2019 Aggregate Minerals Survey for Scotland

Collation of the results of the 2019 Aggregate Minerals Survey for Scotland


Aggregate Minerals (AM) surveys provide an in-depth and up-to-date understanding of national and regional sales, inter-regional flows, transportation, consumption and permitted reserves of primary aggregates. The AM Survey for Scotland aims to provide comprehensive data for monitoring and facilitating aggregates provision at local, regional and national level. The output is used mainly by Government, Planning Authorities, industry and environmental interest groups. The surveys are used to inform the development of minerals policy in respect to the production, movement and consumption of aggregates.

The last Aggregate Minerals Survey for Scotland was undertaken for the base year 2012[1]. This report is the collation of the data for primary aggregates for 2019, with the survey process occurring during 2022. The choice of gathering survey data for 2019 was deliberately made to avoid the calendar years 2020 and 2021, where quarries and their customers were operating under varying degrees of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions. This approach was agreed with Mineral Products Association (MPA) and the British Aggregates Association (BAA). Choosing either of these years would have arguably distorted the results. The choice of 2019 also provided consistency with the equivalent survey in England and Wales[2].

In addition to presenting information on sales, consumption, and permitted reserves of primary aggregates, information is also presented on the quantity of aggregate minerals granted and refused planning permission in 2019 (Appendix A).

Information was collected from aggregates producers (reserves, sales and sales by destination) and Planning Authorities (planning permissions) using standard survey forms (Appendix B). The information submitted via these forms was collated by the British Geological Survey (BGS) on behalf of the Scottish Government.

The BGS (Appendix C) was commissioned in December 2021 by the Scottish Government to implement the survey and to collate and report the results. The survey was overseen by a steering group, which included representatives of the Scottish Government and the aggregates industry (AppendixD). A glossary of terms and abbreviations is provided as AppendixE.

New geographical areas for collating returns were put in place for the current survey (AppendixF). These areas aim to support development planning policy while also recognising the difficulties of defining market areas in a country like Scotland with considerable variation in population density and geology. The intention is to provide the statistics necessary to inform the planning process without breaching commercial confidentiality. The unavoidable changes to the market areas used for the 2019 AM Survey for Scotland prevent direct comparison of regional information with previous surveys.

Policy background

Aggregates are needed for the construction of transport and renewable energy infrastructure, housing and other buildings that are a vital part of the Scottish Government's infrastructure investment plans for the future. Adopted in February 2023, the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) details the long term planning strategy for Scotland to 2045. In terms of minerals, NPF4 sets out planning policies which ensure that a steady supply of construction aggregates is maintained to meet the needs of society and the economy in an acceptable and sustainable manner[3].

NPF4 requires those preparing local development plans to adopt a landbank approach to planning for the supply of construction aggregates. This approach is intended to ensure that a stock of reserves, with planning permission, is maintained to ensure adequate supplies of construction aggregates. Those preparing local development plans are required through NPF4 to maintain a landbank of permitted reserves equivalent to a minimum of 10 years supply at all times.

The most important sources for primary aggregates in Scotland are crushed rock (from igneous rock, sandstone and limestone) and sand and gravel. The British Geological Survey's Mineral Planning Factsheet: Construction Aggregates, provides further information on the supply and demand of aggregates in the UK[4].

The results of the 2019 AM Survey for Scotland will be used:

  • to inform all stakeholders of the current state of aggregates supply;
  • by Planning Authorities to monitor the supply of aggregates in the local area;
  • as a source of contextual data with respect to planning applications for the extraction of aggregates; and
  • to support the evidence base for the development of a Scottish Aggregates Levy[5].

The 2019 Aggregate Minerals Survey

The results were collected using two standard inquiry forms, Form A for quarry operators and Form B for Planning Authorities (AppendixA). Form A was prepared in consultation with the Mineral Products Association and the British Aggregates Association. Quarry operators were, however, also provided with the option of submitting data via an Excel version of the survey form. This option was generally utilised by multi-site operators as it simplified the process of submitting survey returns.

Form A sought information on sales by end use, sales by destination (region) and transport method, and permitted reserves of primary aggregates. It was forwarded to the following sites for completion by operators/owners:

  • all active quarries producing land-won primary aggregates at some time during 2019, either as a principal activity or as a subsidiary activity, such as a by-product of building stone or ancillary to silica sand extraction;
  • inactive sites, either worked in the past prior to 2019 or yet to be worked (greenfield), that contain permitted reserves of aggregates.

The survey results present data for 131 quarries, of which 22 were inactive in 2019, although worked in the past, and two sites which had yet to be worked. Of the 107 active quarries surveyed, 66 were for crushed rock and 41 for sand and gravel. According to BGS records, there were 237 active aggregates quarries in Scotland in 2019. Therefore the response rate for the survey by active quarries was 45%.

Sales and distribution data relate to 2019 and the permitted reserves were estimated at 31December 2019. The information is presented by market areas defined by the Scottish Government for the survey using Planning Authority (PA) boundaries that were applicable as at 31 December 2019. The PAs comprising the market areas are shown on Map 1 and are also listed in AppendixE.

For the first time, an attempt was made to collect systematic information on aggregates sales and reserves in statutorily designated areas. The relatively small number of sites involved has created difficulties in publishing data because of commercial confidentiality considerations. Therefore, totals for all aggregates (sand and gravel and crushed rock combined) for Scotland by relevant designations are presented in the commentary only.

Apart from National Parks and National Scenic Areas, designated areas are not mutually exclusive. For example, Special Areas of Conservation (SACs) and Special Protection Areas (SACs) are also Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) and all may occur in National Parks, National Scenic Areas and Green Belts. Consequently the different categories cannot be totalled. Further, some designations, notably SSSIs, may only coincide with a small part of an extant planning permission. However, the total sales and reserve for the mineral working are recorded even though there may be no extraction within the designation. The degree of overlap, and the actual or potential impacts of mineral extraction on the conservation interest of the site will vary and are not reflected in the figures. Care should be taken, therefore, in interpreting the information.

Also for the first time, the survey collected the current planning permission end-date for all sites.

Form B sought information on the numbers of aggregate mineral planning applications granted or refused planning permission in 2019 and the quantity of mineral contained within these permissions or applications. FormB was completed by individual PAs. This survey provides valuable information on the extent that permitted reserves of primary aggregates are being supplemented by new permissions and, in combination with the sales data, the extent that reserves are being depleted.

While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of the figures presented in this report, neither the Scottish Government or the BGS can be held responsible for any errors contained in the raw data from which this collation is derived.


Email: Robert.Souter@gov.scot

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