Climate Ready Scotland: climate change adaptation programme 2019-2024

A five year programme to prepare Scotland for the challenges we will face as our climate continues to change.

Part 2: Second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme

Rum National Nature Reserve (© John MacPherson, SNH)
Rum National Nature Reserve (© John MacPherson, SNH)


The Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024 is the Scottish Government’s statutory five year programme for adapting to climate change. It sets out the Scottish Government’s policies and proposals for the next five years to increase the capacity of Scotland’s people, communities, businesses and public sector to adapt to climate change.

This document contains current policies, and proposals for future policies. This document will be regularly reviewed, and updated on a rolling basis rather than waiting until the next statutory five year programme is due before incorporating enhancements.

Statutory Requirements

Section 53 of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 requires Scottish Ministers to lay a programme before the Scottish Parliament that sets out:

1. their objectives in relation to adaptation to climate change

2. their proposals and policies for meeting those objectives

3. the arrangements for involving employers, trade unions and other stakeholders in meeting those objectives

4. the mechanisms for ensuring public engagement in meeting those objectives

5. the period within which those proposals and policies will be introduced

The Programme must also address the risks identified in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (UKCCRA), which is laid before the UK Parliament every 5 years. The UKCCRA contains an assessment of the risks for the United Kingdom from the current and predicted impact of climate change.

UK Climate Change Risk Assessment

The first UK Climate Change Risk Assessment was published in 2012 by the UK Government Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). For the second UKCCRA, the UK Government asked the Committee on Climate Change (CCC) to prepare an independent Evidence Report setting out the latest evidence on the risks and opportunities to the UK from climate change.

What is the Committee on Climate Change?

The Committee on Climate Change is an independent, statutory body established under the Climate Change Act 2008. Its purpose is to advise the UK Government and Devolved Administrations on emissions targets and report to Parliament on progress made in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and preparing for climate change.

In 2016, the Committee on Climate Change published the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment Evidence Report and Synthesis Report, and a National Summary for Scotland. In January 2017, the UK Government published the (second) UK Climate Change Risk Assessment 2017 including a National Summary for Scotland. In total, the UKCCRA Evidence Report consists of over 2,000 pages of analysis, used over 2,000 different sources of evidence and took three years to complete.

The Risk Assessment identified 56 risks and opportunities to the UK from climate change. The Risk Assessment uses the concept of urgency to summarise the findings of the analysis. One of four ‘urgency categories’ has been assigned by the Adaptation Committee to each risk and opportunity: more action needed, research priority, sustain current action, or watching brief. Some actions identified as priorities for other parts of the UK have been shown to currently have a different level of urgency for Scotland.

Outcomes-Based Approach

The second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme takes an outcomes-based approach, derived from both the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Scotland’s National Performance Framework. An outcomes-based approach supports the cross-cutting nature of the Programme and promotes collaboration between sectors which is key to adapting to climate change. It integrates adaptation into wider Scottish Government policy development and service delivery and engages sectors which have not yet fully considered climate change adaptation. 

What is an “Outcomes-Based Approach”?

An outcomes-based approach means focusing on what the policy should achieve, rather than inputs and outputs. It is positive and forward-looking, thinking about what type of Scotland we want in the future. It encourages Government to work across traditional boundaries and increases transparency and accountability.

Whilst the structure of the programme is outcomes-led, the Scottish Government wants to ensure that all of the climatic risks to Scotland are addressed within these Outcomes. Whilst the UKCCRA provides a solid foundation for climate change adaptation in Scotland, we do not want to be limited by it. We recognise that climate change poses risks to Scotland beyond those identified in the UKCCRA, including the unequal impacts of climate change on the most vulnerable in our society. An outcomes-based approach allows us to address this.

We have developed a set of seven “outcomes” for the Programme which are shown in diagram below:

Diagram: We have developed a set of seven outcomes for the Programme


“We live in a Scotland where our built and natural places, supporting infrastructure, economy and societies are climate ready, adaptable and resilient to climate change”

Scotland’s climate is already changing and therefore action on adaptation cannot wait until the full impact of our mitigation effort can be felt. Action is being taken now and must continue with renewed vigour in light of the global climate emergency. 

Our vision for Scotland is of a place where our built and natural places, supporting systems, economy and societies are climate ready, adaptable and resilient to climate change. Climate change adaptation is not an end state but a process. As the planet warms over the next decades our society will need to keep adapting. We want a future Scotland to be flexible in response to these changes and able to manage the uncertainty in predicting how climate change will impact Scotland. 

Stakeholder Engagement

In developing this Programme the Scottish Government has engaged with stakeholders across Scotland to understand their views, experiences and priorities for adapting to climate change. This stakeholder engagement has been used to improve the Outcomes and Sub-Outcomes within the Adaptation Programme.

Digital Engagement

The Scottish Government’s digital engagement involved seven Twitter events, one for each Outcome. These events were designed to reach out to communities across Scotland and ask them for their experiences of climate change and their priorities for climate change adaptation action. These events allowed us to hear the views of people in remote communities including the Highlands and Islands. The feedback received in these events was incorporated into our stakeholder engagement workshops to inform further policy development.

Engagement Workshops

Six stakeholder engagement events were held across Scotland to engage with key stakeholders on the proposed Outcomes. Attendees were asked to provide feedback on the proposed outcomes-based approach as well as what priorities they would identify for the Programme. The feedback from these events has been considered during the development of all seven adaptation Outcomes as well as the Sub-Outcomes. 

Climate Conversations

Building on the success of our mitigation-themed Climate Conversations, we held a series of adaptation-themed Climate Conversations across Scotland. These conversations are part of the Scottish Government’s ongoing engagement with the public on climate change. The purpose of these conversations was to discover people’s priorities for adaptation, as well as to raise awareness of the public consultation and climate change adaptation.

Public Consultation on the New Programme

We received 73 responses to our public consultation in early 2019, from 58 organisations including a Primary School in Glasgow, and 15 individuals. Responses indicated the need for the Programme to convey a strong sense of urgency and ambition, in line with the global climate emergency, and link to urgent mitigation action.

The responses support a Climate Change Adaptation Programme that contributes to Scotland’s wider social and economic objectives, as well as addressing climate risks.

The consultation responses strongly supported key features of the new Programme, including:

  • linking to the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Scotland’s National Performance Framework,
  • an outcomes-based approach,
  • the inclusion of behaviour change,
  • the integration of monitoring and evaluation from the outset.

The responses also contained many constructive suggestions, particularly highlighting the need to make the Programme more cross-cutting, which we have incorporated where applicable.

This second, statutory, five-year Adaptation Programme builds on the significant achievements of the past decade, increasing ambition in line with the global climate emergency, and, with the help of the public and stakeholders, will deliver a step change in securing the benefits of a climate-ready, resilient Scotland for current and future generations.

Strategic Environmental Assessment

The second Scottish Climate Adaptation Programme was subject to a Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) as detailed in the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005. The SEA is a tool for the consideration of likely significant environmental effects resulting from of the programme and is a valuable tool in identifying any opportunities for the enhancement of positive significant effects and the mitigation of any negative ones. Alongside the Programme preparation an assessment of these likely significant effects was conducted and the results of this were included in an Environmental Report published alongside the draft Programme consultation. The assessment findings identified show that the Programme is likely to have significant positive effects on climatic factors through drawing together relevant adaptation measures to maximise their impact, capitalise upon synergies and address any gaps.

The final components of the Programme will be addressed in the Post Adoption Statement and will set out how the environmental considerations have been integrated into the final Programme, how the Environmental Report and opinions of consultees have been taken into account, the reasons for choosing the strategy as adopted and the measures for monitoring any significant environmental effects as a result of the Programme implementation. 

Climate Change Adaptation Behaviour Change

Tackling the global climate emergency will require action at all levels of society, from government to individuals. The Scottish Government recognises the importance of behaviour change and we want to ensure that everyone in Scotland is informed, prepared, and ready to adapt to the changing climate. That is why this programme includes examples of how behaviour change can help individuals, businesses and organisations to adapt to climate change. 

Adaptation behaviours range hugely in scale and scope, cross-cutting the entire Programme. Changes can be one-off, for example, installing flood resilience to a home or business, or habitual, for example, checking weather, pollen and pollution forecasts regularly. At the organisational level, business and industry will also have a role to play, from preparing for an increased tourist season, to altering farming practices to promote decreased soil erosion alongside increasing crop resilience.

To make informed decisions on how to adapt to climate change, people need to understand climate change and its impacts. This is referred to as climate literacy. We will continue to encourage public discussion about climate change, and support people to make changes in their lives to help increase their resilience.

Systemic behaviour change cannot happen in isolation and will require cultural shifts alongside infrastructure and technological advances. People’s choices and behaviours are influenced in various ways – within the values and attitudes that we hold, the habits we have learned, the people around us, and the tools and infrastructure available to us in our day-to-day lives. Adaptation behaviours for individuals and organisations form part of each Outcome for the Programme and will assist in its overall delivery. Example behaviours are included alongside policies to serve as building blocks to achieve our vision of a Scotland able to adapt to the changing climate. 

Monitoring and Evaluation

Monitoring and Evaluation is integral to the outcomes-based approach, and has been considered throughout the development of the Programme. Indicators used to measure Outcome progress enable ongoing internal and external evaluation of the Programme.

Flow chart

Outcome and Sub-Outcome indicators evaluate Scotland’s capacity to adapt to climate change.

Adaptation process indicators assess the implementation of actions which are aimed at achieving the long-term Outcomes. 


Indicators that monitor progress towards the Outcomes capture key elements at the heart of each Outcome, and have a clear relationship to Scotland’s National Performance Framework. This monitoring allows us to evaluate the Adaptation Programme in the context of its contribution to wider government goals.

Indicators that monitor progress towards Sub-Outcomes emphasise ‘is it working?’ This allows us to evaluate if Scotland is adapting as intended.

Indicators to monitor the adaptation process monitor ‘what is being done?’ They capture the qualitative and quantitative evidence needed to evaluate if adaptation measures are being adequately implemented. 

Existing indicators and monitoring frameworks have been used where appropriate. This helps integration of adaptation across other policy areas, and avoids duplication. In some sectors, there is currently limited data available, but as more data and associated monitoring arrangements are developed, these will be incorporated into the adaptation monitoring framework. Improvement and learning underpins the framework, and by identifying what we need to measure, not just what we know we can, the framework highlights gaps which could be filled by future measures.


The monitoring frameworks for each Outcome set out ‘themes’, which will structure the quantitative (indicator) and qualitative (case study) evidence for evaluating the Programme. The themes have been identified in response to stakeholder consultation and consideration of existing policies and strategies.

The suite of monitoring indicators in this Programme and our overall monitoring approach will be subject to ongoing review and we will continue working with the Committee on Climate Change Adaptation Committee to ensure robust and effective monitoring of implementation.

National Forum

In line with the Paris Agreement and EU Adaptation Strategy, we want to deliver a step change in collaboration and have proposed establishing a National Forum on Adaptation, similar to Ireland’s National Adaptation Steering Committee. The Forum would include senior representatives of key sectors and will improve both leadership and collaboration. Based on the supportive responses to our public consultation, we are now considering a National Forum for climate change in light of the global climate emergency.



Back to top