Publication - Independent report

Developing a method to estimate the costs of soil erosion in high-risk Scottish catchments: final report

Report from a project which developed and used an ecosystem service framework approach to estimate the costs of soil erosion in Scotland, for five study catchments.

Developing a method to estimate the costs of soil erosion in high-risk Scottish catchments: final report
Appendix 10. Scottish policy instruments related to soil erosion (after McKee, 2018)

Appendix 10. Scottish policy instruments related to soil erosion (after McKee, 2018)

Table 76. Links between Scottish policy instruments and soil erosion (after McKee 2018). On or offsite impacts relate to the focus of the policy instrument. Potential areas affected by the policy have been related to the landscapes/ land uses used in the cost of soil erosion method.
Policy instrument Overall objective Example relationship to soil erosion On or offsite impacts Potential areas affected by the policy
Scottish Soil Framework The main aim of the Scottish Soil Framework is to promote the sustainable management and protection of soils it is not a delivery instrument. No implementation instrument n/a n/a
Common Agricultural Policy (Cross - Compliance) (Scotland) Regulations 2014 Cross compliance is delivered through the implementation of Good Agricultural and Environmental
Conditions (GAECs)
GAECs to address soil erosion
Minimum soil cover (GAEC 4)
Minimum land management reflecting site specific conditions to limit erosion (GAEC 5) [eg fencing around water courses and interventions such as
sediment traps]
Onsite (with indirect offsite benefits)
Environmental Protection Act (1990) Authorisations granted (and revoked) by enforcing body to ensure best techniques used to prevent release of substances (including controlled waste) into the environment without ‘rendering harmless’. Sediment discharged into water courses that may illicit harm (water quality, fish etc). Depends on definition of sediment (eroded soil) as harmful substance’ Offsite High risk areas*
erosion causes
The Environmental Liability Regulations (Scotland) (2009) An application of the ‘polluter pays principle’, requiring preventative measures to be taken by operators to remove the threat of/remediate any Depends on the definition of eroded soil (sediment) as a contaminant or erosion of contaminated soil - specifically relates to the Offsite Depends on definition. Could be applicable in urban areas or

Legislation found in Defra Project SP1318B:

Agricultural -Non SPS
The Rural Stewardship Scheme (Scotland) Regulations 2001
Erosion damage must be repaired on sites of archaeological/historic interest.

Agricultural -Non SPS
The Rural Development Contracts (Rural Priorities) (Scotland) Regulations 2008
A 5 year programme eligible for payment whereby areas/fields at risk of erosion have been identified through a specialist Diffuse Pollution Audit or Soil Water Management Plan have been converted from arable to grassland.

Agricultural -Non SPS
The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013;
Works carried out to construct and maintain surface drainage, ditches and to control bank erosion must not cause a significant increase in erosion.

The Water Environment (Diffuse Pollution) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 (relevant to poaching only)
Prevention of significant erosion must be avoided by minimising poaching on any land within 5m of any river/ditch or wetland.

Agricultural -Non SPS
The Agriculture Improvement Scheme 1985; The Farm and Conservation Grant Scheme 1989
Specifically in Scotland a grant is given for erosion mitigation works on water-course banks/channels or agricultural flood protection work.

Cutting peat
The Rural Development Contracts (Rural Priorities) (Scotland) Regulations 2008
Aid payments for the implementation of management plans to: not carry out peat-cutting on lowland raised bogs (£40 - £83 ha-1 yr-1), address impacts including peatcutting on erosion-sensitive upland and peat land sites (£0.70 ha-1 yr-1).

A. Current Scottish national policy instruments with soil erosion focus (implicit or explicit)

All government departments, bodies and policies must align with the National Performance Framework. Scottish environmental policy is embedded in the National Performance Framework which sets out the Governments Purpose, Strategic Outcomes and Targets, as well as a list of indicators by which to monitor progress.

It is difficult to define and bound Scottish environmental policies (Prager et al., in press), specifically those that relate to soil. It is not always clear how to map the parent policy to an Act and a delivery mechanism; sometimes the parent policies or delivery instruments are nested. For example, the Common Agricultural Policy does not have an associated Act, but is implemented via a series of regulations including the CrossCompliance (Scotland) Regulations 2014 that relate to the agri-environment policy instruments such as GAEC. Two GAEC instruments link specifically to soil erosion, however they have limited applicability to all risk scenarios. GAEC 5 (Minimum land management reflecting site specific conditions to limit erosion) only protects soil in certain situations (e.g. to minimise direct bank erosion or additional measures (e.g. grubbing, sediment traps) or where crop or cover is not sown due to adverse conditions. GAEC 4 (minimum soil cover) protects soil against erosion after harvest until the end of winter by leaving stubble, sowing covers or grass. However this might not be possible after late harvested crops due to adverse weather conditions. Agricultural areas not claiming a single farm payment (SFP) would not be covered by these instruments and thus the policies alone would offer no protection against erosion incidence or impacts. In any case, it is estimated that agricultural land not receiving SFP in Scotland amounts to only 3.2% of the land area (Defra Project SP1318B). Whilst this is small, it can be problematic if the area is under high erosion risk. However there is no spatial context to the analysis (i.e. where the areas are located) so this cannot be determined at present.

The Land Use Strategy 2016-2021 is a requirement under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act (2009) and details principles for sustainable land use. Initiatives under the strategy such as ‘Farming for a better climate’ provide advice and resources. These include various guides on: ‘valuing your soils’/ soil management’/’improving soil quality’/ ‘cover crops’, that promote mitigation measures for soil erosion control in agricultural areas. These are guidance documents rather than regulatory requirements.

The instruments with the strongest influence on soil (and soil erosion) tend to focus on incentives and voluntary initiatives (e.g. GAEC and ‘Farming for a better climate’) rather than regulations.

Policies designed for water resource protection also have relevance for soil erosion prevention and control. The Water Environment Regulations mention explicitly minimising bare land and runoff, and are related to the protection of offsite water resources (rather than the soil itself).

Under environmental protection, the primary policy instruments relate to the protection of natural areas and the prevention of contamination. These are only applicable to specific land uses (e.g. wildscapes) that have been identified in this study as having low erosion rates (Table 7).

Contamination regulations focus on the prevention of contamination of soil by harmful substances rather than the (eroded) soil being a contaminant itself. Thus the applicability of this policy would depend on the classification of sediment (eroded soil) as a contaminant or a substance that could cause harm.

highlights the soil policy instruments relevant to soil erosion as summarised above. Some policies relate to specific land uses (e.g. for habitat and conservation of ‘wildscapes’), or to very specialised or localised areas (e.g. installation of electricity substations or contaminated sites). Other areas that are likely to have high erosion risk (due to vulnerable soil and land use combinations - e.g. arable, horticulture) have some protection by policy, but this is often limited to specific situations (e.g. implementation of GAEC) or the policy instrument is a guideline or resource (e.g. Farming for Climate), rather than a regulation.

Analysis of the table identifies the following gaps where there is limited policy protection for soil erosion: 1) overarching regulatory framework for soil erosion; 2) grassland systems; and 3) urban areas.

From Defra SP1318B:

The Rural Development Contracts (Rural Priorities) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 is the only item of legislation found to protect against multiple soil degradation processes (i.e. erosion, compaction, loss of organic matter and contamination). This offers direct soil protection, with high impact, as it not only requires a soil water management plan to be generated for each field, but the costs of preparing these reports can be claimed back.

In addition to the soil protection covered by the Set-Aside Regulations 1988 (England and Wales), Scottish soils are further protected from soil erosion by The Rural Stewardship Scheme (Scotland) Regulations 2001; The Rural Development Contracts (Rural Priorities) (Scotland) Regulations 2008; The Rural Development Contracts (Rural Priorities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2010; The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013; and The Water Environment (Diffuse Pollution) (Scotland) Regulations 2008. All are considered to have a direct effect on soil protection.

The Rural Stewardship Scheme (Scotland) Regulations 2001 is considered to provide a low degree of protection as it only relates to a specific sites (i.e. of archaeological and historical interest).

The Rural Development Contracts (Rural Priorities) (Scotland) Regulations 2008 is considered to offer a high degree of protection, because it involves payment and thus has a greater likelihood of adoption. Furthermore, being part of a 5 year programme also means that monitoring is likely to take place, ensuring that the measures in place are effective in protecting soils from erosion.

The Rural Development Contracts (Rural Priorities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2010 offers a low degree of protection as it is only relevant to SSSIs. These make up only a small percentage of agricultural land, and it is assumed that the SSSI designation means they are already well protected.

The Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2013 offers a moderate degree of protection against soil erosion as it only applies to a small area of agricultural land (i.e. field margins with ditches and channels). Together with The Water Environment (Diffuse Pollution) (Scotland) Regulations 2008, this also protects against soil erosion caused by poaching. This legislation is considered to provide a low degree of protection to agricultural (non SPS) land as it is only relevant to livestock agriculture on or near wetland or riverine areas.

Finally, in the Agriculture Improvement Scheme 1985 and The Farm and Conservation Grant Scheme 1989, Scottish soils are protected from soil erosion through grants for erosion mitigation works. This is considered to offer a moderate degree of protection as it is only relevant to watercourse banks/channels and agricultural flood protection works.

Some water quality protection is provided by the Action Programme For Nitrate Vulnerable Zones (Scotland) Regulations 2008. This legislation is considered to have an indirect effect, as soil is not explicitly mentioned, however the enforced monitoring of nitrate reducing practices will have some effect on soils. This is considered to have a moderate impact as nitrate is not the only water pollutant that is linked to soil degradation.

B. Options for implementation of local (catchment) soil erosion mitigation practices

The review of current legislation suggests that there is no Scottish policy instrument to implement soil erosion mitigation measures, although many of these measures fall under the GAEC rules. As such, they can be applied under the CAP rules (although new arrangements post-Brexit may affect this link). A recommendation would be that any future subsidy scheme at least replicates the current provisions to ensure continuity and going forward, potentially highlighting key measures in high risk areas that would be most effective. Table 78 in Appendix 11 describes a number of mitigation measures available to control soil erosion (Cuttle et al., 2007; Posthumus et al., 2013b; Rickson et al., 2010).

Table 77 presents the cost-effectiveness of these measures (Posthumus et al., 2013c) and whether they would be relevant / adoptable in Scotland.

Table 77. Cost- effectiveness of soil erosion mitigation measures (after Posthumus (2013c). Description of measures is given in Table 78.
Mitigation measure (erosion control measure) estimated reduction in soil loss (%) Annual costs of mitigation
(includes costs of investment; maintenance; loss of production; and hindrance to operations)
Relevant in Scotland?
Total (£/ha/yr) y/n
No mitigation n/a -
Cover crops- Winter cover 10 229 y
Cover crops - Under sown 10 177 unsure
Mulching 50 69 if practical
High density planting 25 6 unsure
Reduced/ minimum tillage 25 50 y
Zero tillage 25 108 y
Cultivate across slope 50 10 if practical
Tramline management 80 21 y
Loosen compacted soils 25 10 y
Leave autumn seedbeds rough 25 36 unsure
Convert arable to grass 50 607 high risk areas only
Agro-forestry 50 27 high risk areas only
Biomass cropping 50


leads to more erosion??
Field layout 25 no data y
Early harvesting 2 800 unsure
Timeliness 2 74 y
Crop rotation 2 331 y
Shelterbelts 10 35 y
Establish new hedges 10 70 y
Reduce the length of the grazing day/grazing season 2 44 y
Reduce field stocking rates when soils are wet 10 44 y
Move feeders at regular intervals 10 30 y
Construct troughs with firm but permeable base 10 5 y
Reduce overall stocking rates on livestock farms 10 138 high risk areas only
Fence off rivers and streams from livestock 2 15 y
Construct bridges for livestock crossing rivers/streams 2 30 y
Re-site gateways away from high-risk areas 10 4 y
Farm track management 2 3 y
In-field buffer strips (6m) 25 68 need proper targeting
Riparian buffer strips 50 68 need proper targeting
Geotextiles/ grassed waterway 25 109 y
Lined waterways or swales 25 15 y
Earth banks/physical barriers 25 67 y
Irrigation 25 1,000 ??
Establish coarser seedbeds 25 36 if practical
Increase soil organic matter 50 20 y
Furrow press 25 10 ??
Addition of clay sized particles 25 no data unsure, not proven?
Synthetic stabilisers 25 no data unsure, not proven?
Establish and maintain artificial wetlands 10 15 not useful in erosion situations
Plough late for spring sown crops
In-field buffer strips (2m)
Grubbing tramlines