Many studies have shown that effective stakeholder engagement, including local communities, is vital for the success of any marine planning project. In the UK, local authorities can play a vital, if often overlooked, role in building bridges between developers, academics and local communities. They can facilitate knowledge exchange and co-operation, using their local understanding of the economic, social and ecological make-up of an area. Thus, Highland Council and Orkney Islands Council are using a mix of traditional terrestrial planning techniques and innovative marine approaches to enable, support and engage stakeholders. Examples include sub-station applications, harbour upgrades, marine spatial planning, masterplanning and business and community engagement. The local authorities are therefore pivotal in helping to address the complex challenge of marine energy developments in the north of Scotland.