Heterogeneous sequences of exhumed fault rocks preserve a record of the long-term evolution of fault strength and deformation behaviour during prolonged tectonic activity. Along the Outer Hebrides Fault Zone (OHFZ) in NW Scotland, numerous pseudotachylytes record palaeoseismic slip events within sequences of mylonites, cataclasites and phyllonites. To date, the kinematics and controls on seismicity within the long active history of the OHFZ have been poorly constrained. Additional uncertainties over the relative location of a meteorite impact and possible pre-OHFZ brittle faulting also complicate interpretation of the diffuse seismic record. We present kinematic analyses of seismicity in the OHFZ, combining observations of offset markers, en echelon injection veins and injection vein geometry to reconstruct slip directions and stress fields. This new dataset indicates that a range of fault orientations, slip directions and slip senses hosted seismicity in the OHFZ. Such complexity requires several stress field orientations, in contrast with the NW–SE Caledonian compression traditionally attributed to frictional melting along the OHFZ, indicating that seismicity had a long-term presence across the fault zone. Persistence of strong frictional failure alongside the simultaneous development of weak fault rocks and phyllonitic shear zones in parts of the OHFZ has significant implications for understanding seismic hazard along mature continental faults.

Supplementary material: Tables listing analysed orientation measurements plus further information and sensitivity testing of palaeostress analysis parameters are available at https://doi.org/10.6084/m9.figshare.c.5134797

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