Scottish climate change adaptation programme 2019-2024: strategic environmental assessment

This SEA investigates the likely significant effects on the environment.

Non-Technical Summary


The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 (The 2009 Act) places a duty on Scottish Ministers to lay a programme for climate change adaptation before the Scottish Parliament as soon as reasonably practicable after each UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA) is published. The second CCRA[1] report was published in January 2017 and includes a summary report for Scotland setting out the Scotland-specific evidence.

The draft Second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (’the draft programme’) is part of an iterative process, which builds on existing adaptation work including through the first Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme. Each successive programme is required to set out Scottish Ministers’ objectives for adaptation to climate change and their proposals and policies for meeting those objectives. The draft programme’s policy context is illustrated below:

Figure 1: The draft programme’s policy context

Figure 1: The draft programme’s policy context

The draft programme is intended to address the impacts identified in the second CCRA report made under the UK Climate Change Act (2008) (the 2008 Act). It is structured around a vision and seven high level outcomes which are underpinned by sub-outcomes and key policies. The draft programme does not itself set out new policies or proposals, but rather provides a high-level framework that draws together existing Scottish Government polices relating to climate change adaptation, and seeks to ensure that they take account of climate change adaptation. Where any future policies and proposals are developed, these will themselves be subject to consideration in accordance with the requirements of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005.

What is Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA)?

Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) is a means of systematically assessing the likely impact of a public plan on the environment and to seek ways to avoid, or minimise where possible adverse effects, if likely to be significant. SEA provides an opportunity for the public to consider this information and to use it to inform their views on the emerging draft programme.

This Environmental Report has been published alongside the draft Scottish Climate Adaptation Programme and has been prepared in accordance with the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. Views are invited on both the Environmental Report and the Position Statement.

What is the environment like today and how is it changing?

A summary of the environment and how it is changing is provided below

Climatic Factors

  • The climate is changing and projections suggest observed trends will continue to intensity into the future. These include:
    • projected increases in temperature;
    • drier summers and wetter winters;
    • more seasonal rainfall; and
    • increased risk of flood, drought, and extreme weather events.


  • Urban air quality has improved significantly since the 1950s; however, poor air quality continues to affect human health and the environment in some areas.
  • Air pollution can contribute to a number of health problems and climate change may exacerbate these issues.
  • Climate change could alter current patterns and concentrations of air pollution.

Material Assets

  • Agriculture is the most common type of land use in Scotland.
  • Other significant land and water based industries are aquaculture, forestry, transport, and energy.
  • Agriculture and forestry are closely linked to climate and climate change poses both risks and opportunities.
  • Energy generation (particularly from renewable sources) could be negatively impacted.
  • An increase in extreme weather events could damage transport infrastructure and disrupt operations.

Population And Human Health

  • Scotland’s population is approx. 5.4 million and the majority of people live in urban areas.
  • Climate change may impact different groups of people in different ways. Some communities are recognised as being more vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change.
  • The health-related impacts of climate change are likely to be disproportionately felt by deprived areas.
  • Warmers winters and increase participation in outdoor activities could result in health benefits.


  • Scotland’s water provides a range of benefits including the provision of drinking water, recreation, and support for industries.
  • It also hosts a range of habitats and nationally and internationally important species.
  • The water environment is at risk from physical modifications, declines in water quality, and increased water demand.
  • Climate change may exacerbate flooding, poor water quality, damage water habitats and species, and threaten industry and health.

Cultural Heritage

  • Includes some assets protected through designation; however, most (90-95%) are undesignated.
  • Key pressures include development, maintenance, and land use change.
  • Climate change may accelerate weathering and erosion processes, increasing maintenance demands
  • There is a need to protect cultural heritage assets and their settings from direct and indirect impacts of climate change.
  • Rising sea levels mean that coastal erosion is becoming an increasing threat to heritage assets.


  • Scotland is famous for its distinctive and diverse landscapes.
  • Landscapes of the highest quality have been designated and include 40 National Scenic Areas and two National Parks.
  • Key risks to the landscape include climate change, development, and changes in land use.
  • The magnitude of predicted climate change effects and responses to it will be a key factor influencing further change.

Biodiversity, Flora And Fauna

  • Both designated sites and undesignated areas (such as urban parks and gardens) in Scotland contain important biodiversity assets.
  • Climate change could result in the loss of certain habitats and species, alter migration and breeding cycles, and affect food supplies.
  • Other indirect impacts on biodiversity are also likely (for example, due to changes in land use) as society adapts to face a changing climate.


  • Scotland’s soils store over 3,000 million tonnes of carbon.
  • Soil is at risk from a number of threats which could impact its functionality or result in its irretrievable loss. These include erosion, changing vegetation, acidification, compaction, loss of organic matter, and sealing by development.
  • Climate change threatens to promote soil carbon loss.
  • Certain soil management interventions can be used to slow or even reverse climate change.

What are the conclusions of the assessment?

This assessment concludes that the high-level outcomes based approach is likely to have significant positive effects on climatic factors by drawing together relevant adaptation measures to maximise their impact, captialise upon synergies and address any gaps.

This approach to climate change action can also optimise environmental benefits across the range of SEA Topics and positive effects on all other SEA topics (including biodiversity, population and human health, air, soil, water, material assets, cultural heritage and landscape) are considered likely, the effects of which are only likely to be fully realised in the medium to long term.

The potential for effects in combination with other plans, programmes and strategies has also been considered. The draft programme has the potential to positively and cumulatively contribute across a wide range of Scottish Government policy areas within the context in which it sits. Adaptation is captured across the breadth of a range of national plans, policies and programmes and these are recognised under the adaptation framework.Taking into account the high-level nature of the draft programme there is however an inherent degree of uncertainty regarding the environmental impacts that may arise as a result of future actions undertaken to support adaptation outcomes. The assessment also identifies the potential for mixed / uncertain effects arising from future actions at a local level, across the majority of the SEA topics.

What are the opportunities for enhancement?

The SEA findings support the greater policy alignment of action with wider Scottish Government policy objectives to maximise potential benefits from climate change action.

The SEA findings also support the inclusion of outcomes that support cross sector cooperation and opportunities to realise multiple environmental benefits.

The SEA findings support the inclusion of an outcome with a focus on marine and coastal environments as these areas are likely to be more vulnerable to the negative impacts of climate change.

The following specific opportunities for enhancement are identified:

To obtain the maximum environmental benefits of Outcome 1 a focus could be given to actions which support consideration of differing needs of communities and which seek to protect vulnerable cultural heritage assets. Specifically, a focus could be given to actions that support the differing needs of remote rural, coastal communities and deprived areas that are recognised as being more vulnerable to negative impacts of climate change due to pre-existing inequities and flood disadvantage.

Measures identified under Outcome 1 that support adaptation of buildings in response to climate change have the potential to help address existing risks to people from cold temperatures through addressing fuel poverty. This is also relevant to  Outcome 2 below.

To obtain the maximum environmental benefits of Outcome 2 a focus could be given to actions which support people living in deprived and isolated areas which may be more vulnerable to negative impacts due to pre-existing health problems and inequalities.

To obtain the maximum environmental benefits of Outcome 3 a focus could be given to actions which support locations and infrastructure which are recognised as more vulnerable to the impacts of climate change including coastal and isolated locations and power, fuel supply and Information and Communications Technology (ICT) Infrastructure.

To obtain the maximum environmental benefits of Outcome 4 a focus could be given to supporting systems which may be more vulnerable to the identified negative impacts of climate change. For example isolated communities, systems at risk from increased flooding, and those at growing risk from heat, water scarcity and slope instability.

To obtain the maximum environmental benefits of Outcome 6, a focus could be given to actions which support measures for marine heritage to adapt to climate change.

What are the proposals for mitigation?

Where future actions have the potential to result in uncertain/mixed adverse effects further consideration should be given to opportunities to mitigate any such effects at individual project level. There are existing controls in place through the relevant consenting procedures that can help to address these.

Six outcomes identify adaptation behaviours. This is the idea that individuals and organisations can alter their behaviour to help increase their resilience to, and reduce the severity of, some of the worst climate change impacts affecting Scotland. Whilst it is recognised that adaptation behaviours vary hugely in scale and scope, they are broadly likely to contribute to positive effects on climatic factors. This is because these behaviours, to make informed decisions on how to adapt to climate change, support a greater understanding of climate change and its impacts (as well as providing direct mitigation to its impacts).

Finally, the SEA findings support outcomes that focus on increased understanding and awareness of climate change adaptation. This is because adaptation strategies will benefit from relevant  research and awareness raising to ensure resources continue to be appropriately directed and to help avoid unintended secondary adverse environmental effects.

What are the proposals for monitoring?

A wide range of existing programmes are in place at the national and local level to report on environmental status and assess performance against established environmental indicators. For example, Scottish State of the Environment Reports are produced every three years.[2]

Further, given that the programme itself seeks to coordinate the delivery of existing plans, programmes and strategies across various sectors monitoring of these existing plans, programmes and strategies is also relevant. The Climate Change Plan, for example, includes a monitoring framework that includes output and implementation indicators across a range of environmental topics.

Requirements for monitoring  the Adaptation programme are set out in the The 2009 Act which requires an annual report on progress.

The 2008 Act includes provision that a UK CCRA must take place every five years. Under the 2009 Act, a Scottish adaptation programme is required to address impacts and opportunities identified in progressive CCRA’s and hence this adaptation programme will be reviewed on a five year basis. This will identify changes in the evidence base for the impacts of climate change to be reflected in future Adaptation programmes.

In its recommendations in the 2016 assessment of progress on climate change adaptation in Scotland, the Adaptation Committee of the UK Committee on Climate Change (ASC) said that the Scottish Government, in preparing the second adaptation programme, should ‘introduce an effective monitoring regime to allow impact of actions and delivery of each objective to be properly assessed’.

The first Scottish Adaptation programme established a framework of over 100 indicators to assist monitoring and evaluation and independent assessment. The intention is to establish a comprehensive new framework for the second programme. This new framework for monitoring and reviewing the Adaptation programme provides a mechanism for assessing progress and identifying any additional impacts. It is therefore proposed that the monitoring for the SEA is an integral part of the monitoring for the Adaptation programme.

What reasonable alternatives have been considered?

The 2005 Act requires the Environmental Report to identify, describe and evaluate the likely significant effects on the environment of the reasonable alternatives to the plan or programme, taking into account its objectives and geographical scope. The extent to which alternatives for the programme could be considered reasonable was influenced by the relevant legislative requirements, the inherent uncertainty associated with predicting the impacts of climate change, and the significant proportion of committed policy and action embodied in the draft programme. The following alternatives were not considered reasonable:

  • ‘Do nothing’ scenario: This is not a reasonable alternative because the requirement for the programme is established in legislation and because it would not address the risks posed by climate change.
  • Theme based approach (in keeping with SCCAP1) or a sector based approach:  These approaches were not considered as reasonable alternatives because the actual content of the programme would not be sufficiently different to generate different environmental effects.

In keeping with the Scottish Government’s general move to an outcomes focus, the draft programme takes an outcome-led approach. This approach was recommended by the Committee on Climate Change’s Adaptation Committee as an opportunity to build on and improve upon the framework set by SCCAP1, and to align with the most recent consultation on national outcomes.

How to comment on the Environmental Report

We are inviting responses to this consultation by Tuesday 9 April 2019.

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Climate Change Adaptation Consultation
Climate Change Adaptation Team, 3F South
Scottish Government
Victoria Quay

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