2019 Aggregate Minerals Survey for Scotland

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

National overview

Sales, consumption, and inter-regional flows of primary aggregates in Scotland are summarised in Tables 1 to 11. Permitted reserves of aggregates at 31 December 2019 by region are summarised in Tables 12 to 15. The numbers of planning applications for sites granted and refused permission to supply wholly, or in part, aggregate minerals, and the amount of mineral that these contained are summarised in Tables 16 to 26.


Total sales of primary aggregates produced in Scotland (Table 2, Table 3 and Map 2) were 20.78Mt in 2019 comprising 3.74 Mt (18%) of sand and gravel and 17.04Mt (82%) of crushed rock. Igneous rock[6] is by far the most important source of primary aggregates in Scotland, it accounted for 79% of total sales in 2019 (Figure 1).

Figure 1 Sales of primary aggregates in 2019 by mineral
Pie chart showing total sales of primary aggregate produced in Scotland by mineral type 

2% Crushed Rock  Sandstone 0.51 Mt 
1% Crushed Rock Limestone 0.17 Mt 
79% Crushed Rock Igneous/Metamorphic 16.36 Mt 
18 % Sand and Gravel 3.74 Mt

Following the cessation of the Annual Minerals Raised Inquiry (AMRI) in 2015 (after publication of the 2014 results), other independently reported figures on the sales of aggregates in Scotland are unavailable. By undertaking an annual survey of its members and then taking account of likely proportion of the aggregates market its members represent and trends in aggregates sales since 2014, the Mineral Products Association (MPA) reports estimated sales in Scotland in 2019 of 5.5Mt of sand and gravel and 23.8 Mt of crushed rock. When comparing with the MPA, the return rate for the 2019 Aggregate Minerals Survey for Scotland, based on sales tonnage, was 67% for sand and gravel and 71% for crushed rock respectively. The discrepancies between the two surveys and the level of non-responses in particular areas could be a significant limiting factor in drawing useful conclusions from the data.

Highland is by far the largest producing region at 7.5Mt, equivalent to 36% of total primary land-won aggregates sales in Scotland. West Central Scotland (4.5Mt, 22%) was the second largest source of land-won primary aggregates.

Within these totals, the sand and gravel, and crushed rock balance differs significantly. Highland accounted for the largest volume of crushed rock aggregate sales (7.2Mt, 42%), followed by West Central Scotland (3.5Mt, 20%). The large coastal quarry at Glensanda will significantly influence the figures in Highland. Of total sand and gravel sales, West Central Scotland (1.1Mt, 28%) and East Central Scotland (0.7Mt, 20%) accounted for the highest proportion.

Sales by end use

For the first time in an Aggregate Minerals Survey for Scotland, aggregates end use data were collected. These categories distinguish between aggregates uses and non-aggregates or ‘industrial’ uses, where the latter are associated with aggregates extraction. The survey covered only those sites that produced aggregates for sale, either as the principal or as an ancillary activity. Quarries extracting aggregate minerals solely for non-aggregate applications were not surveyed. The rationale for collecting some information on non-aggregates uses is that in certain circumstances the associated permitted reserves could alternatively be deployed to meet demand for aggregates.

Table 4 shows sales of primary aggregates (sand and gravel and crushed rock) grouped into broad end use product categories. Table 5 and Table 6 provide sales by product for land-won sand and gravel and crushed rock, respectively. End use figures should be treated with some caution. Although quarry operators will know what products they sell, they cannot always be sure what a product will ultimately be used for. In addition, not all operators provided a sales breakdown by end use, instead providing just a sales total. Such sales have been allocated to undifferentiated aggregate use. Care should, therefore, be taken in drawing conclusions from the data.

Of total sales of aggregate minerals in 2019, at least 22% were used as concreting aggregate and 18% as roadstone (coated as asphalt and uncoated), 21% were used for other construction uses, including fill, and 10% were used as other screened and graded aggregates. The remainder is split between building/asphalting sand, railway ballast and armourstone (e.g. for coastal defence) along with 22% of total sales which were not allocated to a specific end use (Figure 2).

Figure 2 Sales of primary aggregates in 2019 by end use
Pie chart showing sales of primary aggregate by end use. 

22% Undifferentiated aggregate use 4.55 Mt 
22% Coarse/fine concrete aggregate 4.53 Mt 
4% Building/asphalting sand 0.78 Mt 
7% Roadstone/gravel coated for asphalt 1.53 Mt 
11% Roadstone, uncoated 2.29 Mt 
10% Other screened and graded aggregate 2.15 Mt 
2% Railway Ballast 0.48 mt 
0% Arourstone and gabion stone 0.08 Mt 
21% Other Construction uses, including fill 4.4 Mt

For sand and gravel, concreting aggregate proved to be the largest product. It accounted for some 30% of sales for aggregates use. The other main products were other screened and graded gravels, sand suitable for use in mortar and sand and gravel for construction fill.

Crushed rock has a wider range of uses including as a source of both coarse and fine concrete aggregate (18%), and for other construction uses, including fill (23%). However, its main use is in road construction, both unbound (‘dry stone’), primarily for the foundations of roads and bound with either bitumen (to produce ‘coated roadstone’) or cement in the upper layers. Rocks with high skid resistant properties are required for the wearing course. Coated roadstone and dry stone represented the largest crushed rock aggregate use at 3.8Mt or 22% of total crushed rock sales. Of this total 1.5Mt was used as coated roadstone. Other smaller specialist uses, include railway track ballast and armourstone.

Sales from National Parks and other designated areas

National Parks and National Scenic Area cover 21% of the land area of Scotland. Of total sales of aggregates (sand and gravel and crushed rock) in Scotland, 1.7% (0.36Mt) was from these areas (Table 7). Total sales of aggregates from quarries associated with Sites of Special Scientific Interest were 0.39 Mt. Sales from sites associated with Green Belt were 1.1Mt.

Sales from sites with an end date of 2042

As noted previously, for the first time in an AM Survey for Scotland, the current end date of planning permissions for quarries contributing to the survey was collected. The Town and Country Planning (Minerals) Act 1981, re-enacted in the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997, made provision to impose an end-date on all planning permissions for mineral working which did not have a specified end-date. This was set at February 2042, sixty years after the power came into effect, by which time all investment in a minerals operation would have been recouped. As a result, a number of mineral permissions will all expire on the same day in 2042 (Figure 3). Many sites will by then have been worked out or nearly so, though some may still have reserves available. This will provide an opportunity to reconsider the future of working at these sites, judging them against the policies prevailing at that time.

While the end dates of planning permissions for quarries were collected as part of the survey, not all operators indicated the exact date planning permissions expired (instead indicating a year). Sales of aggregates from quarries with planning permissions due to expire in 2042 comprised 13% (0.5 Mt) of total sand and gravel sales and 20% (3.4Mt) of total crushed rock sales respectively.

Figure 3 Planning permission expiry dates for active quarries in 2019
Bar chart showing planning permission expiry dates for active quarries in 2019 

A number of planning permissions will expire on the same day in 2042.

Inter-regional flows

The AMsurveys are the only published source of information on sales of aggregates by destination. The regions used are listed in AppendixE and shown on Map 1. Map 4 and Map 5 illustrate the pattern of inter-regional flows for sand and gravel, and crushed rock aggregates, respectively. The statistical results of the destination survey are presented in Table 8 and Table 9. Quarry operators cannot always be sure of where their products will be sold, particularly for instances where customers ‘collect’ sales directly from the quarry. Consequently, it has not been possible to allocate all sales of primary aggregates to definite destinations. ‘Unallocated’ sales of unknown destination were 0.85Mt (4% of total sales). The inter-regional flow information is used to calculate consumption data and unallocated sales thus have the effect of reducing total consumption.

Two of the largest crushed rock producing regions in Scotland, Highland and the Ayrshire Authorities[7], have the largest exports representing 85% (6.1Mt) and 55% (1.2Mt) of their respective total crushed rock sales. Again, the Highland figures will be strongly influenced by Glensanda which dominates exports. The main importing region was West Central Scotland (1.0Mt), mainly from the Ayrshire Authorities.

Flows of sand and gravel were around one fifth the level of crushed rock. The leading exporter of sand and gravel was East Central Scotland (0.35Mt), principally to the Forth Valley.

Total exports of land-won primary aggregates from Scotland were 6.3Mt in 2019. Overall, exports to England from Scottish quarries were nearly 2.5 Mt. These exports were predominately crushed rock from Highland with smaller contributions from sites in other regions. At 61%, the largest proportion of the 6.1Mt crushed rock exports from Highland was to Mainland Europe (3.7 Mt) followed by England at 39% (2.4Mt).

Table 10 shows the principal mode of transport employed for the distribution of aggregates sales (for the majority of the journey) from quarries and wharves. Overall, road accounted for 68% of all aggregates moved.


Aggregate Mineralsurveys are the only comprehensive measurement of apparent consumption of primary aggregates by region. Apparent consumption figures (Table 11 and Map 3) are calculated from data on sales within each home region, plus imports from other regions. The difference between the data for total sales and consumption is because Scotland is a net exporter of aggregates. Unallocated sales also have the effect of reducing consumption. Some caution should be used in interpreting consumption figures as they are calculated from the principal destination of aggregates flows. Final sales may be to other regions if the product is then distributed further.

Total apparent consumption of primary aggregates was 13.7Mt in 2019. Total unallocated sales of unknown destination (and therefore not able to be included in the calculation of apparent consumption) were 0.85Mt in 2019. Total consumption would also be higher because it includes imports from outside Scotland (e.g. minor amounts from England and Wales as reported by the corresponding survey (see footnote 2 on page 1) totalling 0.08 Mt). Taking into account unallocated sales and imports from England and Wales, the total consumption of primary aggregates in Scotland was about 14.6Mt in 2019. West Central Scotland at 5.1Mt was the largest consuming region, followed by East Central Scotland (2.6Mt).

Figure 4 Consumption of primary aggregates in 2019 by mineral
Pie chart showing consumption of primary aggregates in 2019 by Mineral 

Total Consumption 14. 6 Mt 
6% Unallocated sales 0.85 Mt 
0% Imports crushed rock 0.05 Mt 
0% Imports sand and gravel 0.03 Mt 
22% Sand and Gravel 3.2 Mt 
72% Crushed Rock 10.47 Mt


Table 12 and Map 6 summarise reserves of primary aggregates with valid planning permissions at 31 December 2019 in active and inactive sites (otherwise known as ‘permitted reserves’). Data for inactive sites distinguishes between sites worked in the past (prior to 2019), but still containing permitted reserves, and sites where planning permission has been granted but extraction has not yet begun. As with previous surveys, reserves in sites classified as ‘Dormant’ under the terms of the Environment Act 1995 re-enacted in the Town and Country Planning (Scotland) Act 1997 were excluded from the survey. Dormant sites cannot be worked until new schemes of conditions have been determined and, therefore, do not contain ‘permitted reserves’.

At the end of 2019, total permitted reserves in active and inactive sites in Scotland for aggregates use were 1298Mt of which crushed rock accounted for 95% (1229Mt); sand and gravel accounted for the remaining 5% (69Mt) (Figure 5).

Figure 5 Reserves of primary aggregates in 2019 by mineral
Pie chart showing reserves of primary aggregate in 2019 by mineral 

Total reserves 1298 Mt 
1% Crushed Rock sandstone 17 Mt
1% Crushed rock limestone 5 Mt 
5% Sand and gravel 69 Mt 
93 Crushed rock igneous/metamorphic 93%

Sand and gravel reserves are much smaller in relation to average annual land-won sales (equivalent to about 18 years output in 2019) than crushed rock reserves, which are usually measured in terms of several decades (72 years in 2019). Of total permitted reserves, 96% (1243Mt) were in active sites. Crushed rock accounted for 96% and sand and gravel the remaining 4% of reserves in active sites.

Total permitted reserves in inactive sites were 56Mt, of which 53Mt were in sites worked in the past and only 3Mt in sites yet to be worked (greenfield sites).

Some 58% of all permitted reserves were located in Highland (compared with 36% of total sales), 12% in West Central Scotland (compared with 22% of total sales), and 11% in North East Scotland (compared with 8% of total sales). These three regions also accounted for a significant proportion of total crushed rock reserves (750Mt or 61%, 137Mt or 11%, and 140Mt or 11% respectively).

East Central Scotland was the region with the highest level of sand and gravel reserves (31.6Mt) equivalent to 46% of the sand and gravel total. With 15.8Mt, equivalent to 23% of the sand and gravel total, West Central Scotland also accounted for a significant proportion of sand and gravel reserves. Between them, these two regions accounted for 69% of all sand and gravel reserves.

Reserves in National Parks and other designated areas

Reserves of aggregates in active and inactive sites within National Parks and National Scenic Areas amounted to 4% (5.2Mt) of total reserves. Reserves of aggregates in quarries associated with Sites of Special Scientific Interest were 13.3 Mt while reserves in quarries associated with Green Belt were 39.7Mt.

Reserves in sites with an end date of 2042

Of total permitted reserves of sand and gravel, 9% (5.9Mt) were in quarries with a planning permission end date falling in 2042. Approximately 24% (291.5Mt) of total crushed rock reserves were held in sites with planning permissions that are currently due to expire in 2042.


Email: Robert.Souter@gov.scot

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