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National designations

Some national designations focus on nature conservation, others on special landscapes. Various authorities designate these protected areas.

Scotland’s 1,400-plus Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) contain the best of our flora, fauna, geology, geomorphology or a mix of these features. Scottish Natural Heritage designates SSSIs – which are the building blocks for nature conservation.

National Park status helps to safeguard and enhance the special qualities of the Cairngorms, and Loch Lomond and The Trossachs. Managing multi-functional protected areas like these calls for a balance between the needs of people, landscape and nature.

Scottish Ministers designate Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as a way to support our marine environment. Scotland’s MPA network helps to protect nationally important marine wildlife, habitats, geology and undersea landforms. The designation of 30 Nature Conservation MPAs in July 2014 boosted the network.

National Nature Reserve (NNR) is an accolade given only to the best places for people to see the best of nature. Most of Scotland’s 43 NNRs are home to nationally or internationally important habitats and species. Wildlife management is the main focus, but people are also encouraged to enjoy NNRs.

Other national designations used to protect Scotland’s natural heritage include Forest Park and Seal Conservation Area.​