Invasive non-native species
Non-native species are those that have been introduced to a country, whether deliberately or accidentally, by humans.
Scotland has many non-native species but only a small number of these are invasive – meaning they cause damage to the environment, economy, and our health and lifestyles.
This can range from damaging forests or crops, to outcompeting and driving native species to extinction. It’s estimated that invasive non-native species may cost the Great British economy nearly up to £1.9 billion each year in direct costs, which may be as much as £200 million in Scotland alone.
We are working with partners across the UK to minimise the risk posed, and the negative impacts caused, by invasive non-native species in Scotland.
You can report the presence of an invasive non-native species in Scotland via the Scotland’s Environment web page on invasive non-native species.
To report a suspected marine invasive non-native species, you can email Marine Scotland: email@example.com. Further information on marine invasive non-native species can be found on Marine Scotland's page on INNS.
Tackling invasive species
Action to address non-native invasive species (INNS) is co-ordinated across Great Britain. We are working with partners across the whole of the UK, including Northern Ireland, to minimise the risk posed and the negative impacts caused by invasive non-native species in Scotland.
The GB Programme Board, comprising senior representatives from the three administrations and their agencies, gives strategic consideration of the threat of invasive non-native species across Great Britain.
The Board is supported by the independent Non-Native Species Secretariat. Much of the work carried out is led by The Great Britain Invasive Non-Native Species Strategy, which we relaunched in partnership with Defra and the Welsh Government in February 2023.
The strategy will complement our new Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, which recognises invasive non-native species as a major driver in biodiversity loss and sets out the actions we are pursuing to control and eradicate them.
We are also funding a number of large-scale projects to control invasive species through our Nature Restoration Fund as well as developing a range of measures aimed at tackling established INNS such as rhododendron, whose spread is a major threat to native woodlands, including Atlantic Rainforest.
We have set up the following groups in Scotland:
- the Non-Native Species Action Group, to ensure effective policy co-ordination and practical implementation in Scotland
- the Statutory Group on Non-Native Species, to oversee the use of new statutory powers and co-ordinate work between the statutory bodies with specific responsibilities for non-native species in Scotland
Legislation relating to invasive species
EU Regulation 1143/2014 was retained in Scots law under the European Union (Withdrawal) Act 2018. In Scotland, EU Regulation (1143/2014) was amended through the Invasive Non-native Species (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment etc.) Regulations 2020 to ensure operability following the UK’s exit from the EU. It applies to Scotland only.
The Invasive Non-native Species (EU Exit) (Scotland) (Amendment etc.) Regulations 2020 also amend the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
The Act (sections 14 to 14P) is the principal legislation dealing with non-native species in Scotland. It makes it illegal to release or allow to escape from captivity any animal to a place outwith its native range. It also makes it illegal to plants, or otherwise cause to grow, any plant in the wild at a place outwith its native range. However, in certain circumstances, licences may be issued under section 16 of the Act for releases or planting of species outwith their native range, for example during reintroduction projects. The Act also creates a number of offences relating to the keeping and sale of specified non-native animal and plant species and sets out the penalties for these offences.
We have produced a Non-Native Species Code of Practice which provides guidance for individuals, businesses and public bodies including farmers, landowners, crofters, managers of amenity land and woodland, gardeners boat owners and keepers of pets and other animals.