Europe's largest marine area of nature conservation could be established in waters to the west of Scotland.
The Scottish Government wants to designate an area more than 10 times the size of Fife as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC).
Hatton Bank in the north-east Atlantic is around 310 miles west of Lewis and features a large volcanic bank which is home to a large variety of corals.
Ministers have submitted plans to the European Union for the designation of the area which is around 9,752 square miles (15,694 sq km).
It is one of five proposed SACs in waters to the west and north of Scotland, covering a total area larger than the Highlands region. The other areas are Anton Dohrn Seamount, East Rockall Bank, both in waters to the west of Scotland, Pobie Bank Reef, east of Shetland, and Solan Bank Reef, north of Cape Wrath.
All the sites, selected for their reef structures, are home to a colourful array of marine wildlife including sponges and cold water corals. The Pobie and Solan reefs are also home to harbour porpoise and grey and common seals.
Environment Secretary Richard Lochhead said: "It's our duty to protect this precious environment and these five SAC designations are a big step towards our commitments under the international Marine Protected Area networks.
"Underwater landscapes such as Hatton Bank and Anton Dohrn are stunning and unique places, with dramatic crevasses and reefs that are home to thousands of species. We need to ensure these sites are protected for the benefit of both the marine environment and future generations."
Marcus Yeo, chief executive of the Joint Nature Conservation Committee which is the UK's statutory nature conservation body, said the proposals are a "landmark submission" that would mean over a 12th of UK seas are within marine protected areas. It would be a "major step forwards in the conservation of our precious sea life".
He said: "These sites will protect substantial areas of colourful bedrock, stony and cold water coral reefs. People think that coral reefs are only found in exotic, tropical locations and don't realise that we have these fragile habitats right here on our doorstep as well."