Protecting and enhancing Scotland’s natural assets

A photograph of trees in a Scottish forest

Key points:

  • Investment in Scotland’s natural assets – air, water, land and nature – will deliver a healthier and more prosperous Scotland.
  • Climate Change Adaptation Programme

High quality natural assets – like our water, air, soils and nature – are the cornerstones of our economy, culture and quality of life.

We will make regional land use plans for maximising the potential of every part of Scotland’s land to contribute to the fight against climate change.

The new, statutory, five‑year Climate Change Adaptation Programme will set out around 170 policies and proposals. It is centred on our communities, climate justice, the economy, infrastructure and supporting systems, our natural, coastal and marine environments and our international partnerships. The programme is designed to address priority risks for Scotland and a number of research projects to help us better understand the action we will need to take.

SEPA is supporting businesses to move beyond simply complying with environmental standards towards helping identify new opportunities which will generate innovation and investment.

Clean air is essential for our health, wellbeing and economic prosperity. We are carrying out a comprehensive review of ‘Cleaner Air for Scotland’ – Scotland’s air quality strategy – building on the progress made to date to ensure our air is of the highest quality.

We are protecting and improving our water environment through the River Basin Management Plans which will restore watercourses to a more natural condition, generating environmental and economic benefits including more opportunities for tourism and recreation.

We will seek opportunities to ensure that where possible various funding streams operate in tandem to achieve maximum benefits. SEPA’s Water Environment Fund delivers around 40 river improvement projects each year, opening up many hundreds of kilometres of river for migratory fish, bringing associated economic benefits. The Green Infrastructure Fund delivers some 15 projects across Scotland creating or enhancing around 140 hectares of greenspace in our towns and cities. The Central Green Scotland Network is a long term project, working with 19 local authorities to create green space across the central belt, estimated to deliver multiple benefits in excess of £6 billion over the next 35 years.

We will work with stakeholders to deliver the Living with Flooding two‑year action plan which promotes flood resilient repairs and property level flood protection.

We have held extensive discussions with a wide range of stakeholders on our proposals for the future of fisheries management. We are now developing that framework and will consult further on firm proposals which will help to protect our environment, support and grow local businesses and protect and strengthen the interests of rural communities. We will explore where these 3 funds can be brought together to optimise the benefits such projects can bring to urban communities, regenerating those most deprived areas and bringing both health and economic benefits.

Substantial investment has been made in improving our soil quality, through for example the Peatlands Action Fund, which restores degraded peatland so that it can store more carbon in future, with associated climate change benefits. And the Scottish Land Commission is working with SEPA to unlock potential growth by bringing vacant and derelict land back into economic use.

In 2018-19 we exceeded our target of planting 10,000 hectares of woodland every year. We will increase it by a further 50% by 2025. We have published a new Scottish Forestry Strategy setting out the long-term vision and objectives for forestry and woodlands, including in support of the forestry sector, which contributes £1 billion to the economy. We will publish an implementation plan to take forward delivery of the strategy.

Scotland planted 84% of the new woodland created in the UK in 2018-19 and we have exceeded our annual planting target of 10,000 hectares. In the coming year, we will seek to plant 12,000 hectares. We already have ambitious targets for tree planting which take us to 15,000 hectares by 2025. We anticipate accelerating progress towards that and setting increased targets beyond 2021. We will consult stakeholders on what is ambitious but also achievable.

The Cairngorms National Park, Loch Lomond & The Trossachs National Park and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh are playing a key role in supporting the strong growth in the tourism sector.

We are continuing to invest in our green infrastructure to support tourism growth, such as the National Walking and Cycling Network which is attracting more visitors and generating £85 million expenditure in the local economy.

Key resources:

Green Infrastructure Scotland

Central Scotland Green Network

Forestry Commission: Grants

Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA)