Environment strategy for Scotland: progress report

The first annual report to Parliament on progress in developing the Environment Strategy for Scotland, as required under the UK Withdrawal from the European Union (Continuity) (Scotland) Act 2021.

Executive summary

This is the first annual progress report to Parliament on the development of the environmental policy strategy which Scottish Ministers are required to publish under section 47 of the Continuity Act ('the Act'). The Scottish Government intends to meet the requirement by building on existing work to develop an Environment Strategy for Scotland, including the publication of the strategy's vision and outcomes (Figure 2) and monitoring framework (Figure 3).

The Environment Strategy vision and outcomes, published in 2020, describe our long-term ambitions for restoring Scotland's natural environment and playing our part in tackling the global climate and nature crises. This will require transformative economic and social change. The delivery of policies and programmes across the Scottish Government is already working to drive progress towards these outcomes, as illustrated in Figure 1.


COP26 saw the First Minister endorse the Leaders' Pledge for Nature, an international commitment to reverse biodiversity loss and create a 'nature-positive' world by 2030. Through our international leadership on the Edinburgh Declaration, the Scottish Government is calling for an ambitious Global Biodiversity Framework to be agreed at COP15, setting out bold actions to restore biodiversity.

The Scottish Government is delivering actions across land and sea to improve our natural environment. We are investing £500 million in the natural economy over the course of this Parliament to support a transformative approach to protecting and restoring Scotland's biodiversity. A new Biodiversity Strategy, to be published by autumn 2022, will set out how we will deliver Scotland's contribution to the goals of the Global Biodiversity Framework. New statutory targets for nature recovery will be implemented through a Natural Environment Bill. A range of additional strategies and initiatives are in place to protect and restore Scotland's marine biodiversity and improve the marine environment, including the Marine Nature Conservation Strategy.

Climate change

Although it is disappointing that the recent annual climate change emissions targets were missed, good long-term progress is being made, with emissions having more than halved since 1990. The updated Climate Change Plan sets out over 200 policies and proposals to drive the emissions reduction needed to 2032, as we progress towards Scotland's 2045 net zero target. The focus is now on delivering this Plan.

The 2022-23 Budget set out record levels of investment to support net zero delivery, including the first £20 million of our £500 million Just Transition Fund. We are also delivering the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme, to support Scotland's resilience to climate change, and developing a new Programme to respond to the Climate Change Committee's updated UK risk assessment, published in 2021.


A Circular Economy Bill will be introduced during this Parliamentary session to ensure legislation is in place to support Scotland's transition to a circular economy. This will build on the wide range of actions underway to help deliver this transition.

The Deposit Return Scheme, to be implemented by August 2023, will be among the most environmentally ambitious and accessible in Europe. Regulations have been laid to ban a wide range of single-use plastic items from June 2022, going further than anywhere else in the UK, subject to the impact of the UK Internal Market Act 2020. The Scottish Government, alongside other UK administrations, has committed to introduce an Extended Producer Responsibility system for packaging, and is developing a Route Map to deliver our waste and recycling targets to 2025 and beyond.


Tackling the climate and nature crises will require transformative changes in our economy. The Scottish Government's new National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET), published in March 2022, sets the direction through its ambition to deliver a just transition to a net zero, nature-positive economy and to harness the opportunities this creates for jobs, businesses and our green recovery from the Covid pandemic.

We are working to deliver these ambitions, for example through the development of Just Transition Plans, the NSET commitment to establish a market for responsible private investment in natural capital, and through support for green jobs and skills. We also need to transform how we use and manage our land and seas to help meet climate and nature targets. This is reflected in the vision for agriculture, published in March 2022, which describes our ambition to be a global leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture, and in our commitment to a Blue Economy strategy and action plan.


Transformation in our society is also needed. Restoring the health of our natural environment, and making our lifestyles more sustainable, will help to tackle poverty and inequality, improve people's physical and mental health and wellbeing, and enhance children's early years and educational experiences.

Many policies across government are working to deliver these multiple benefits for people, net zero and nature. These include improvements to air quality delivered through the Cleaner Air for Scotland 2 strategy, the emphasis on active travel in the National Transport Strategy, and the promotion of healthy, sustainable diets through the Good Food Nation Bill and draft Local Food Strategy. The draft Fourth National Planning Framework and Regeneration Strategy will help to create healthier, more sustainable places by promoting urban natural infrastructure, and the creation of 20-minute neighbourhoods that reduce the need to travel.

A just transition to a net zero, nature-positive country will help to tackle wider national challenges around poverty and inequalities – for example, by creating good, green jobs with opportunities for all, reducing fuel and transport poverty, and addressing inequalities in the quality of people's local environments and access to nature.

Global footprint

The Environment Strategy sets out the ambition for Scotland to have a sustainable global footprint. This is at the heart of Scotland's Vision for Trade, published in 2021, which is seeking opportunities to use trade as a lever to improve our international environmental impact. The Scottish Government is working to identify opportunities to strengthen coherence between our trade, environment and climate policies and is engaging with the UK Government to press for innovative, robust and enforceable text on the environment in all Free Trade Agreements. The Scottish Government is also committed to supporting climate justice and has announced a trebling of the Climate Justice Fund.

Next steps for the Environment Strategy

The Environment Strategy will not be a separate programme of action – instead it will support a whole-of-government approach to achieving our vision. Delivery is already happening, as described in this report, and the Scottish Government is developing pathways to support further delivery of the strategy outcomes through a wide range of policies and programmes.

The outcome pathways on nature, climate change and resource-use will signpost Scotland's established strategies and plans in these areas. The outcome pathways on Scotland's economy, society and global footprint will identify the potential for further action to deliver these outcomes, building on the policies set out in this report, summarised in Figure 1.

The pathways will be informed by extensive engagement and will be published for public consultation. In parallel, we are working to further develop the Environment Strategy monitoring framework, which will inform and measure progress to deliver our 2045 vision.

Figure 1: Environment Strategy – key areas of existing action

Outcome: Scotland's nature is protected and restored, with flourishing biodiversity and clean and healthy air, water, seas and soils

Policies contributing to this outcome include:

  • New Scottish Biodiversity Strategy & Delivery Plan
  • Natural Environment Bill
  • Marine Nature Conservation & Litter Strategies
  • Cleaner Air for Scotland 2
  • River Basin Management Plans
  • Scottish Soils Framework

Outcome: We play our full role in tackling the global climate emergency and limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C

Policies contributing to this outcome include:

  • Climate Change Act
  • Climate Change Plan Update
  • Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2
  • Net Zero Nation: Public Engagement Strategy

Outcome: We use and re-use resources wisely and have ended the throw-away culture

Policies contributing to this outcome include:

  • Circular Economy Strategy: Making Things Last
  • Circular Economy Bill
  • Food Waste Reduction Action Plan
  • National Litter & Flytipping Strategy
  • New Waste & Recycling Route Map

Outcome: Our thriving, sustainable economy conserves and grows our natural assets

Policies contributing to this outcome include:

  • National Strategy for Economic Transformation
  • Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan
  • Just Transition Plans
  • Infrastructure Investment Plan
  • Vision for Agriculture
  • Agriculture Bill
  • Scotland's Forestry Strategy

Outcome: Our healthy environment supports a fairer, healthier, more inclusive society

Policies contributing to this outcome include:

  • Fourth National Planning Framework
  • National Transport Strategy 2
  • Cleaner Air for Scotland 2
  • Good Food Nation Bill
  • New Local Food Strategy
  • Regeneration Strategy
  • Human Rights Bill

Outcome: We are responsible global citizens with a sustainable international footprint

Policies contributing to this outcome include:

  • Scotland's Vision for Trade
  • Global Affairs Framework
  • International Development Strategy

The Third Land Use Strategy, National Marine Plan & New Blue Economy Strategy will contribute to the delivery of multiple outcomes.

For the first three outcomes on nature, climate change and resource-use, outcome pathways will signpost to the strategies listed above and identify opportunities for joined-up approaches.

For the second three outcomes on Scotland's economy, society and global footprint, outcome pathways will build on the strategies listed above by identifying areas where there is potential for further action to help drive transformative change.

The outcomes identify the areas on which efforts should be focused in order to achieve the Environment Strategy vision, which states that: 'By restoring nature and ending Scotland's contribution to climate change, our country is transformed for the better - helping to secure the wellbeing of our people and planet for generations to come'.

Action to drive progress towards achieving the Environment Strategy vision and outcomes will help to achieve many of the National Outcomes in the National Performance Framework and Scotland's contribution to the United Nations' Sustainable Development Goals.


Email: susie.turpie@gov.scot

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