The rapid development of the offshore renewable energy sector has led to an increased requirement for Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and, increasingly, this is carried out in the context of the 'ecosystem approach' (EA) to management. We demonstrate a novel method to facilitate implementation of the EA. Using a real-time interactive mapping device (touch-table) and stakeholder workshops we gathered data and facilitated negotiation of spatial trade-offs at a potential site for tidal renewable energy off the Mull of Kintyre (Scotland). Conflicts between the interests of tidal energy developers and commercial and recreational users of the area were identified, and use preferences and concerns of stakeholders were highlighted. Social, cultural and spatial issues associated with conversion of common pool to private resource were also revealed. The method identified important gaps in existing spatial data and helped to fill these through interactive user inputs. The workshops developed a degree of consensus between conflicting users on the best areas for potential development suggesting that this approach should be adopted during MSP. © 2012 Alexander et al.