Piloting a marine spatial planning approach in Scotland’s Orkney Islands

Rachel M. Gregg
Posted on: 2/19/2017 - Updated on: 3/02/2020

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Rachel Gregg

Project Summary

The Orkney Islands Council, Highland Council, and Marine Scotland partnered on a project to develop a marine spatial plan to guide development, activities, and decisions in Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters (PFOW). The region comprises the coastline of Orkney, Sule Skerry and Sule Stack, Stroma and the north coast of mainland Scotland from Duncansby Head to Cape Wrath. The region encompasses critical marine and coastal habitats, including seven European Areas of Conservation, 29 Sites of Special Scientific Interest, and three marine protected areas. The Pilot PFOW Marine Spatial Plan created a planning framework to guide marine use and management in advance of statutory regional marine plans for Orkney and the North Coast Scottish Marine Regions. 

The plan addresses several climate impacts of concern, including sea level rise, ocean acidification, increasing ocean temperatures, and extreme storms. The PFOW area, including ecological, biological, and cultural resources and built infrastructure, is at risk from these impacts. For example, altered shipping routes caused by decreased sea ice in the Arctic may cause an increase in maritime traffic in the PFOW region. Climate change will also affect coastal heritage assets and the associated recreation and tourism industry. Policy 3 of the plan states that activities in PFOW only be supported if the proposals demonstrate that resilience has been built into the project over the long term, and that greenhouse gas emissions are minimized as much as possible. The plan guides marine licensing and permitting decisions by Marine Scotland, Orkney Islands Council, and Highland Council for the region.


Gregg, R.M. 2017. Piloting a marine spatial planning approach in Scotland’s Orkney Islands. Summary of project of the Orkney Islands Council. Retrieved from CAKE: www.cakex.org/case-studies/piloting-marine-spatial-planning-approach-sc…’s-orkney-islands (Last updated February 2017)

Project Contact

Affiliated Organizations

OIC is Britain’s smallest local authority - but we lead the way in Scotland in providing all the council services used by the people of the county. Set up in 1974, the Council became a model for the delivery of local government across the nation – a model used in the creation of 31 similar all-purpose authorities in 1996.


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