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22 August, 2017

SNH provides clear focus for Scotland’s coastal landscapes

New guidance to help professionals assess the potential impacts of future development on Scotland’s coastal landscapes has been published today (Tuesday) by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

With marine recreation and tourism expenditure in Scotland estimated at £3.7 billion per year, it is vital that development of our internationally renowned coastal landscapes is carefully managed. This guidance sets out how to undertake a coastal character assessment, which is central to the planning and development process as it provides the baseline information against which landscape and visual impacts are assessed.

Welcoming the guidance, Cabinet Secretary for the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Roseanna Cunningham said: “Our coastal landscapes are crucial to our natural and cultural heritage. As part of our spectacular scenery, they are an important economic asset, attracting businesses and tourists. As local surroundings, they contribute to our health and wellbeing and they are exhilarating places for recreation and enjoyment. 

“The coastal characterisation assessment guidance will help us ensure that our coasts are taken into account when considering specific changes or looking at the broader scale of new spatial plans and development.”

SNH Chair, Mike Cantlay, said: “Coastal character assessment is the cousin of terrestrial landscape assessment in Scotland. It additionally considers the specific characteristics associated with the coast, such as maritime influences and the nature of the coastal edge.

“We’ve produced the guidance published today to help Marine Planning Partnerships, Marine Scotland, local authorities and landscape practitioners, as well as our own staff here at SNH. It will be referred to in our future advice on renewables projects and will be helpful for new aquaculture projects, as well as used to support marine planning.”

Scotland’s diverse coastline extends for more than 10,000 miles and ranges from the sea lochs and intricate island landscapes of the west coast, to sweeping sandy beaches and rugged cliffs on the east. It is the setting of most of our major settlements and many transport routes, as well as many areas of natural heritage importance.

Our coastal waters are the basis for an expanding aquaculture industry and more recently for renewable energy installations. Together with the introduction of marine spatial planning, there is an increasing focus on our coasts and seas. The guidance will support the establishment of Regional Marine Plans, one of the priorities in delivering the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.

A consultation period last year helped refine the Guidance on Coastal Character Assessment, which was also tested in a project commissioned by SNH for Orkney and the north Caithness coast.  The report from this project provides a robust characterisation at both local and regional scales, and it has been submitted for consideration at the 2017 Landscape Institute Awards.

The Guidance on Coastal Character Assessment is available on the SNH website.


Notes to Editors

The Scottish Marine Recreation & Tourism Survey 2015 estimated total annual expenditure on marine recreation and tourism activities to be worth around £3.7 billion to the Scottish economy -

Contact information

Dominic Shann
Job Title
Media relations lead for marine management
01463 725157
Scottish Natural Heritage is the government's adviser on all aspects of nature and landscape across Scotland. Our role is to help people understand, value and enjoy Scotland's nature now and in the future. For more information, visit our website at or follow us on Twitter at

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