Publication - Research and analysis

Evaluation of the Compliance and Quality of Biodiversity Duty Reports 2015

Published: 27 Oct 2016
Environment and Forestry Directorate
Part of:
Environment and climate change

A review of biodiversity duty reporting by public bodies in Scotland.

102 page PDF

1.1 MB

102 page PDF

1.1 MB

Evaluation of the Compliance and Quality of Biodiversity Duty Reports 2015
1 Introduction

102 page PDF

1.1 MB

1 Introduction

This chapter provides an introduction to the study. It highlights the two pieces of legislation that are relevant to biodiversity duty reporting, namely the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 and the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. It also outlines the main documents that are guiding the conservation of biodiversity in Scotland. These include Scotland's Biodiversity Strategy, the 2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity, and Scotland's Biodiversity: a Route Map to 2020 which contains the Six Big Steps for Nature. The chapter then notes that the first biodiversity duty reports were due in January 2015. There is a need to assess these reports, the activities carried out, and the contribution made by public bodies to Scotland's biodiversity targets. The chapter presents the overall aim of the study, which was to assess biodiversity duty reporting by public bodies and the activities undertaken. The more detailed objectives are also included. The chapter concludes with information on the structure of this report.

1.1 Policy context

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 requires all public bodies in Scotland to further the conservation of biodiversity when carrying out their activities [6] . This requirement is referred to as the biodiversity duty. Biodiversity can be defined as the variety of life on Earth and covers the genetic materials within the different species of animals and plants, the species themselves, and the communities they make up ( SNH, 2011). The biodiversity duty aims to help connect people and their environment ( SNH, 2011).

Following on from the 2004 Act, Part 5 of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 (the WANE Act) requires public bodies in Scotland to prepare a report on compliance with their biodiversity duty [7] . Each public body should publish a report on the actions taken to meet their biodiversity duty every three years. Public bodies can prepare these reports in any form they think fit, with the legislation noting that biodiversity duty reports may be included within other reports that the public body is preparing or publishing. The WANE Act came into force in January 2012.

Two key biodiversity documents have been published since this date. In 2013, the Scottish Government published the biodiversity strategy entitled "2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity" (Scottish Government, 2013). This document is Scotland's response to the Aichi targets and has three main aims including:

  • Maximising the benefits of a diverse natural environment;
  • Engaging people with the natural world; and
  • Supporting biodiversity and ecosystems.

These aims are broken down into a series of key outcomes covered by the various chapters of the strategy. Each of the outcomes is supported by a list of key steps which can be linked to different pressures affecting biodiversity, as well as the Aichi Targets.

In 2015, the Scottish Government published the route map "Scotland's biodiversity - a route map to 2020" (Scottish Government, 2015). This included the Six Big Steps for Nature, along with a set of priority projects under each of these steps. The steps cover:

1. Ecosystem restoration;

2. Investment in natural capital;

3. Quality greenspace for health and education benefits;

4. Conserving wildlife in Scotland;

5. Sustainable management of land and freshwater; and

6. Sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems.

The biodiversity duty, as specified by the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act, will help ensure that public bodies consider biodiversity when carrying out their everyday activities. It will enable them to contribute towards the aims of the biodiversity strategy, as well as the Six Big Steps for Nature in the route map. The WANE Act provides the mechanism for ensuring that public bodies publish information on their activities relating to biodiversity.

The first biodiversity duty reports were due in January 2015, three years from when the WANE Act came into force. All public bodies that were established prior to January 2012 were expected to report in 2015 [8] . Whilst the WANE Act does not require public bodies to tell the Scottish Government that they have published a report, 36 public bodies had notified the Scottish Government of their reports by 1 st January 2015. However, 139 public bodies were in existence within Scotland in 2012 [9] . There was a need to evaluate this first round of biodiversity duty reporting to determine how many public bodies had published reports. Other issues to investigate included:

  • The different approaches to reporting. The Scottish LBAP (Local Biodiversity Action Plan) officer network produced a template and guidance for reporting. Public bodies could use this template if they wished, or develop their own;
  • The types of activities reported by public bodies when carrying out their biodiversity duty. Different public bodies are likely to be able to carry out different activities;
  • The contribution that these activities are likely to be making to Scotland's biodiversity targets; and
  • Any lessons learnt that can be carried forward to the next reporting round in 2018.

The Scottish Government therefore commissioned this study to assess the first round of biodiversity duty reporting as required by the WANE Act.

1.2 Aims and objectives

1.2.1 Study aim

The aim of this study was to assess biodiversity duty reporting by public bodies and the activities undertaken.

1.2.2 Objectives

The research objectives were:

1. To identify, compare and contrast the reports that public bodies used to fulfil their biodiversity reporting duty.

2. To provide an assessment of the contribution that the biodiversity duty is making to the delivery of the "2020 Challenge for Scotland's Biodiversity". This assessment could include the biodiversity duty activities in the context of / contribution to a) the Six Big Steps for Nature, and b) Aichi Targets.

3. To assess why some public bodies failed to submit a report and identify any actions that the Scottish Government can take to assist them in the future.

4. To draw conclusions and recommendations on requirements for future reporting, through provision of improved guidance and instructions and development of the next reporting template. These should take into account 'Scotland's Biodiversity - a Route Map to 2020'.

1.3 Structure of this report

This report provides:

  • An introduction to the study (this chapter) providing the policy context and the aims and objectives;
  • A description of the method followed;
  • Key findings from the desk research, the internet based survey of public bodies and the telephone interviews; and
  • Conclusions and policy recommendations.

Additional information is included within the annexes as follows:

  • Annex 1: Evaluation matrix;
  • Annex 2: Identified biodiversity duty reports (2012-2014);
  • Annex 3: Internet based survey;
  • Annex 4: Scottish public bodies (based on the National Public Bodies Directory);
  • Annex 5: Interview questions;
  • Annex 6: Relevance of the key steps in the "2020 challenge for Scotland's biodiversity";
  • Annex 7: Contribution of public body activities to relevant key steps from the biodiversity strategy; and
  • Annex 8: Linking relevant key steps from the biodiversity strategy to the Six Big Steps for nature and the Aichi targets.