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Coastal erosion

Coastal erosion is a naturally occurring process that affects, from time to time, much of Scotland’s coastline.

We have no statutory responsibility for coastal defence. But we’re often required to consent or comment on proposed coast protection works, or asked for guidance on how to manage erosion.

How is the coast changing?

We took part in a Europe-wide assessment of coastal change in 2004. The EUROSION project categorised Scotland’s coast, summarising the nature of our coastline and also its stability and behaviour.

Nature of our coast

Scotland’s coast was classified as:

  • 70% hard coasts – i.e. composed of rocks and cliffs
  • 29% soft coasts – i.e. composed of unconsolidated gravels, sand and silts
  • less than 1% artificial – i.e. harbours and sea walls

Coastal stability and erosion

Most (75%) of our coast is broadly stable.

Of the remaining 25% of our coast:

  • 8% is accretional
  • 12% is erosional
  • 5% is lacking in data

Guidance on coastal erosion and development

Find out about coastal development and marine pollution.

Or find out more about how to manage coastal erosion in our guide below.

Read: A guide to managing coastal erosion in beach/dune systems: Natural Heritage Management