Policy actions  4 of 4

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 those count as 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 up to £2 billion each year across Great Britain, which might 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.

To report a suspected marine invasive non-native species, please visit the NatureScot website for more information or email Marine Non-Native Species

Tackling invasive species

Action to address non-native invasive species is coordinated across Great Britain.

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 launched in partnership with Defra and the Welsh Assembly Government in 2015.

We have set up the following two 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 coordinate work between the statutory bodies with specific responsibilities for non-native species in Scotland

Legislation relating to invasive species

The Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 enabled Scotland to adopt the internationally recognised three-stage approach to dealing with invasive non-native species, which aims to:

  • prevent the release and spread of non-native animal and plant species into areas where they can cause damage to native species and habitats and to economic interests
  • ensure a rapid response to new populations can be undertaken
  • ensure effective control and eradication measures can be carried out when problem situations arise

The Act set out a general no-release approach and made it a criminal offense to:

  • release or allow to escape from captivity any animal to a place outwith its native range
  • release or allow to escape any other animal specified in an order made by Scottish ministers
  • cause any animal outwith the control of any person to be at place outwith its native range
  • plant or otherwise cause to grow any plant in the wild outwith its native range

Secondary legislation

Scottish Ministers have powers to:

  • put additional restrictions on the release of invasive species
  • make exceptions to prohibition to release
  • prohibit the keeping of invasive animals and plants
  • require the notification of specified invasive animals and plants
  • prohibit the sale of invasive animals or plants
  • set out measures that must be taken to control or eradicate an invasive species

They have made the following Orders relating to release, keeping, and notification:


We have produced a non-native species code of practice setting out how owners of non-native species should act responsibly within the law to avoid causing harm to the environment.

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