Scottish climate change adaptation programme: progress report 2017

Third annual progress report on the Climate Ready Scotland: Scottish climate change adaptation programme.

Part 3 : Work Underway on ASC Recommendations

This section includes information setting out work that has been carried out to date in response to the Adaptation Sub Committee ( ASC) recommendations contained within last year's independent assessment.

Natural Environment - Work Underway on ASC Recommendations

The ASC Independent Assessment made several recommendations (Recommendations 2-9) relating to the SCCAP natural environment chapter.

This included the following:-

A clear action plan for delivering Scottish Biodiversity Strategy ( ASC Rec 2)

The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy: 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity recognises the need to help nature adapt to climate change, for example through reducing pressures on ecosystems, habitats and species, and making space for natural processes. Ecosystem restoration priorities include peatlands, coastal sand dunes, native woodlands and establishment of saltmarsh to improve resilience to climate change. The Route Map to 2020 sets out large-scale, cooperative actions that will improve ecosystem health so helping nature to adapt to climate change. Progress will be reported to the Scottish Parliament in 2017. Future priorities for action will take account of biodiversity pressures including climate change.

A monitoring system for sites and species ( ASC Rec 3)

Evidence on observed and possible future effects of climate change on species in the terrestrial environment is summarised in the Biodiversity Climate Change Impacts Report Card ( LWEC 2015) to which SNH contributed. The future effects of climate change on species are considered likely to be significant, with winners as well as losers.

To date, there are only a few examples so far of evidence of biodiversity 'losses' in Scotland attributed to climate change. The Evidence Report for the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (Summary for Scotland, July 2016) highlighted research gaps around improving understanding of how species will respond to climate change, the uncertainties involved, and the best options for conservation taking into account such uncertainty.

Some research is being undertaken on the possible effects on particular iconic species (for example on capercaillie by RSPB, SNH and GWCT, and montane vegetation by RBGE, SNH and Bergen University). SNH, with help from the Climate Change Centre for Expertise (ClimateXChange), is bringing together sources of general information on impacts of climate change for its advisers on species conservation and management.

The Scottish Government is funding research into how to improve ecosystem resilience in the face of environmental change through the Strategic Research Programme. SNH and others support gathering long-term data to provide evidence on the effects of climate change in ecosystems including species populations. The Environmental Change Network provides key underpinning data on long-term changes.

The development of the ecosystem health indicators ( EHI) comprise a suite of 13 metrics that characterise the condition, natural function and resilience of ecosystems. They are a ground-breaking part of the wider suite of biodiversity indicators, with strong links to Scotland's Natural Capital Asset Index. They are being developed through partnership, overseen by the EHI subgroup of the Scotland's Biodiversity Strategy Science Support Group. One of the indicators will track an aspect of the impact of climate change on ecosystems, specifically tree disease.

SNH has already published some of its EHI components, such as condition results for protected areas. These, along with the other EHI components, will be processed through the SEWeb Spotfire application for viewing at a landscape scale, defined by the 10 river sub-basin management areas. All of the original 13 indicators are on schedule to be published on SEWeb by September 2017, with a further five by March 2018.

A target and delivery plan for peatland restoration ( ASC Rec 4)

The Scottish Government and Scottish Natural Heritage should by the end of 2017 establish a target in the Scottish National Peatland Plan for the area of peatland that will be under restoration by 2030 and introduce and monitor a delivery programme for meeting this target.

The Scottish Government recognises the importance of peatland restoration and the numerous and various benefits it brings, for example supporting increased biodiversity; this helps to maintain and improve the status of SSSIs, improving water quality, and mitigating the risk of flooding. In recognition of this in the 2017/18 Budget the Scottish Government identified £8m, to be managed thorough Scottish National Heritage, to support the Peatland Action initiative. SNH have been working with partners to develop an appropriate implementation plan.

The Climate Change Plan committed to supporting 10,000 hectares of restoration rising to 20,000 hectares pa in future years, which will be supported by a monitoring strategy which will ensure that restoration delivery is monitored, recorded and reported.

Generic risks of climate change to peatlands are widely recognised, for example summer drought lowering water tables and thus potentially affecting species composition as well as increasing the likelihood of damaging wildfires. However, fine-tuning climate change projections to different peatland types across their full range, from the Borders to Shetland, Aberdeenshire to St Kilda and from coast to mountain top, is extremely difficult with too few studies to provide clear, confident yet simple messages. Action being supported through the Peatland Action fund will make peatlands more resilient to the risks from climate change.

An assessment of the design and operation of water abstraction; ( ASC Rec 5)

Since 2002 SW has delivered more than £1 billion of investment in environmental quality measures. In the 2015-21 investment period there will be £500 million of investment to further protect and enhance the environment. Scottish Water continues to bear down on the number of pollution incidents from its assets and has seen a dramatic improvement in this area over recent years. There is no update currently specifically on the design and operation of water abstraction.

An assessment of the implications of increases in marine water temperatures and acidity [reduction in pH] ( ASC Rec 6)

SNH commissioned the first analysis of the issue of increasing water temperature resulting in the publication of a report in 2001 'The impact of climate change on subtidal and intertidal benthic species in Scotland'. Since then SNH has commissioned two MarClim surveys that have documented the changes in the distribution of a range of intertidal (indicator) species as a result of temperature changes. This has led to the development of a Community Temperature Index as a potential means of measuring changes in intertidal community composition as a result of climate change which is now being developed further as a Marine Strategy Framework Directive indicator.

In accordance with Article 8 of the MSFD, work is proceeding with the rest of the UK administrations to undertake an assessment of the progress towards Good Environmental Status by 2018. This includes an assessment of the permanent alteration of hydrographical conditions ( e.g. changes in wave action, currents, salinity, temperature) to the seabed and water column.

SNH has also been involved with the Marine Climate Change Impacts partnership ( MCCIP) since its inception. Various report cards have been produced over the years gathering the most up to date information available on the impacts of climate change on the marine environment and its biodiversity.

The wider implications of ocean warming have been reviewed in a major IUCN report entitled 'Explaining Ocean Warming: causes, scale, effects and consequences' edited by Laffoley and Baxter.

In relation to impacts from a reduction in pH, SNH has also been heavily involved in developing the research effort around the implications of ocean acidification through the Ocean Acidification international Reference User Group.

A target for managed realignment of intertidal habitat; ( ASC Rec 7)

The National Coastal Change Assessment due to be published has analysed Scotland's 21,000 km of shoreline, identified the potentially erodible or soft 4,000km and assessed historic and recent change. Of the soft coast 89% has been stable or accretional and 11% has been eroding recently.

Past erosion has been projected forward to identify assets at risk between now, 2050 and 2100. The findings support The Climate Change Adaptation Programme, Flood Risk Management Act, Terrestrial and Maine Planning, Land Use Strategy & Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and have implications across the public sector.

The National Coastal Change Assessment undertakes the first part of Shoreline Management Plans, namely the identification of change and vulnerable assets. The second part: the policy response remains the responsibility of the Coastal Protection Authority / Local Authority.

Phase 2 of the NCCA intends to explore novel policy opportunities via National Flood Risk Assessment which provide a supplementary or alternative approach to SMPs, which also exemplify the importance of Natural Flood Risk Management techniques, given the very significant role 'natural' coastal defences have been shown to play.

The data and maps collected during the project will support the flood risk management planning process. As a result Phase 2 of the NCCA will highlight areas where adaptation is needed across all 4,000km of Scotland's mobile shoreline.

An action plan to deliver the SG Soils Framework; ( ASC Rec 8)

The agriculture chapter of the Climate Change Plan consists of five overarching policy outcome aims and agricultural soils is an area that we address through some of these.

Work is proposed in areas such as soil pH, soil carbon content, the use of legumes in rotation, promotion and dissemination of information on such things as the use of cover crops, how to minimise and alleviate soil compaction, the importance of soil health and condition and the use of zero or minimum tillage where practical.

By showing farmers, crofters and land managers the benefits that can be gained in both the economic and environmental terms we can achieve progress in these areas.

Action to reduce forestry pests and pathogens and an assessment of whether greater species diversity is required in the Public Forest Estate. ( ASC -Rec 9)

The Forestry Commission's Science and innovation strategy for forestry in Great Britain includes a work area on forest resilience specifically to biotic threats. The Strategy sets out programmes and areas of work to enable and encourage wider collaboration with the research community. Forestry Commission Scotland ( FCS) has also provided additional support for specific areas of tree health research in Scotland, including a partnership with the Scottish Forestry Trust to establish the Tree Health Scotland Bursary Scheme .

In addition, Scottish Government Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division ( RESAS) is in the process of commissioning a Centre of Expertise in Plant Health to develop a plant health virtual centre, to coordinate access to expertise from across Scotland and to stimulate innovative thinking in support of plant health policy. The appointment of a Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland in February 2017 was a further milestone in securing effective collaborative effort across the research community.

FCS has significantly increased the resources devoted to tackling tree health, including a 6-person dedicated team supported by a network of tree health champions in Forestry Commission Scotland and on the National Forest Estate. In collaboration with Forest Research, surveillance capacity has been greatly enhanced through bespoke contracts for the provision of bi-annual aerial surveys and 'ground-truthing' of sites.

In addition, the reporting of potential tree health issues has been facilitated through a new on-line TreeAlert tool, with diagnostic facilities being available through Forest Research and SASA.

In relation to an assessment of whether greater species diversity is required on the National Forest Estate: (i) Forest Research and Forest Enterprise Scotland have been exploring the effects of climate change on a range of alternative forest management options from 2010 to 2080 - this is part of a wider programme that examine a range of ecosystem services (for example carbon stock in forests) and how these are effected through different management regimes, species choice and forest policy. (ii) Forest Enterprise Scotland has started monitoring the Shannon Index of species diversity as part of its corporate reporting framework.


The Land Use Strategy ( LUS)

The LUS continues to have a clear role in providing a high-level national policy agenda for the use of Scotland's land. This is expressed through the three Objectives and the Principles for Sustainable Land Use. The LUS encourages a strategic, integrated and informed approach to land use with the aim of delivering multiple benefits from our land resources. The new LUS Reporting Framework will be published shortly and will chart progress with the delivery of the LUS throughout its five year life.


The establishment of the new national Farm Advisory Service (under the Scottish Rural Development Programme 2014 - 2020) (launched September 2016), provides advice on a range of topics including climate change adaptation.

The Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund can offer financial support for projects.

Future Farming Scotland is run by the Soil Association Scotland and is funded through SRDP Knowledge Transfer and Innovation Fund. It promotes productive and profitable farming and land use, using low-input and sustainable approaches to build financial and environmental resilience in a changing climate. The programme's objectives are to: (i) Build a strong knowledge and skills base for productive, profitable and sustainable agriculture and land use amongst Scotland's rural communities and (ii) Increase the economic and environmental performance of Scottish agriculture.

Buildings and Infrastructure -- Work Underway on ASC Recommendations

The ASC Independent Assessment made several recommendations (Recommendations 10-13) relating to the SCCAP Buildings and Infrastructure chapter.

This included the following:-

Assessment of required flood and coastal erosion risk interventions and assessments (over the next 25-50yrs); ( ASC Rec 10)

Flood Risk Strategies - Scottish Government, Scottish Local Authorities and partners are committed to reducing flood risk across Scotland, with an action plan in the first 6 year cycle providing protection to 10,000 properties and proposals for 42 flood protection schemes or engineering works planned.

The Scottish Flood Forum - £140,000 is given annually to help publicise flood risk, preparation to reduce it and support those who may be affected. In Winter 2015-16 there was significant flooding in communities across Scotland as a consequence of exceptional rainfall and the Scottish Government made available financial support to those affected.

SEPA recognises the need to ensure real, effective flood risk management considering future states and is seeking to better understand FRM delivery across cycles, considering future climate states.

Monitoring of local flood risk management strategies, SUDS schemes and building in flood risk areas ( ASCRec 11)

Scottish Planning Policy sets out national planning policy on climate change adaptation, including policy on building in flood risk areas. It provides direction for planning authorities in drawing up development plans and assessing individual planning applications. We have an ongoing review of the planning system in Scotland and any future review of Scottish Planning policy will consider the outcome of that as well as the finalised Climate Change Plan.

Sharing good practice - The Tweed Forum is funded to share the research findings and experiences of implementing natural flood management. The Tweed Forum offers field trips and site visits to local authorities flood managers, agency staff, academics, school pupils and students from the Eddleston Water project which is now part of a wider EU Interreg research project to share evidence for building with nature to manage flood risk and coastal erosion across the North Sea region.

Recommendation 11, part three recommended that the Scottish Environment protection agency should ensure that the next flood risk management strategies monitor and report the number of planning applications for new development in the flood plain that were granted, and within these, the number of applications for which SEPA advice was sought and the number of applications to which SEPA objected. This was discussed in the context of the recent Adaptation Sub-Committee report and SEPA's evidence on the budget (15 November):

  • ClimateXChange recently published the report ' Assessing the consideration of flood risk by Scottish local planning authorities'. The report suggests the number of occasions an application was approved despite SEPA advice on flood risk is small, and is a very small proportion of the total number of planning applications that SEPA comment on and often relate to individual properties; not large scale developments.
  • The Scottish Government's Chief Planner submitted a report to the Scottish Parliament's Convenors Group on the subject of building in the flood plains on 21 December 2016.
  • In this we made clear that Ministers are notified of planning applications where the authority is minded to grant an application with an unresolved objection by a statutory consultee such as SEPA. In the last four years, 38 such notifications have been received. Of these, only 2 were determined by Ministers, the remainder were returned to the planning authority for approval.
  • Scottish Government are not complacent about the issue of flooding and can look to the review of Scottish Planning Policy as an opportunity to explore whether there is any further need to revise policy, including monitoring.
  • SEPA is assessing the feasibility of future flood risk management strategies monitoring and reporting on CCRA2 recommendation 11, based on the current and future availability of data and views of Scottish Government and wider stakeholders.

Sustaining reductions in average water consumption per person ( ASC 12)

Scottish building regulations have since 2013 required water efficiency measures for new dwellings and new work to existing dwellings. In 2017 the intention is to form a working party to consider the practicalities of extending the water efficiency measures in building regulations and the supporting guidance to new non-domestic buildings and new work within such existing buildings.

Monitoring to improve resilience to extreme weather events. ( ASC 13)

The National Centre for Resilience, now in its second year of operation, will help build our understanding of the effects of natural hazards (whether as a result of climate change or other causes) and how to mitigate against them.

The Centre has initially focused on the development of practical tools for the resilience community to utilise during such events.

With the recruitment of two researchers, who commence post in April 2017, the research element of the Centre will now be in a position to engage directly with the resilience community to identify appropriate areas for research.

Society - Work Underway on ASC Recommendations

The ASC Independent Assessment made several recommendations (14- 23) relating to the SCCAP society chapter.

Emergency response system to deal with extreme weather events ( ASC Rec 14)

The issue of prediction of flooding events and the coverage of MET Office High-Density Radar is actively being considered.

The impact on people, businesses and communities from flood events, and developing resilience ( ASC Recs 15 and 20)

Societal impacts: Scotland has a strong focus on climate justice because climate change impacts most severely on poor people and vulnerable communities. The report Mapping Flood Disadvantage in Scotland 2015 assesses social vulnerability for the key risk of flooding to help people working in flood risk management, resilience, emergency services, public health, social care, housing, and the environment.

Scottish Enterprise Sustainability Specialists work directly with companies including 'future proof' business practices, including opportunities to address adaptation working closely with Adaptation Scotland.

In support of the Scottish Green Growth strategy, SE work with companies to address the significant business opportunities from adaptation in sectors like enabling technologies, tourism and construction, albeit companies tend to be focused on the more immediate opportunities and threats to their business.

Current and long term risks from heat and extreme cold; risks from pathogens/air pollution & UV radiation; (Rec 16 -18)

Using funding from the National Centre for Resilience, SG has commissioned Health Protection Scotland to conduct a study into the link (or absence thereof) between hot and cold ambient temperature and mortality and morbidity. This will enable SG to design evidence based interventions in response to extreme weather events related to climate change. SG are also working with HPS to scope proportionate research into the climate change related risks to public health from vector borne disease.

Uptake of adaptation Scotland guidance and tools. ( ASC Rec 19)

Adaptation Scotland published an impact report in September 2016. This provides a summary of uptake and impact of Adaptation Scotland projects, training, guidance, tools and resources. A second impact report will be published in March 2018.


Email: Roddy Maclean

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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