Scottish Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs)

Closed 17 Apr 2023

Opened 12 Dec 2022


The Scottish Government’s vision for the marine environment is for clean, healthy, safe, productive and diverse seas, managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people. Through the Bute House Agreement, Scottish Ministers have committed to designate at least 10% of Scotland’s seas as Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), by 2026. These sites will provide high levels of protection by placing strict limits on some human activities, such as fishing and aquaculture, while allowing non-damaging recreational activities to take place at carefully managed levels.

This consultation is seeking views and comments on a number of key documents that propose how HPMAs will contribute this vision.

Read the consultation paper 

Ministerial Foreword

Photograph of Mairi McAllan, Minister for Environment and Land ReformAs Minister for Environment and Land Reform, I am delighted to be consulting with you on what HPMAs in Scotland should look like, how they should be selected and implemented, and how they will affect our lives.

In Scotland, we are understandably proud of our natural environment, whose beauty, richness and diversity is emblematic of our national identity.  We also all recognise the urgency of action to address the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. So, it is right that we lead the way in creating a coherent network of these protected areas for our most valuable ecosystems that will extend from our coasts to our deep seas.

Protecting and enhancing our marine environment by taking these actions is key to transforming the way we use our seas and manage our ‘blue’ resources. Our vision for shared stewardship of the blue economy requires us to make these investments. They are needed to ensure we truly maximise the benefits the sea can deliver to all of Scotland’s society, and to live within sustainable limits.

There is still a vast amount of work to be done before we are ready to propose the location of HPMAs. With your help, we can ensure the right policy and legal frameworks are in place; supported by clear guidelines on how to identify the ecosystems that merit protection.

I am determined that those who may be affected by these proposals are involved from the outset. Our seas must remain a source of economic prosperity for the nation, especially in our remote, coastal and island communities. That is why I want to hear what you think. I want to take on board your concerns and your ideas. I want you to help shape the creation of these highly protected areas.

Mairi McAllan MSP

Stakeholder Engagement

We are running a number of online sessions during this consultation for queries relating to the draft Policy Framework and Site Selection Guidelines. Numbers will be limited: you will be required to sign-up to attend. 
For more information, please visit our website; section 'Get involved and keep updated.’ 

Why your views matter

The Scottish Government is committed to realising our vision of the marine environment being clean, healthy, safe, productive, diverse and managed to meet the long term needs of nature and people. Your responses will help to shape and inform how we do this.

Respondents should take into consideration the information provided, alongside any other knowledge or personal experiences that could be relevant. All opinions are welcome.

You are invited to answer all the questions. However, if you are unable to answer any question then please feel free to skip and move on to the next.

The questions are asked in relation to specific documents:

(i) Policy Framework

(ii) Site Selection Guidelines

(iii) Initial Sustainability Appraisal (composed of a Strategic Environmental Report and a Socio-Economic Impact Assessment)

(iv) Partial Island Communities Impact Assessment (ICIA) Screening Report

(v) Partial Business and Regulatory Impact Assessment (BRIA).

We recommend reading the full suite of documents (as listed above) before starting to submit your responses. You can view these in the related links below.

What happens next

Where respondents have given permission for their response to be made public, and after we have checked that they contain no potentially defamatory material, responses will be made available to the public at If you use the consultation hub to respond, you will receive a copy of your response via email.

Following the closing date, all responses will be analysed and considered along with any other available evidence to help us. Responses will be published where we have been given permission to do so. An analysis report will also be made available.

We have published our Stakeholder Engagement Plan, which can be accessed via our websiteThis explains how and when the Scottish Government intend to engage with stakeholders on the identification and designation of HPMAs and sets out opportunities to participate and make a meaningful difference.

We will formally consult separately on proposals for the designation of specific sites. In order to deliver the ministerial commitment of designating at least 10% of Scottish seas as HPMAs by 2026, the formal public consultation on site proposals will likely take place in 2025.


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  • Marine and Fisheries
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