Safeguarding our natural environment

Scotland's rich and diverse natural environment is our greatest national asset. It is at the very heart of our national identity and culture and is world-renowned for its beauty. Scotland's nature is unique, with awe-inspiring landscapes and habitats found in few other places on earth: from our diverse marine life and spectacular coastal machairs to ancient Scots pine forests, peatlands and heather-clad mountains. It deserves to be celebrated and protected for its own sake and because the success of our nation depends on it. The quality of our natural environment is fundamental to the prosperity and wellbeing of our society, and that of generations to come.

The ecosystem services our environment generates are estimated to contribute at least £20 billion to the Scottish economy every year, and the real contribution will be much greater, since many ecosystem services cannot be valued in monetary terms. Our natural environment directly supports the productivity of our farming, forestry and fishing industries and provides the energy, resources and other services (such as water purification and natural flood management) needed by a wide range of other industries. The beauty of our nature and landscapes is the essence of Scotland's global brand, supporting the success of key growth sectors such as food and drink and tourism.

Scotland's natural environment is also fundamental to our culture, national identity and social wellbeing. Our landscapes and nature have long provided an important source of inspiration for our art, literature and music and help to define who we are as a nation. They provide the spaces we need for exercise, recreation, education, inspiration and spiritual connection. Access to a healthy environment is a human right, creating important benefits for physical and mental health, for example through clean air and water, greenspaces for exercise and socialising, and a sense of connection to nature. Improving air quality and access to greenspace is a particular priority in more deprived urban areas, helping to tackle inequalities and improve the health, wellbeing and confidence of people and communities.

In the coming decades, it is clear that Scotland must play its part in addressing global environmental challenges and to protect and replenish our own natural environment.