Publication of Scotland Natural Capital Accounts: 2023

An Official Statistics Publication - Experimental Statistics

The Chief Statistician for Scotland has released figures for the Scotland Natural Capital Accounts 2023. This shows that the total value of natural assets that can be quantified  in Scotland is estimated to be £230 billion in 2019, representing 13% of the UK total. The total annual value to the Scottish economy of services derived from natural assets in Scotland is estimated to be £15 billion in 2019, 30% of the total UK annual value.

The Scotland Natural Capital Accounts 2023 covers 17 asset categories. Highlighted results are:

  • Air pollution removal was worth £145 million in avoided health impacts in 2019.
  • Health benefits from recreation had an annual value of £725 million in 2019.
  • 25,260 gigawatt hours (GWh) of renewable energy was generated in 2021, more than three times the 8,062 GWh generated in 2008.
  • Between 1990 and 2021, the extent of mountain, moorland and heath in Scotland decreased from 34% to 26%.
  • Oil and gas production in 2019 was valued at £12 billion, more than 99% of the total UK oil and gas value.
  • Carbon sequestration in 2019 had an estimated value of -£647 million. The negative value reflects that emissions of carbon dioxide (and other greenhouse gases) from land use is greater than the quantity which is being sequestered.

Natural Capital is the world’s stock of natural resources. This includes air, water, minerals and all living things. These natural resources provide us with a wide range of ‘ecosystem services’. These consist of provisioning services (such as renewable energy generation, extraction of fossil fuels and fish capture), regulating services (such as air pollution removal) and cultural services (such as tourism and recreation).Natural capital accounting seeks to provide a financial value on the goods and services provided by nature, to estimate the benefits which these natural assets provide to humanity (also known as “eco-system services”) drawing on guidelines developed by the United Nations.

Since 2019 the Scottish Government has contracted the Office for National Statistics to produce a report on the Scottish Natural Capital Accounts annually. These accounts report on the overall asset value and the annual value to the Scottish economy of 17 natural capital assets in Scotland. It is not possible to value all elements of natural capital, however the 17 assets now included represent an improvement on the 13 included in the 2022 accounts. The Natural Capital Accounts are labelled as Experimental Official Statistics to indicate that they are still in development.

The assets included in the current publication are:

  • Agricultural biomass
  • Timber
  •  Fish capture
  •  Water abstraction
  • Minerals
  •  Oil and gas
  •  Coal
  •  Renewables
  •  Carbon sequestration
  •  Noise mitigation
  •  Urban cooling
  • Number of hot days
  •  Air pollutant removal
  •  Health benefits from recreation
  •  Tourism and recreation
  •  Recreation
  •  Recreation and aesthetic value captured in house prices

Detailed description of what these assets are and the data sources are included in the report and methodology supporting document.

Due to data limitations, 2019 is the latest year for which the ONS can currently estimate an overall Scottish natural capital asset value. All values are expressed in 2021 prices.

The full statistical publication is available including data tables as supporting documents.

For the first time the Natural Capital Accounts have been published at the same time as the Natural Capital Asset Index (NCAI) produced by NatureScot. The NCAI is a non-monetary assessment of natural capital which complements the Natural Capital Accounts; a collaborative paper has been produced by Scottish Government and NatureScot “Recognising the Importance of Scotland's Natural Capital”. This paper is included as a supporting document.

Official statistics are produced in accordance with the Code of Practice for Statistics.


Media enquiries

Back to top