Pentland Firth & Orkney pilot MSP


Scotland - MSP process


The pilot Plan has led to many lessons learned, to be published shortly. The pilot Plan will establish a basis for preparation of two future regional marine plans for Orkney and the North Coast Scottish Marine Regions.

Application in MSP: 
Unknown effect
Not sector specific
Type of practice: 
Pilot plan
Cross-border / trans-national aspect: 

Questions this practice may help answer

  • How can competing uses of the sea be balanced in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters area?
  • What are the lessons to be learnt from the development of a pilot MSP in Scotland?

Implementation Context

The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters supports a diverse marine economy and a vast majority of the area is used for multiple activities. This means there is a potential for competition and conflict. The Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters was chosen to pilot the development of a marine spatial plan to support sustainable management of the area’s seas. It aims to balance the needs of local communities and marine economic activities whilst protecting the environment on which they depend. The pilot Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters Marine Spatial Plan is being developed by a working group that includes Marine Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council.


Aspects / Objectives



This pilot Plan aims to put in place a planning policy framework in advance of statutory regional marine planning to support sustainable decision making on marine use and management. Through the process of producing the pilot Plan, there have been many lessons learned, which will be published shortly, to inform the preparation of future regional marine plans and the governance arrangements that could underpin Marine Planning Partnerships. It is also anticipated that the pilot Plan will establish a useful basis for the preparation of the two future regional marine plans for Orkney and the North Coast Scottish Marine Regions.



Stage 1: Spatial Planning Framework

  • To set out a high level framework for taking forward the Plan in three stages;
  • To identify the categories of information and knowledge that are required to underpin the plan including, but not limited to, biodiversity, fisheries, shipping, tourism and recreation;
  • To summarise what is already known in each category; and
  • To make recommendations on how the resulting information and data gaps should be addressed.


Stage 2: Research Studies


A suite of research studies to support policies in the Plan have been undertaken to address information gaps identified in Stage One. This included a ScotMap Inshore Fishing Study, study of shipping activity, sea birds strategic monitoring, hydrodynamic model of physical oceanographic environment and energy resources, baseline and economic value study of current tourism and recreational activities and key sites, among others.


Stage 3: Planning Process and Documents which sets out how the spatial plan was developed in accordance with the legislative requirements for the development of a plan, including stakeholder engagement and consultation processes.

Main Outputs / Results

The final plan with links to research projects and consultations is available online:



This project focusses specifically on the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters marine area, however, as MSP is emerging in many areas, the lessons learnt will be of wider relevance, predominantly across other regions of Scotland and perhaps other areas in Europe.

Responsible Entity

Marine Scotland, Orkney Islands Council and Highland Council

Costs / Funding Source

Scottish Government

Contact Person


Tracy McCollin (Marine Renewable Energy Project Manager)


Marine Scotland 01224 295573