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the designation process

A diver
Under Part 5 of the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010, Scottish Ministers can designate three types of Marine Protected Area (MPA) – Nature Conservation, Demonstration and Research, and Historic MPA - to help protect Scotland’s outstanding marine natural and cultural heritage.


Historic Scotland takes the lead in advising Scottish Ministers on Historic MPAs, working closely with a wide range of stakeholders.  Marine Scotland leads on other types of MPA with advice from Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC).  Historic MPA designations may occur in relation to priorities identified by Historic Scotland. Third parties may also nominate candidates for consideration by contacting Historic Scotland, using our proposal form.  A UK-wide Advisory Committee on Historic Wreck Sites (ACHWS) formally existed to provide advice to Government on matters in relation to the Protection of Wrecks Act 1973. This was abolished in March 2011.  

Field assessment

To assist in the selection and designation of Historic MPAs, Historic Scotland works with partners in the Scottish Marine Protected Areas project to share data and participate in coordinated surveys. Where more specific field assessments are required to inform designation and to facilitate monitoring of existing Historic MPAs, Historic Scotland undertakes this work through a marine archaeology services contractshared with Wales and N. Ireland, or by commissioning separate assessments.


Historic Scotland consults with a wide range of interested parties prior to making recommendations on Historic MPA designations. The only exception to this is where there is an urgent threat to a marine historic asset. In such instances, urgent designation can be progressed without consultation but its duration is time limited. Full consultation is required to make the designation permanent.

Designation criteria

All candidates for Historic MPA designation are assessed against the criterion of national importance, by following guidance on the determination of national importance. Clear and consistent application of this guidance ensures that only the most significant marine historic assets are protected, where statutory designation will make a difference.

You can find out more about Historic Scotland’s priorities in relation to selection and designation of Historic Marine Protected Areas by following progress with our Marine Heritage Strategy 2012-15.

Contact us

Scheduling, Marine and Battlefields
Historic Scotland
Longmore House
Salisbury Place
Edinburgh EH5 3EH
Tel: +44 (0) 131 668 8600