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Protected areas

​Scotland’s protected areas safeguard the very best of our landscapes, plants and animals, and rocks, fossils and landforms.

Protected areas – also known as designated sites – help to ensure that their natural features of special interest remain in good health for all to enjoy, now and in the future. International directives and treaties, domestic legislation and policy, or local needs and interests may call for the designation of sites.

Many organisations have roles in protected areas. SNH directly manages some, advises on the management of others and monitors the condition of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Natura sites. Monitoring the condition of these protected areas helps us to maintain their value. Where we uncover serious issues, we, Scottish Ministers or courts may use various orders to compel conservation efforts.

Our system of protected areas for nature began in the 1940s. A 2014 review examined how to develop the role and purpose of Scotland’s network of protected areas.​

Visit SiteLink to view information and download information on designated sites across Scotland.