Council welcomes forward-thinking report on coastal change for Golspie to Coul

The Highland Council has today (27 August) welcomed Scottish Government’s publication of a forward-thinking report on coastal change for the area in East Sutherland stretching from Golspie to Coul. It provides a summary of the latest ‘Dynamic Coast’ science and is intended to support key partners in developing and implementing a response, which could include resilience and adaptation measures.

Highland’s diverse coastline is one of its greatest assets. The coastal zone hosts many towns and villages where people live and work, lifeline transportation links, key infrastructure, employment bases, agriculture, and biodiversity, while also being a place of leisure, recreation and tourism and many other activities.

The beaches, dunes and shores of Highland are particularly vulnerable to the erosive power of the sea. The impacts of climate change – particularly rising sea levels and more frequent and powerful storms – increases those forces of change on the coastal areas. However, the effects Highland might expect will vary depending upon the site-specific circumstances and the rate of climate change itself.

Councillor Trish Robertson, Chair of the Economy and Infrastructure Committee and Climate Change Working Group, said: “I welcome the publication of this report for bringing much needed data that should enable better understanding of impacts of Climate Change and of some measures that we and others can consider taking in response.”

More detailed consideration and assessment will be required, not only by the Council but also other organisations, businesses, and individuals – before deciding what specific proposals or measures to bring forward and before making decisions. The Council is beginning to consider how best to make use of this latest report in the context of its various functions and responsibilities in respect of coastal erosion, flooding, climate change adaptation, development planning and management. There will be other vulnerable parts of Highland’s coast that may benefit from similar modelling and analysis for coastal erosion and associated flooding, to likewise inform future policy and practice.

The latest Dynamic Coast report will also be of considerable interest to the local communities. Community group Go Golspie was recently awarded £80,000 from the Highland Coastal Communities Fund by the Council’s Sutherland County Committee, towards restoration of Golspie’s breakwater.


As explained on the ‘Dynamic Coast’ website , the project is a pan-government partnership that has transformed Scotland’s public sector’s understanding of coastal change. The initial research spanned from January 2015 to March 2017. The aim was to establish an evidence base of national coastal change, summarising the last 130 years of coastal change across all of Scotland’s erodible shores (beaches, dunes, and saltmarshes) and projected the changes forward to 2050. A number of organisations around Scotland are already making use of that initial research, for example The Highland Council is using it at a strategic level within the current review of the Inner Moray Firth Local Development Plan as one of a number of data sources informing which sites to prefer for development.

In 2018 a second phase of Dynamic Coast research was commissioned in Scotland, to consider multiple research questions including: the extent and resilience of natural coastal flood protection features; climate change accelerations; technological improvements and the development of adaptation and resilience plans at 7 ‘super sites’. The stretch of coastline from Golspie to Coul (but not including the Loch Fleet tidal basin coast) was one of the ‘super sites’ identified for this work and which has now led to the recently published report, based on more detailed assessment than was included in the initial research.

If nothing is done, there will be some areas where the land uses and activities in the coastal zone will be adversely affected by coastal erosion and associated flooding, in years to come. The Dynamic Coast project has previously, broadly identified types of coastal risk management and adaptation that are available. These, it explains, lie along a spectrum: from ‘doing nothing or non-active intervention’; ‘accommodate erosion’ by adapting development plans and relocating existing assets; ‘erosion resist’ either using traditional engineering structures or nature-based solutions, such as beach feeding; and by ‘advancing the coast’ seawards, perhaps using artificial offshore structures or large-scale beach feeding (e.g. mega nourishment such as a sand motor).  The latest report suggests how those could apply in the Golspie and Coul area, based on more detailed modelling of scenarios and understanding for that area.

27 Aug 2021