The Marine (Scotland) Act allowed for the creation of 11 Scottish Marine Regions by the Scottish Marine Regions Order 2015. The boundaries of these extend from MHWS out to 12 nm and up to the Normal Tidal Limit of rivers within the region. The Act also allows for the development of regional marine planning partnerships, of which Clyde and Shetland Isles are the first to be developed.
The Clyde Marine Region area extends from the Normal Tidal Limit of the River Clyde in Glasgow City centre, seawards to the outer firth in Argyll and Ayrshire. It includes the Mull of Kintyre, the Clyde’s sea lochs, and the islands of Arran, Bute and the Cumbraes.
The Firth of Clyde was formed as a consequence of glacial action and is essentially a large fjord separated from the Irish Sea by a broad underwater sill between Ayrshire and Kintyre and from the Atlantic by the Kintyre peninsula. This glacial action took place relatively recently in geological history, and followed earlier periods of faulting along the highland boundary fault and southern uplands fault which created the Midland Valley. Glasgow and much of the Clyde valley and Ayrshire lies within this rift valley. With the retreat of the ice around 10,000 years ago, Western Scotland has slowly been rising, relative to sea level, as it adjusts to the removal of the ice. This process has contributed to the formation of raised beaches along parts of the Clyde coast, for example at sites in Ayrshire and Arran, such as the raised shingle spit at Ballantrae.
The area is renowned for its stunning scenery including the Kyles of Bute and North Arran National Scenic Areas and sheltered waters which are perfect for marine tourism and recreation.
The Clyde supports a rich variety of wildlife. It is important as one of the most northerly west coast estuaries used by migrating birds, and regularly supports a wintering population of 20,000 waterfowl in the inner estuary, including internationally important numbers of overwintering redshank.
For these reasons the Inner Clyde Estuary has been notified as a Special Protection Area (SPA) under the EC Wild Birds Directive and as a RAMSAR site under international designation. The birds of the estuary feed on the eelgrass, mussel beds, and on the abundant invertebrate fauna of the intertidal mudflats, sandflats and saltmarsh. Other important wildlife sites within the Firth of Clyde include Ailsa Craig SPA designated for its gannet population, and a number of Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) around the coast, and on the islands of Arran, Bute and Great Cumbrae.
Fishing supported the development of many of the smaller settlements along the shores of the Clyde whilst larger towns evolved to service the needs of the larger ports. To facilitate the growing industries and settlements the naturally shallow Clyde Estuary was substantially modified through major dredging, widening and straightening to allow the movement of heavy traffic up into Glasgow City Centre and facilitated the industrial boom associated with the Clyde from the 18th Century onwards. The Firth of Clyde became one of Europe’s main hubs of transatlantic trade with the Americas, especially in sugar and tobacco, which brought great wealth to the area.
Synonymous with the Clyde is shipbuilding. At its peak over 100,000 people were working in 38 shipyards along the Clyde and in 1900 almost one in four boats afloat around the world had been built in the Clyde. While naval shipbuilding has recently seen some revival, the massive decline of the historically famous Clyde shipbuilding industry in the second half of the 20th century left numerous derelict dry docks along the heavily industrialised Glasgow riverfront and Clyde Estuary.
The Clyde remains a vital focus for the economy, be it in supporting the fisheries industry, aquaculture, defence activities, recreation on the Clyde and along its shores, and in providing a quality of environment desired by the light manufacturing and service industries. It is also an important recreational and cultural resource for the many hundreds of thousands of people who live around its shores. The area is now home to more than 400,000 people, around 20% of whom are retired.