North Scotland Shelf OMR

Location and physical characteristics

Figure 1: North Scotland Shelf Offshore Marine Region . The thicker white line delineates the extent of the North Scotland Shelf OMR. For a map of all SMRs and OMRs, see Figure 5 here

Coastal Length  N/A
Sea area (km2 28,820
Deepest point (m)    1,073
Shallowest point (m)    15
Average depth (m)  213
Tides (m)  1.6 – 3.5
Salinity 34.77 – 35.47
Sea surface temperature (°C):   8.1 – 13.4

The North Scotland Shelf OMR is situated to the north of mainland Scotland and the Outer Hebrides and west of Orkney (Figure 1). It is influenced by the oceanic conditions from the adjacent Bailey and Faroe-Shetland Channel, and the coastal conditions that are adverted from the West Highlands and Outer Hebrides SMRs. The residual flow is north-eastward and includes intrusions of warm Atlantic Water onto the shelf. Seasonal variations in circulation in both strength and positioning occur, due to changing wind patterns and water column stratification. In summer frontal jets exist parallel to density fronts between seasonally stratified and permanently mixed waters. The Slope Current, a topographically steered current along the edge of the continental slope (at about the 400-500 m depth contour), which adverts Atlantic waters northwards with speeds up to 0.15 – 0.3 m/s. Along the thermocline, large waves form which can break leading to strong internal mixing and bringing nutrients closer to the surface. The overall surface wave climate is influenced by conditions in the North Atlantic, with a large swell developing at times due to the long fetch.

A range of geological features are present, such as the Solan Bank High which is a Precambrian geological feature of metamorphic basement rock 130 km long and 25 km wide with sections of sand and clay. The region also includes areas of the North Rona, North Lewis, North Minch and West Orkney basins.                                                           



The Productive Assessment has been undertaken, with a focus on 2014 – 2018, on a sectoral basis. For a number of Sectors, including aquaculture, renewables, marine transport and aggregates, there was no activity within the North Scotland Shelf OMR during the period 2014 – 2018. However, for some sectors, there were changes over the period 2014 – 2018 (Figure 2).

The economic contribution of the North Scotland Shelf, in common with some other OMRs, is based around fisheries and oil and gas. Several of the International Council for the Exploration of the Sea (ICES) statistical rectangles occur in the North Scotland Shelf OMR with landings in 2018 for demersal species exceeding 2,000 tonnes.

There are a number of active hydrocarbon fields in the north-west corner of the North Scotland Shelf OMR. Solan was first discovered in 1991. In the last decade, further appraisals of the area resulted in the Strathmore discovery, with the wells tied back to the Solan platform. The field is expected to produce more than 44 million barrels of oil during its production life. The Strathmore discovery is estimated to contain three million barrels of oil equivalent.