Managing Change Underwater Heritage

Closed 5 Mar 2024

Opened 9 Jan 2024


The Managing Change guidance series supports good decision-making and explains how to apply the policies in the Historic Environment Policy for Scotland (HEPS) and the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). It will also help anyone interested in a decision on a specific topic to understand the decision-making process.

Historic Environment Scotland (HES) is seeking your views on the draft Managing Change guidance on Underwater Heritage. This guidance outlines conserving underwater heritage around the coasts of Scotland and in freshwater environments such as lochs and rivers.

It includes information about the cultural significance of underwater heritage, current management practices, natural and human impacts on conservation, and safe exploration and investigation.

Why your views matter

We want to hear your thoughts and ideas about the proposed content of this guidance.

We welcome your feedback on any part, but particularly on whether you think we have identified the right key messages and considerations to guide decision-making. This includes considerations on the climate and nature crises and relevant plans and policies such as the National Planning Framework 4, UK Marine Policy Statement and the Scottish National Marine Plan.

We would like to hear your views on accompanying this guidance with case studies that demonstrate its practical application and if you have any suggestions for possible case studies.

You can provide feedback by completing this short online survey.

If you prefer, you can download the full set of consultation questions [PDF, 284KB] in advance. You can also download a copy of the draft guidance [PDF, 554KB].

Providing Feedback in Other Ways

If you would like a copy of the draft guidance and associated consultation questions in a different format, please let us know.

If you would like to provide feedback differently, such as over the phone, by email or via online meeting (on Microsoft Teams, Zoom or similar), please let us know and we would be happy to arrange this.

Please contact the Heritage Policy Service via email at or via phone on 0131 668 8657.


This proposed guidance has two key audiences:

  1. Practitioners and decision-makers who encounter underwater heritage in the course of their duties. This includes individual or organisations involved in:
  • Heritage management
  • Terrestrial and marine planning
  • Water-body management
  • Archaeological and environmental consulting or development
  1. Those who interact with underwater heritage for recreation, including scuba diving, or in the course of their work, such as commercial fishers.

The guidance aims to increase understanding of underwater heritage. It also aims to be a practical guide on identifying and managing the impacts of change in underwater heritage while protecting the cultural significance of these sites.


The draft guidance is split into three parts:

  1. Getting Started:
  • Key messages
  • Relevant policies
  • Understanding underwater heritage
  • Cultural significance
  • Protecting underwater heritage
  1. Impacts on Underwater Heritage:
  • Identifying impacts
  • Managing impacts
  1. Exploration, Investigation and Discoveries
  • Principles of preservation in situ
  • Excavation and recovery
  • Recreational activity including scuba diving
  • Commercial fisheries