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Views sought on marine heritage protection

8 November 2011

The way that we protect Scotland’s historic shipwrecks and other marine heritage sites is being updated and Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs Fiona Hyslop has urged people to make their views heard.

Historic Scotland is consulting on guidelines and operational strategy for implementing new marine legislation that is changing how Scotland protects its outstanding marine environment.

The changes see a move towards a common approach for protection of Scotland’s outstanding marine natural and cultural heritage through a system of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) as the Scottish Government looks to identify an ecologically coherent network of Marine Protected Areas for biodiversity and geodiversity in the seas around Scotland by 2012, to meet international commitments.  

Ms Hyslop said:

“There are a number of historic wrecks off our coasts that have intriguing stories to tell and are connected to hugely important events in our history. As our knowledge of the marine environment increases, we are also learning about the potential for other aspects of our archaeological heritage to survive off our coastlines. Historic Marine Protected Areas are therefore a welcome addition to our toolkit as we look to develop sustainable, productive coasts and seas for future generations.

“Historic Marine Protected Areas will encourage responsible use of Scotland’s most important marine heritage sites, by recreational diving groups for example. This recognises the positive steps made by recreational diving associations and other sea-users, many of whom have aided Historic Scotland by helping to locate our most important marine heritage sites and in ensuring that historic wrecks are not abused.”

The introduction of Historic Marine Protected Areas allows Historic Scotland to protect a wider range of marine heritage sites of national importance than has been possible up to now.

The new designation is more flexible and restricts the number of consents required for activities at sea. Excavations and other works within a protected area will require a single marine license from Marine Scotland who will seek advice from Historic Scotland on a case by case basis.

Responsible access on ‘a look but don’t touch basis’ is not restricted by Historic MPA designation and indeed, is generally to be encouraged. And where a higher level of protection is required, for example following the discovery of a particularly vulnerable site, a Marine Conservation Order could be used to manage access.

In preparing the guidelines and strategy under consultation, workshops have been held in Edinburgh and Orkney.

The consultation can be viewed at: and

Notes for editors

  • Historic Scotland is an executive agency of the Scottish Government charged with safeguarding the nation’s historic environment. The agency is fully accountable to Scottish Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

For further information

Lesley Brown
Communications and Media Officer
Communications and Media
0131 668 8603 or 07920 768096