Publication - Consultation analysis

Developing an environment strategy for Scotland: analysis of responses to online discussion

Published: 16 Feb 2019
Directorate:
Environment and Forestry Directorate
Part of:
Environment and climate change
ISBN:
9781787815889

Independent analysis of responses to our June to August 2018 online discussion that sought views to help inform the development of an Environment Strategy for Scotland.

66 page PDF

1.4 MB

66 page PDF

1.4 MB

Contents
Developing an environment strategy for Scotland: analysis of responses to online discussion
Outcomes

66 page PDF

1.4 MB

Outcomes

Introduction

3.1 This chapter presents analysis of responses to the six draft outcomes put forward by the Scottish Government. It describes the discussion question, number of responses, breakdown of responses by individuals and type of organisation and the nature of any general comments across the outcomes. This is followed by detailed summaries of the responses to each specific outcome, along with suggested amendments to the draft wording. A sample of quotes that typify the views expressed by respondents in relation to the outcomes is included in Appendix 3.

Online discussion question

3.2 The second question in the discussion document asked participants for their views on six draft outcomes that underpin the vision set out in the strategy document:

1. We are a climate leader and play our full role in limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C.

2. We are a zero waste, resource efficient nation.

3. Our biodiversity is protected and enhanced, supporting health ecosystems.

4. Our air, freshwater, seas and soils are of excellent quality.

5. Everyone can access, enjoy and connect with nature.

6. The global footprint of our consumption and production is sustainable.

3.3 Almost all (93 discussion participants) provided a response to this question. Many shared general comments across the six outcomes, some participants made detailed comments in response to each outcome and a few only responded to specific outcomes. Some respondents combined these approaches, sharing general comments and detailed feedback on particular themes.

3.4 The chart below shows the number of responses to specific outcomes by participant type. It shows some variation in frequency of responses, depending on the issue. For example, the outcome on biodiversity garnered more comments from membership organisations than any other outcome; local authorities had a slightly higher response rate to outcomes 2 (waste) and 6 (global footprint).

Chart: Number of Responses to Specific Outcomes by Participant Groups

General comments about the outcomes

3.5 Many participants made general comments that apply across the six draft outcomes. Themes in these responses included:

  • Expressions of broad support for the outcomes proposed.
  • Requests for greater specificity in the language used to describe outcomes, for example ‘What does ‘excellent’ and ‘sustainable’ in outcomes 4 and 6 mean?’ [Scottish Borders Council]
  • Calls for greater detail and/or information about outcome measurements, specifically:
    • The actions and resources that will underpin how outcomes are achieved.
    • Clear timescales to measure progress towards the achievement of outcomes, including milestones, targets and review points.
    • A framework to establish the governance and accountability.
    • Calls for an economic impact assessment.
  • Inclusion of additional outcomes and/or greater reference to the following issues within existing outcomes, namely:
    • Landscape.
    • Land use.
    • Inequalities.
    • Scotland’s global commitments to realising the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

3.6 Reflecting across responses, it was evident that material within the discussion document had been overlooked by some participants. For example, a small number suggested the document lacked reference to something that was covered in another section of the discussion paper. In some cases, there were explicit or implicit calls for aspects of the strategy to be restructured. Examples include requesting certain outcomes to be referenced in the vision statement or asking for outcomes to be merged or distilled into separate elements.

3.7 A few participants commented more widely on the draft outcomes. Their observations included:

  • A perception that people might take the numbering to signify priorities assigned to each outcome.
  • A suggestion that it would be helpful to clarify the interrelationship between outcomes by differentiating between those that are ‘state outcomes’ (describing the desired state of the biosphere) and those which are ‘activity outcomes’ (describing how people interact with the biosphere). 
  • Stated preferences about the hierarchy of outcomes: several suggested that outcome 6 (global footprint) underpinned all other ambitions; a small number felt that outcome 3 (biodiversity) was the founding block of Scotland’s environmental goals; others suggested that outcome 5 (connection with nature) was most important.
  • Requests for clarity about the links between outcomes, the overall vision and other national strategies and pieces of legislation. These included calls for the delivery of a National Ecological Network, and consideration of the connection between this strategy and Scotland’s Forestry Strategy 2019-2029.

3.8 Examples of participants’ reflections across the draft outcomes include:

It is clear that outcomes 3 and 4 are “state outcomes” - that is, outcomes that describe the desired state of the biosphere; while the remaining for are “activity outcomes” – describing how we (as the population of Scotland) interact with that biosphere.  It may be appropriate, for the better understanding and presentation of the outcomes as well as to enable monitoring, for this to be made clearer. [RSPB]

There is the potential for some of the outcomes to be interrelated, e.g. if this outcome [Biodiversity] includes increasing blue/ green infrastructure this could help achieve outcomes under 2 [Zero Waste] and 5 [Connection with Nature]. [Aberdeen City Council]

LIS finds this list of draft outcomes to be too general and recommend that they be more specific and SMART, and as numbered bullets tends to suggest a hierarchy of intentions, would therefore suggest using bullet points without numbers. If there is to be hierarchy intended then surely 5) & 3) need to be at the top of this list for this Strategy? [Landscape Institute Scotland]

Responses to Outcome 1: We are a climate leader and play our full role in limiting global temperature rise to well below 2°C

Introduction and overview

3.9 This outcome ranked third in terms of the number of comments received. Roughly a quarter of all online discussion participants - a total of 25 respondents - made detailed comments on outcome 1. This group comprised 8 environmental charities, 5 individuals, 5 membership organisations, 4 local authorities/public sector organisations, 2 businesses and 1 environmental research group.

3.10 Responses were generally concise, albeit a few longer responses from organisations such as the Mineral Products Association, which included examples and detailed considerations of some of the changes inherent in achieving this outcome.

3.11 Almost all respondents welcomed the intention to limit global warming. Some called for the Scottish Government to be more ambitious; and many requested greater clarity about aspects of this outcome. Several highlighted other relevant issues that they would like to see referenced in the outcome. A few participants provided examples of ongoing efforts to limit increases in global temperatures; some shared their fears about what might happen if Scotland does not achieve this goal.

Scotland as a climate change leader

3.12 A small number of participants noted that this outcome will help to position Scotland as a climate change leader and support international efforts to collaborate on issues related to global temperature increases.

3.13 Several respondents welcomed the ambition for Scotland to be a climate leader; one urged the Scottish Government to clarify the intention behind this term. One respondent criticized the reference to leadership, noting ‘it doesn’t matter about being a “climate leader” focus on the 2-degree limit and not the status you seem to crave’ [Individual].

3.14 One respondent suggested a small change to the wording of the outcome, to reinforce the notion of this being a national commitment: ‘Outcome 1 would be strengthened by changing the wording to read “We are a climate leader committed to playing our full role in limiting global temperature rise to well below 2 °C”’ [Transition Edinburgh].

The temperature change goal

3.15 A key theme across responses were concerns that the 2-degree temperature limit specified in this outcome was too high.  Many suggested that Scotland should be more ambitious; often advocating for committing to a limit of 1.5 degrees. Some of those who suggested this revision suggested that specific mention of the Paris Agreement[5] should be included within the outcome.

3.16 Linked to the above, many respondents suggested that the term ‘well below’ 2 degrees was too fluid. They called for a specific target in relation to temperature, that progress can be measured against.

3.17 A few participants called for the inclusion of a timeframe for the achievement of this outcome. In comments about long term goals, some urged the Scottish Government to go further and commit to a net zero greenhouse gas target for 2050.

3.18 A small number of individual respondents suggested that the 2-degree temperature limit put forward is unrealistic and/or unachievable. In these comments they either disagreed with the notion of human contributions to global temperature rises or suggested the issue is beyond Scotland’s control. ‘It's almost surreal and delusional that any group of people or government can envisage that they can somehow control or regulate the world climate temperature against colossal cosmic forces.  There is actually no direct evidence that any by-product of man including CO2 alter the climate in any way, CO2 levels are driven by mainly ocean warming or cooling, which is regulated by jet stream and geological forces including underwater volcanoes, which heat the seas’ [Individual].

3.19 Others felt that the global temperature rise is likely to be higher and urged the Scottish Government to reflect this constraint in the draft outcome. For example, ‘Better to say "minimise" or "trying to limit...’ [Individual].

3.20 Some respondents asked for more detail in the outcome statement. Suggested additions included:

  • Mention of the need for climate adaptation.
  • Descriptions of actions that will lesson global temperature rises.

Efforts to limit global temperature increases

3.21 A few participants took the opportunity to describe how their organisation contributes to Scotland’s achievement of the outcome, for example:

Amongst our varied roles and responsibilities as lead public body for the historic environment, we are identified as a ‘major player’ in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. We carry out our duties in respect of this by implementing our Climate Change Action Plan 2012–2017 and to support this we carry out a range of activities such as research into energy efficiency improvements in a range of traditional building types and the impact of climate change and risks to the historic environment; including dissemination of information, and by providing guidance and training to stakeholders in the historic environment sector. [Historic Environment Scotland]

3.22 A small number of participants described their fears about the consequences of not achieving Outcome 1:

Even with urgent emissions reductions, Scotland’s climate will continue to change, presenting challenges across all sectors, including our land, air and water, and affecting the ability to achieve the other outcomes. [Climate Ready Clyde]

Responses to Outcome 2: We are a zero waste, resource efficient nation

Introduction and overview

3.23 This outcome ranked second in terms of the number of comments from respondents. Just over a quarter of all online discussion participants - a total of 26 respondents - commented on outcome 2. This group comprised 6 environmental charities, 6 local authorities/public sector organisations, 5 individuals, 5 membership organisations, 2 businesses and 2 environmental research groups.

3.24 Responses to this outcome were concise, averaging approximately 200 words.  They ranged from a one-word answer from an individual to a long response from Historic Environment Scotland which included references to relevant duties, strategies and sources of evidence.

3.25 Most discussion participants welcomed the ambition to become a zero waste nation (see 3.27). Some supported the outcome without qualification, for example ‘this is particularly appropriate to Scotland, fitting into what is already an agenda of rising importance’ [WSP].

3.26 Other themes across responses included requests for greater clarity about aspects of this outcome (see 3.29). Some advocated for expansion of the outcome to encompass other goals linked to resource efficiency (see 3.30).

3.27 A few organisations commented on examples of efforts to increase resource efficiency (see 3.31). Some reflected on how to achieve the outcome, highlighting inefficiencies in Scotland to address (see 3.28).

Ambition

3.28 The ambitious nature of this outcome was frequently commented on. Several participants commended the Scottish Government for this goal, for example ‘a significant statement of intent which positions Scotland amongst global leaders’ [James Hutton Institute]. Others expressed doubts that it can be achieved, through comments such as ‘we are a long way from it’ [Mountaineering Scotland], ‘surely its more realistic to talk about reducing waste to a minimum? [Individual]’ and the suggested revision ‘committed to moving towards a zero waste future’ [Scottish Borders Council].

3.29 Respondents provided numerous suggestions on how Scotland can achieve Outcome 2.  These included:

  • Incentives to utilise resources more efficiently.
  • Monitoring current waste levels.
  • Encouraging the adoption of circular economy principles.
  • Promoting resource efficient practices within specific industries (in particular, construction).
  • Increased provision of recycling facilities.
  • Efforts to encourage behavioural change among businesses and the wider public.
  • Legislation to change production methods and reduce emissions.
  • New procurement practices.

Comments on Waste

3.30 Some participants called for greater clarity and definition of the waste covered by this outcome, for example ‘Zero Waste needs defined. Do we actually mean "Zero useful waste?”’ [Individual]. In calling for clarity, one respondent highlighted conflicts between ‘what is described as waste, what is avoidable waste and indeed what can be done with that waste’ [Quality Meat Scotland].

3.31 A few respondents asked for the outcome to ‘go beyond waste’, specifically:

  • Several participants called for the outcome to include a commitment to a circular economy.
  • One respondent asked the Scottish Government to incorporate a carbon-neutral ambition within the outcome.
  • Another requested that the outcome include mention of pollution reduction.

3.32 A small number of respondents comment on efforts to reduce waste. For example, ‘it is encouraging to see the example set by the Scottish Parliament in withdrawing plastic drinking straws from its bars and restaurants, and that of the Scottish Government in banning single-use cups from its buildings. We note that local authorities (such as The Highland Council) are phasing out single-use plastics from its sites, including schools and council buildings’ [Environmental Protection Scotland].

Links between outcomes

3.33 Some participants highlighted the connection between the themes of Outcome 2 (resource efficiency) and Outcome 6 (global footprint), through comments such as ‘this has implications for Outcome 6, too’ [West Lothian Council].

Responses to Outcome 3: Our biodiversity is protected and enhanced, supporting healthy ecosystems

Introduction and overview

3.34 The biodiversity outcome drew the largest number of comments from respondents. Just under a third of all respondents - 30 participants - responded to this outcome, comprising 10 environmental charities, 9 membership bodies, 4 individuals, 4 local authorities and other public sector organisations, 2 businesses and 1 environmental research organisation.

3.35 Responses were generally concise.  The range included short answers such as ‘We agree with this outcome. This requires a lot of coordination across various organisations, the public and the development industry’ [Aberdeen City Council], to longer responses from organisations such as Scottish Environment LINK, which included examples, references to relevant strategies and key sources of evidence.

3.36 Most discussion participants welcomed the ambition to protect and enhance Scotland’s biodiversity and support healthy ecosystems. One suggested that the outcome be reframed to establish healthy ecosystems as the director for biodiversity, asking that the wording be revised as follows: ‘By protecting, restoring and enhancing our ecosystems, our biodiversity can flourish’ [Scottish Wildlife Trust].

Comments on protecting and enhancing biodiversity

3.37 Themes of support typically focused on references to protection and enhancement being welcomed; a small number of respondents also asked for the Scottish Government to incorporate a commitment to restoration.

3.38 Other themes across responses included calls for the Scottish Government to be more ambitious and requests for greater clarity about aspects of this outcome.

3.39 Some highlighted changes that they believe would need to be introduced to achieve this outcome. These included:

  • The establishment of a National Ecological Network.
  • A greater focus on soil quality and maintenance, with consideration of agricultural land and forestry.
  • An emphasis within the education system on nature and biology.
  • More support for organic agriculture and agroecological approaches, for example investment in and incentivising these practices.

3.40 A few highlighted specific challenges associated with achieving this outcome, describing interactions between protected species and potential threats, such as biosecurity and chemical contamination.

Links between outcomes

3.41 A few respondents identified links between outcome 3 (biodiversity), outcome 4 (quality of Scotland’s air, freshwater, seas and soils) and outcome 6 (global footprint). Scottish Wildlife Trust suggested that ‘the existing outcome has ecosystem health and biodiversity the wrong way around: ecosystem health is a condition of biodiversity protection and recovery’.

Responses to Outcome 4: Our air, freshwater, seas and soils are of excellent quality

Introduction and overview

3.42 This outcome received the fewest number of comments.  Just over a fifth of all online discussion  participants - a total of 20 respondents – commented specifically on outcome 4. This group comprised 5 environmental charities, 5 local authorities/public sector organisations, 4 membership organisations, 3 individuals, 2 businesses and 1 environmental research group.

3.43 Responses were generally concise, with some fuller consideration of the outcomes provided by larger organisations. Most respondents welcomed the ambition for excellent quality in Scotland’s air, freshwater, seas and soils; a few highlighted the value of a combined approach to this outcome, for example ‘the attempt to join up land, freshwater and coastal policy is welcomed’ [Scottish Land and Estates]; others suggested that these elements are too diverse to group together.

Comments on quality and other aspects to include in this outcome

3.44 Several respondents called for greater definition of what is meant by ‘quality’, for example: ‘clearly define “excellent quality” in the context of ecosystem health’ [Transition 2050].

3.45 One respondent welcomed the focus of this outcome, noting ‘it was good to see a specific reference to the quality of these natural capital assets’ [WSP]. Several respondents called for greater clarity about aspects of this outcome and a few highlighted other relevant issues to consider. A few participants explained why this outcome is of particular interest or relevance to their organisation.

3.46 Across responses the following additions were suggested:

  • The inclusion of land and trees.
  • Integration with agricultural policies.
  • Mention of water scarcity.
  • Consideration of economic benefits that will arise if this outcome is achieved.
  • Staying attuned to the unintended consequences of evolving social behaviour that might affect the quality of Scotland’s environment.
  • A commitment to keeping Scotland free from pollution.

How to achieve Outcome 4

3.47 A few respondents identified far reaching, cross sectoral changes that connect to this outcome. These included ‘monitoring substances of known concern, but also emerging contaminants’ [Fidra], ‘agriculture and land uses that will help make a positive contribution’ [Agricultural Industries Confederation], ‘changes in farming and fisheries practice’ [BioBags Scotland Ltd], and ‘the development, testing and application of natural capital assessment methods’ [WSP].

Links between outcomes

3.48 A small number of respondents commented on the links between outcome 4 (quality) and outcome 3 (biodiversity), for example ‘healthy soil and freshwater systems depend on functioning biodiversity’ [James Hutton Institute].

3.49 One participant advocated for the quality of the marine environment be considered in its own right: ‘We suggest that the marine environment is of such significance to Scotland that it should be the focus of its own outcome’ [National Trust for Scotland].

Responses to Outcome 5: Everyone can access, enjoy and connect with nature

Introduction and overview

3.50 This outcome ranked joint fourth in terms of the number of comments received. Just under a quarter of all online discussion participants - a total of 24 respondents - commented specifically on outcome 5. This group comprised 5 individuals, 5 environmental charities, 5 local authorities/public sector organisations, 4 membership organisations, 3 businesses and 2 environmental research groups.

3.51 This outcome was welcomed by all online discussion participants.

3.52 Responses were generally concise.  The range included short answer such as ‘Yes. It is very noticeable that the NHS has taken the measures on board and are promoting 'healthy lifestyles' in acute medical delivery centres’ [Individual]. Longer responses typically came from organisations such as The Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance, which included examples of current relevant initiatives and discussed the implications of achieving this outcome, particularly in relation to social inequality.

Comments on this outcome

3.53 The feedback on this outcome was strongly positive.  A common theme in responses related to the notion of access. Many access barriers were identified, such as lack of transport, knowledge about the outdoors and familiarity with spending time in nature. Often these comments included reference to social and economic inequalities. For example: ‘within the strategy there should be recognition that education and awareness have important roles to fulfil in building knowledge of, and appreciation of, the environment’ [Game and Wildlife Conservation Trust]. Other examples include ‘the proximity of natural and green spaces to where people live is unequally distributed, with those in most deprived areas worse off, both in terms of quality and access to the environment’ [OPENSpace research centre].

3.54 Several participants highlighted the social and wellbeing impacts of this outcome, for example ‘taking advantage of the outdoors benefits our health and wellbeing’ [Scottish Land and Estates] and ‘nature has far reaching positive effects for society in addition to increased physical and mental health’ [WSP].

3.55 Some participants highlighted the challenges associated with this outcome; and a few identified potential conflicts with other objectives. These include:

  • The potential negative impact of increased presence of people on wildlife and livestock.
  • That the concepts of ‘enjoy’ and ‘connect with’, referenced in the outcome, are individual preferences beyond the Scottish Government’s control.
  • Reduced resources for local authorities who maintain parks and open spaces.
  • Transport poverty in rural and urban areas.
  • Access to nature competing with demands to use land for other purposes, such as housing.
  • Negative impact of increased visitors to areas that do not currently have the capacity or infrastructure to accommodate them.

Suggested revisions to this outcome statement

3.56 Respondents’ suggested revisions to this outcome reflect the themes described above, as follows:

  • ‘We would welcome stronger phrasing: nature access is a right, and rather than saying everyone can have access, we’d rather a more active commitment’. [Scottish Wildlife Trust]
  • ‘Suggest the wording is slightly changed to ‘everyone accesses, enjoys and connects with nature’. [Scottish Land and Estates]
  • ‘Everyone can access, enjoy and connect with nature – in both urban and rural environments’. [Nautilus Consultants]
  • ‘Barriers to access are removed enabling everyone to experience, enjoy and connect with nature’. [National Trust for Scotland]
  • ‘Everyone can access, enjoy and connect with the environment’. [Historic Environment Scotland]
  • ‘Everyone can access, enjoy and connect with nature as part of their daily life’. [OPENspace research centre]

Responses to Outcome 6: The global footprint of our consumption and production is sustainable

Introduction and overview

3.57 This outcome ranked joint fourth in terms of the number of comments received.  Just under a quarter of all online discussion participants - a total of 24 respondents - commented specifically on outcome 6. This group comprised 6 local authorities/public sector organisations, 5 individuals, 4 environmental charities, 6 membership organisations, 2 businesses and 1 environmental research group.

3.58 As with other outcomes, responses were generally concise.  The range included short answers with a broad expression of agreement, to longer responses from organisations such as The Strathclyde Centre for Environmental Law and Governance, which included examples of current relevant initiatives and discussed the implications of achieving this outcome, particularly in relation to social inequality.

3.59 There were strong expressions of support for this outcome. Examples include ‘welcome the ambition for this outcome’ [National Trust for Scotland] and ‘approve of your outcomes…particularly No. 6’ [NHS National Services Scotland].

Comments on the outcome

3.60 The scope of this outcome was frequently praised. Reflections on the importance of a global perspective included ‘it would be possible to reduce our own emissions by importing goods from elsewhere but to think on a global scale prevents this outsourcing which just transfers the impact to another country’ [Scottish Land and Estates] and ‘it acknowledges that damaging environmental practices are taking place in other countries on Scotland’s behalf’ [Individual].  Others highlighted the value of a ‘whole of government’ approach through comments such as ‘this can be achieved by the Scottish Government working closely with Local Authorities’ [Environmental Protection Scotland].

3.61 Linked to the above, many highlighted outcome 6 as crucially connected to the overarching vision set out for Scotland.  Examples include: ‘it acts as an umbrella statement for the other objectives’ [James Hutton Institute], ‘pleased to see inclusion of outcome 6 in the proposals. Sustainable consumption and production are essential components of “one planet living”’ [IEMA], and ‘considering our global footprint will be vital in domestic decision making’ [NFU Scotland].

3.62 Reflecting the complexity of global interconnections, one respondent asked ‘what are we trying to achieve in terms of top-level outcomes. For example, do we want to be a climate change leader, or do we really want to deliver a Scotland which substantially exceeds its domestic and international obligations in carbon mitigation and can influence the actions of others as a result?’ [Scottish Borders Council]

3.63 Some asked for more detail about how this outcome would be achieved and highlighted a lack of clarity about Scotland’s global footprint at present. One respondent said ‘this objective is not SMART, making it very hard to measure’ [Aberdeen City Council]; another suggested ‘that implies a reduction from where it currently is. It would be helpful to acknowledge this in the strategy’ [Mountaineering Scotland]. Some participants highlighted evidence gaps, for example in relation to current emission measurements.

3.64 Suggested amendments to this outcome put forward by respondents included:

  • Changing ‘sustainable’ to ‘sustainable and ethical’.
  • Acknowledgement of the circular economy within this outcome.
  • Reference to the ‘planetary boundaries’ framework[6].
  • Reference to delivery of the UN Sustainable Development Goals within the outcome.

3.65 Two respondents expressed cynicism as to the achievability of this outcome. One said ‘small sentence for a very, very big ask of voters. I don’t believe it’s possible without drastic changes to almost every aspect of life. Three planets to one planet!!!???’ [Biobags Ltd.] Another noted ‘I suspect this is far from true. I do not see any successful Government or Council backed schemes to encourage recycling, less use and sustainability’ [Individual].


Contact

Email: Susie.Turpie@gov.scot