Protection of Natura sites

In Scotland, Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas are given legal protection by the Habitats Regulations.

In Scotland, Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas are given legal protection by the Habitats Regulations.

The Habitats Regulations ensure that any plan or project that may damage a Natura site is assessed and can only go ahead if certain strict conditions are met. This process is known as Habitats Regulations Appraisal, one aspect of which is appropriate assessment.

Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SPAs) have a high level of protection as they’re designated for habitats and species of European importance. This doesn’t mean that proposals are always turned down, however.

In fact, most developments and activities that affect Natura sites can be modified so as not to conflict with the special interest of these protected areas.

A shared responsibility

The Habitats Directive places certain obligations on Member States of the European Union.

Duties in regard to Natura sites include avoiding:

  • deterioration of their qualifying habitats
  • significant disturbance to their qualifying species

Thus everyone in Scotland has a part to play in conserving the special nature of our protected areas.

In particular, any ‘competent authority’ that proposes to authorise, consent or carry out a plan or project that may affect a Natura site must first carry out a Habitats Regulations Appraisal.

Competent authorities include, among many others:

  • Scottish Ministers
  • local authorities
  • Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)
  • Forestry Commission Scotland
  • Scottish Natural Heritage

Find out more

Scottish Natural Heritage Natura booklet

Natura sites and the Habitats Regulations: How to consider proposals affecting SACs and SPAs in Scotland

Scottish Government Policy for proposed SACs and proposed SPAs

Priority habitats as qualifying interests of SACs in Scotland