Harvesting the energy of waves and tides is still the subject of research and development as an increasing number of devices are invented and subjected to test. It is unclear which, if any, of these will ultimately be chosen for commercial deployment. The capacity for research and testing has expanded rapidly into an active industrial sector worth several hundreds of millions of Euros. Preparations for a commercial phase are underway in Scotland with the allocation of seabed leases to developers in the seas around Orkney; just in advance of Scotland’s first detailed marine spatial plan which is under preparation in the area. Anxiety to build confidence in a new and nationally important industrial sector conflicts with a plethora of uncertainties about technology and impacts on the natural environment and existing uses. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) will help to build a new governance structure for marine space but in the Pentland Firth and Orkney Waters (PFOW) area it is struggling to catch up with the pace of events. This paper identifies the political objectives driving development and the impact on decision making in areas under clear and present pressure from new activities. It argues that the PFOW area is of special interest highlighting issues which will be of widespread and generic influence in the future. A governance structure based on central authority in decision making is emerging. Conclusions are drawn about the need for more research into the delegation of marine stewardship powers to local communities.