Scottish Natural Heritage and Coastal Erosion

Most beaches in Scotland are inherently dynamic in character and are subject to periodic coastal erosion. Along with sediment transport and deposition, this erosion is necessary for the creation, conservation and integrity of many of our unique coastal habitats, landforms and landscapes. As far as is possible within the constraints of public safety, Scottish Natural Heritage advocates approaches to erosion management which retain the natural coastal habitats, processes and landscapes and which enable Scotland’s coastlines to evolve naturally with minimal human intervention.


Sandy beaches and dunes are an attractive and valuable element of Scotland’s natural heritage. They are important for informal recreation and amenity, for nature conservation and, of course, as the basis of the country’s renowned golf links. They are also highly dynamic landforms, susceptible to erosion and change which may threaten those developments and land uses sited nearest the sea.

This Guide does not offer ‘solutions’ to coastal erosion. The most appropriate response in each situation will differ, depending upon various factors such as the nature and value of the asset at risk, the coastal processes affecting the site and the area’s nature conservation interests.

Instead, it reviews the options available for managing erosion, from non-intervention through to construction of revetments and seawalls, and offers guidance on how to select or design the most appropriate response to a particular situation. Critically, it describes and illustrates how each technique might best be designed so as to minimise damage to the natural heritage and reduce the prospects of altering shoreline evolution elsewhere.

Through it, Scottish Natural Heritage seeks to encourage coastal authorities and managers to implement approaches to erosion management which maintain the important and varied conservation interests of Scotland’s unique beach and dune systems.

The Guide was prepared for Scottish Natural Heritage by HR Wallingford. The Project Manager for HR Wallingford was Mr Tom Coates. Contributing authors were Dr Alan Brampton, Mr George Motyka and Mr Tom Coates. The SNH Project Officer was Dr George Lees.

October 2000.