Marine spatial planning (MSP) is a fast evolving discipline signified by the European Commission׳s proposed directive to create a common framework for MSP and integrated coastal management in EU waters and coastal areas. The Shetland Islands’ Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) first developed in 2006 is one of the most advanced in the UK. With seven years’ experience of MSP and integrated coastal zone management (ICZM) in Shetland׳s waters, and the pending statutory implementation of the SMSP in 2014, Shetland represents an exemplar case study for the monitoring and evaluation of this discipline in practice. A review was carried out in 2012 to evaluate and monitor the effectiveness of the SMSP to date. This exercise highlighted achievements to date, future challenges and opportunities and helped to guide the development of the forthcoming edition of the SMSP. The sharing of knowledge and practical experiences of MSP and ICZM ensures an adaptive approach in addressing uncertainty over time. It is also imperative to understand that early ‘pioneers’ in this discipline may not get it exactly right on the first attempt but by developing initial precedents and processes, these can be built upon in the future.