 new historic MPAs and a large deep sea marine reserve are announced by First Minister Nicola Sturgeon at Scotland’s first International Marine Conference.

March – Scottish Government stakeholder workshop on site proposals and draft Sustainability Appraisal for 4 new ncMPAs to protect PMFs including Risso’s dolphin, minke whale and basking shark.

May – Loch Carron site and management measures are made permanent and it becomes the 31st ncMPA in Scotland’s developing MPA network.

Disappointing UK Marine Strategy Assessment, and targets and indicators, are published. LINK contributed to a joint response with the other UK Environment Links.

Intergovernmental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) report published giving evidence of a global biodiversity crisis, with around 1 million species at risk of extinction

June – Consultation on proposals for 4 new ncMPAs to protect PMFs including Risso’s dolphin, minke whale and basking shark, is launched ahead of World Ocean’s Day.

The fourth Sea Scotland conference is held in Edinburgh. Sea, Soul and Society: adapting to climate change.

Review on Highly Protected Marine Areas in English seas announced (will Scotland follow suit?!)

August – ICES publish their stock assessment of North Sea cod (Gadhus morhua), indicating decline of the population and recommending a 61% reduction in Total Allowable Catch (TAC).

The West Shetland Shelf ‘Windsock’ area, closed to trawling under EU regulations in 2001 to protect spawning cod, is repealed. Fishing industry and Scottish Government agree voluntary measures to maintain some protection. LINK’s Marine Group convenor contributes an article to the Scotsman on its concerns around management of cod fishing, and the wider issues around the decline of marine nature.

Scottish Government consultation on the Firth of Clyde cod spawning closure – the LINK Marine Group support maintaining the closure, given recent issues of population decline and removal of the West of Shetland fishing closure. The Marine Group’s response is here.

LINK Marine Group members launch public campaigns to support the designation of 4 proposed ncMPAs, and a Save Scottish Seas campaign video. The consultation closed on 3oth August; the Marine Group’s response is here.

September – The IPCC publish a Special Report on the Ocean and Cryosphere in a Changing Climate (SROCC), highlighting the impacts and implications of a warming world on the oceans and polar regions.

October – Scottish Government begin a process of further engagement with stakeholders on proposals to protect PMFs outside MPAs, in parallel with proposals for management measures within a further suite of inshore MPAs. 

LINK’s Marine Group publish a briefing on Recovering Scotland’s Seas for the autumn Party Conferences, highlighting the need to complete the MPA network and adopt management measures that enable recovery of features.

Scottish Government launch a public consultation on proposals to designate a Deep Sea Marine Reserve offshore west of Scotland for the protection and recovery of deep sea PMFs.

December – LINK’s Marine Group submit their response to the proposed Deep Sea Marine Reserve.


January – Members of Scottish Parliament committed to provide additional resources for the development of four nature conservation Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) including for some of Scotland’s most iconic mobile species by the end of 2018.

March – The Scottish Government launched a consultation to permanently designate the Loch Carron Marine Protected Area and implement fisheries management measures.

April – Workshop to develop a conservation strategy for small cetaceans in UK waters is held in Edinburgh.

May – Workshop for proposed management measures for inshore Marine Protected Areas and approach to protect Priority Marine Features outside of MPAs is held in Edinburgh. Consultation to permanently designate Loch Carron MPA as part of Scotland’s MPA network with fisheries management measures. 

June – Third Sea Scotland conference held in Kinghorn, Fife, bringing together Scotland’s marine community to consider the changing policy context around local marine governance and provide a platform for youth views on the marine environment.

August – Stage 1 consultation of the Scottish Government review of protection for Priority Marine Features outside of Marine Protected Areas, launched in July, closes on 31st August.

September – Consultation on the Strategic Environmental Assessment for 15 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) is launched. Lamlash Bay No-Take Zone reaches 10 years!

October – Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) publish report highlighting the global climate crisis and the risk to nature if urgent action is not taken

November –LINK’s commissioned Seafloor Integrity report is formally launched at the MASTS Annual Science meeting.

Reports of illegal scallop dredging within ncMPAs in the media


February – The Scottish Government publish a report on the socio-economic monitoring of Scotland’s Inshore MPAs since management plans were put in place in late 2015. The report finds no significant socio-economic impact of the management measures to date. 

May – Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham designates the Loch Carron Emergency Nature Conservation MPA to protect and recover flame shell beds following documented damage to the beds after dredge activity in the area. This is the first time that the emergency designation powers have been used since the Marine (Scotland) Act was introduced in 2010 and the designation will take immediate effect. 

June – Scottish Government’s strategy for Monitoring Scotland’s Network of Marine Protected Areas is announced at the second Sea Scotland Conference.  The Strategy provides the direction for a new approach to site-based monitoring in
the Scottish marine environment, to ensure MPAs have the right measures in place to reach their conservation objectives. The scheme will seek to involve the fishing industry and local communities in data collection and is a welcome and urgently needed step to increase the knowledge base of Scotland’s MPAs and marine ecosystems.

July – 3rd July marked the three year anniversary since the proposal of four nature conservation MPAs for the protection of mobile species, sandeels and important marine habitats. 

September – Members of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee take a site visit to the Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA. The Scottish Government Programme for Government 2017-2018 is announced, outlining plans to create a research programme on Scotland’s blue carbon stores; review protection for priority marine features outside of MPAs; explore options for a Deep Sea National Marine Reserve; review the National Marine Plan; take significant steps to reduce marine litter introduce a deposit return scheme for plastic.


January – The Scottish Parliament’s Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment committee voted against motions to annul the South Arran MPA Marine Conservation Order and omnibus Inshore Fishing Order 2015, to ensure protection for 11 inshore MPAs and SACs proceeds (see February). Demonstrations for and against the MPA protection measures were held outside the Scottish Parliament ahead of the Committee session. The Scottish Government invited responses to a proposal from SIFT for a Regulating Order (RO) for Nephrops and King Scallop in the Firth of Clyde. The Scottish Government later decides not to take the proposals forward, underlining the importance of integrating fisheries management into the emerging Clyde Marine Plan. 

February – An historic month for marine conservation in Scotland. Fisheries management measures for 13 inshore MPAs and SACs come into force. These were East Mingulay (SAC), Loch Creran (MPA/SAC), Loch Laxford (SAC), Loch Sunart (MPA/SAC), Loch Sween (MPA), Lochs Duich, Long and Alsh (MPA/SAC), Upper Loch Fyne and Loch Goil (MPA), Noss Head (MPA), Sanday (SAC), South Arran (MPA), St Kilda (SAC), Treshnish Isles (SAC) and Wyre and Rousay Sounds (MPA). The Scottish Government launches a consultation on fisheries prohibitions in the Outer Hebrides, acknowledging the need for greater management around the Outer Hebrides and support the Outer Hebrides Inshore Fisheries Group’s efforts to address these needs. Read the LINK response here.

March – The Scottish Government launch a consultation on the proposed Demonstration and Research MPA for the waters around Fair Isle. A spatial approach to protection and the first of its kind in Scotland, the MPA would provide the opportunity to improve and localise stewardship of the seas around Fair Isle. Read the full LINK response hereLoch Sunart to Sound of Jura and Wester Ross Marine Conservation Orders come into force.  This brings the total inshore waters in MPAs and SACs protected from mechanical dredging to 2,623.11km² and from demersal trawling to 2,237.63km².

May – The Holyrood elections lead to a third term in Government for the SNP, as a minority administration. The SNP manifesto commits them to help protect rare, threatened, declining or nationally representative species, promote the sustainable development of our seas and meet Scotland’s international obligations to ensure healthy seas. The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment portfolio is split between two new posts: Fergus Ewing as Rural Economy and Connectivity Cabinet Secretary and Roseanna Cunningham as Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Cabinet Secretary.

June –The UK electorate as a whole votes to leave the European Union, whilst Scotland votes unanimously by Local Authority area to remain, opening up challenges and opportunities to strengthen the existing environmental regulations based on EU law. This includes the Birds and Habitats Directives that underpin the Natura 2000 network (Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation). Roseanna Cunningham pledges to maintain environmental laws as uncertainty around our future relationship with the European Union unfolds.

July – Scottish Natural Heritages launches a consultation to classify 10 Special Protection Areas (SPAs) for marine birds in Scotland’s inshore waters. If well managed, these sites will help improve the prospects of some of the world’s most rare and vulnerable marine birds. Read the LINK response to the consultation here.

August – The European Parliament prohibits damaging bottom trawling below 800m in European Union waters (EEZs) of the North Sea and northeast Atlantic Ocean. It also prohibits bottom-trawling by EU vessels in the international waters of the central Atlantic off West Africa outside of the Azores, Madeira and Canary Islands EEZs.

September – Scottish Ministers approve the designation of the Inner Hebrides and Minches SAC for harbour porpoise and the site is submitted to the European Commission as a candidate site. If accepted this would be the largest conservation area for the marine species in Europe!

October – A consultation on the updated Small Isles Marine Conservation Order launches. Roseanna Cunningham announces the designation of Fair Isle Demonstration and Research MPA and Historic MPA for Wreck of Iona I at the Marine Conservation Society annual conference in Edinburgh. The Scottish Government launches a consultation on fisheries management within 13 offshore MPAs and SACs, a welcome stride forward for offshore marine conservation. The proposed measures will help protect many fragile designated features, preventing some from further decline. Read more on the LINK response here. LINK members give evidence to the ECCLR committee, including highlighting concerns with measuring progress for biodiversity at sea and limited capacity for management and monitoring Scotland’s MPA network.

November – The Scottish Government launches a consultation on a further five SPAs, four in Scotland’s offshore waters (Seas of St. Kilda pSPA, Seas off Foula pSPA, Pentland Firth pSPA, and Outer Firth of Forth and St Andrews Bay Complex pSPA), and one spanning into the north west of England (Solway Firth pSPA).

December – Marine Scotland publish the Small Isles Marine Conservation Order for managing fishing in Small Isles MPA. The Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform committee write to Cabinet Secretary Roseanna Cunningham regarding Scotland’s progress towards achieving the 2020 Aichi Targets, highlighting the opportunity marine planning provides, concerns around the resources and needed capacity to support sustainable management and asking how the Scottish Government intends to tackle the ‘claimed “gaps in (MPA) coverage”’.


January – Scottish Environment LINK’s marine taskforce launches “#DontTakeTheP out of MPAs” campaign, urging Marine Scotland to adopt a less zonal approach to management and stronger management measures for the most damaging fishing methods.

June – Marine Scotland publish consultation analysis. In response to widespread calls for stronger management and accounting for protection of other lower-risk features, the Scottish Government outlines draft management measures for each site (using Fishing Orders and Marine Conservation Orders).

June – The Scottish Government launches consultation on four Marine Conservation Orders for managing fishing in South Arran MPA, Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura MPA, Small Isles MPA and Wester Ross MPA.

August – Scottish Creel Fishermen’s Federation publicly backs MPAs, but the Scottish Fishermen’s Federation expresses serious concern with the proposals

September – Rural Affairs Climate Change & Environment (RACCE) Committee wrote to Cabinet Secretary to ask for more time to consider mobile fishermen’s concerns. Written evidence submitted by stakeholders to the RACCE Committee and on 23rd September 2015 RACCE Committee takes evidence from fishing interests. On 25th September 2015 RACCE Committee writes to Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead – READ HERE

October – Cabinet Secretary Richard Lochhead responds to the RACCE Committee outlining the conservative approach to quantifying impacts and the increased general support for MPAs – READ HERE

December – the Scottish Government announces re-consultation of fisheries management for three MPAs (Small Isles, Wester Ross and Loch Sunart to Sound of Jura) and lays secondary legislation for fisheries management for 20 MPA sites (as well as a Marine Conservation Order for South Arran MPA, and a separate Fishing Order for Luce Bay and Sands SAC). More analysis on this to follow via our news page.


August 7th – 30 nature conservation MPAs (17 inshore, 13 offshore) were designated

November 11th – public consultation on management of 19 nature conservation MPAs and marine SACs (for management of high-risk marine features). The consultation options meant that the most damaging fishing activity could continue across many of Scotland’s new MPAs.


Public consultation launched on the 33 possible nature conservation MPAs


Search locations for MPAs developed
November: Valuing the Benefits of Designating a Scottish Network of MPAs in Territorial and Offshore Waters report published
December: Joint UK administrations statement on an ecologically coherent MPA network published
December: advice presented to Scottish Parliament outlining the science-based proposals for 33 MPAs


Selection guidelines for developing MPAs published
Identifying locations considered to be least damaged/more natural in Scotland’s seas published


4th February 2010 Scottish Parliament unanimously votes for the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 – legislation that committed Scottish Ministers to the “protection and, where appropriate, enhancement of the health of [the Scottish marine] area”.


12th November UK Marine & Coastal Act passed into law
30th April Marine (Scotland) Bill is introduced to Scottish Parliament


20th September Scotland’s first Community Marine Conservation Area (and No Take Zone) created in Lamlash Bay, Isle of Arran (using provisions under the Inshore Fisheries Act 1984)
Scottish Environment LINK publishes Finding NIMAs report
‘Sustainable Seas for All’ published outlining Scottish Government’ proposals for sustainable management of the marine environment and proposals for the Scottish Marine Bill.

Autumn: Public consultation on the Scottish Marine Bill


Scottish Marine Bill announced


(UK) Marine Bill consultation


(UK) Marine Bill announced
Defra publishes ‘Charting Progress: an integrated assessment of the state of UK seas’


First No-Take-Zone established at Lundy
Scottish Environment LINK continues campaigning for marine legislation


UK Government produces Seas of Change report Scottish Environment LINK ‘Everyone’ Campaign calls for better protection of Scotland’s seas
Scottish Environment LINK begin active campaign for a Marine (Scotland) Act


Defra publish ‘Safeguarding our Seas: a strategy for the conservation and sustainable development of our marine environment’
MCS launches Scottish Environment LINKs ‘Seas fit for Scotland’ at MCS conference in Edinburgh, acknowledging new legislation could provide solution to many of the problems highlighted

World Summit on Sustainable Development, Johannesburg (MPAs by 2012)


Scottish Environment LINK Marine Taskforce formed


The Scotland Act confers devolved powers on Scottish Parliament with responsibilities for environment and fisheries


UK Government signs the EC Habitats Directive which includes provisions for marine habitats


Lundy becomes the first statutory Marine Nature Reserve in the UK


St Abbs and Eyemouth VMNR established, Scotland’s first and still only Voluntary Marine Nature Reserve

Contact the Save Scottish Seas team
Contact the Save Scottish Seas team

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