Where is the coast? Creating boundaries in transitional spaces - towards a working definition for socio-demographic analysis in Scotland

Paula Duffy* (Corresponding Author)

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to conferenceAbstractpeer-review


Where do we mean when we talk about our coast and coastal spaces? The coast is a liminal space. Often conceptualised as a transitional zone, around one constant - the threshold been land and sea. The coast as something that can be at once implicitly understood in conversation, yet also defined in multifarious ways for various purposes. Whilst a number of definitions have been put forward in international law, often defining the coast to seaward, to do with our territorial seas, or fisheries limits, and arising as nations have laid claim to the seas and the resources that lie within or beneath them, these debates often lack any formal definition in the way of landward limits.

This is perhaps because the landward extent of the coast remains contested, and hard to measure (Fletcher and Smith, 2007, Hynes and Farrelly, 2012). However, the development of marine spatial planning systems globally, which encourage the integration of socioeconomic and demographic evidence of coastal spaces to inform decision making, has renewed interest in this question.

This paper will discuss how the landward definition of the coastal region/zone shapes the spaces, coastal populations and communities placed within them and guides how useful our research is for informing their policy agendas, planning and intervention. This paper critically reviews the definitions provided for the landward perspectives of the coast and examines how these have been used to inform planning and policy-making arenas, before presenting a working definition for the case study of Scotland. The paper contributes some reflection of the local and national considerations as well as the limitations that remain of the approach presented.
Original languageEnglish
Number of pages1
Publication statusPublished - 2 Sept 2021
EventRGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2021 - United Kingdom, London / Online
Duration: 31 Aug 20213 Sept 2021


ConferenceRGS-IBG Annual International Conference 2021
Abbreviated titleRGS-IBG2021
CityLondon / Online
Internet address


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