Strategic Research Programme 2011-2016: highlights

Report highlighting environment and rural economy research outputs, and resulting impact, funded through the programme.

Centres of Expertise

Three CoEs operated throughout the 2011-16 SRP, in areas of high policy importance: water, climate change and animal disease outbreaks. These centres bring together expertise across the publicly funded research sector. Such was the success of the centres they have been recommissioned beyond 2016.

Each CoE aims to provide the best available scientific advice to inform Government policy in an efficient, accessible and streamlined way. The Centres' work aligns to research within the research institutes, is closely linked to the wider policy agenda from Government, and draws widely on resources within universities.


Centre of Expertise for Waters ( CREW)

Delivers objective and robust evidence and expert opinion to support the development and implementation of water policy in Scotland. CREW informs stakeholders such as Scottish Government, SEPA, Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) and Scottish Water in their work to develop and implement water policy. Projects range across sustainable rural communities, drinking water, flood risk management, and coastal erosion and river basin management planning. These studies have informed the Flood Risk Management Act (2009); Water Framework Directive; river basin management plans; Water Resources (Scotland) Act (2013); and have contributed towards the Scottish Government's Hydro Nation Agenda.

Water Resources (Scotland) Act (2013)

A report on the Value of Scotland's Water Resources was requested from CREW by policy teams preparing the Water Resources (Scotland) Bill. This led to a successful amendment that contributed to the Act, ensuring that water resources were considered for the full extent of both their monetary and non-monetary value.

Surface Water Flood Forecasting

The impacts of surface water flooding can be severe in urban areas due to the high density of people and the infrastructure that is present. About one third of all flood risk can be attributed to surface water flooding, although accurately forecasting surface water flooding can be challenging. CREW, alongside SEPA and the Met Office, produced the UK's first operational surface water flood risk forecast. A new method was developed to forecast the impacts of flooding in real-time. This was successfully piloted at the 2014 Commonwealth Games in Glasgow, where flood risk was a major concern to strategic operations and where forecasting could be highly beneficial for transport planning and the emergency response community.

Scottish Rural Development Programme ( SRDP) Guidance and Options

Water and soil quality options, including water quality, Natural Flood Management and Rural Sustainable Drainage Systems were introduced with the 2014 SRDP. CREW assessed the evidence base for potential options to inform SEPA which options should be funded under SRDP. The options were consulted on the second-stage SRDP consultation and will form part of the second River Basin Management plan. CREW also provided evidence on how the water options could be targeted to deliver most benefit.

Flood Insurance Provision

CREW undertook research on the affordability of flood insurance in flood risk areas in Scotland and the likely impact of the cessation of the Statement of Principles on different socio-economic groups. Subsequently, the report has informed both the Scottish Government and the Scottish Parliament petitions committee in their consideration of a flood insurance problems petition. The work has had impact on Scottish Government correspondence, and the official report and informed government thinking and speeches for a Scottish Parliament Public Petitions Committee debate on flood insurance.

ClimateXChange ( CXC)

Provides research, advice and analysis to the Scottish Government as it develops and implements policies on adapting to the changing climate and the transition to a low carbon society. CXC's relevance has been cemented by recent developments: the renewed global commitment made with the Paris Climate Change Agreement generates new challenges for policy and research in Scotland and internationally.

Renewable Energy

A range of studies have informed the Scottish Government in several areas of renewable energy. This includes good practice guidance which has informed public engagement for wind farm developments and a report on "Supporting community investment in commercial energy schemes" which is informing guidance for community groups and developers. Local economic impacts of community energy, and the benefits of expanding community-owned renewables were also highlighted to policy; the associated report was cited in Scottish Government's Community Energy Policy Statement.


CXC's woodlands research aims to provide evidence to Forestry Commission Scotland ( FCS) and other policymakers to make more informed decisions on helping the Scottish Government to meet Scotland's emission reduction targets and improve the resilience of Scotland's forests to climate change. Work includes: a 'Climate Ready Forest network' which has enabled CXC to identify key adaptation issues facing the forest sector and to begin developing solutions; modelling of above and below ground carbon stocks enabling FCS to consider the most appropriate type of tree planting and the implications of new woodlands under different scenarios; and a report exploring the risks of native woodlands from climate change, and how best to manage these risks.


CXC is developing tools for targeted peatland restoration, which will support achieving Scotland's emissions reduction targets, and the aims of the National Peatland Plan and the 2020 Biodiversity Challenge. Workshops identified strategic priorities for research on peatlands which were referenced in the National Peatland Plan. Reports from CXC on the potential GHG abatement benefits from peatland restoration were evidenced to the Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment ( RACCE) committee of the Scottish Parliament and informed policy officials preparing the second Report on Proposals and Policies ( RPP2).

Adaptation Indicators

CXC has provided input to the development of and monitoring of the Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme ( SCCAP). CXC developed over 100 climate change adaptation indicators which enable an understanding of how Scotland is adapting to our changing climate and are informing the independent assessment of SCCAP. A number of engagement events have been held to ensure these indicators capture the most useful data and are aligned to policy and practice.

Centre of Expertise on Animal Disease Outbreaks ( EPIC)

EPIC's mission is 'to best prepare Scotland for the next major animal disease incursion'. To do this EPIC brings together the best available scientific expertise to inform the Scottish Government and the livestock industry on reducing the impact of animal disease outbreaks. EPIC has built a series of tools which model outbreaks and have run simulation exercises to help with coordination and preparedness, in addition to monitoring diseases which may become future threats to Scotland's livestock.

Expertise in Qualitative Veterinary Risk Assessments

Qualitative veterinary risk assessments ( VRAs) provide a method of assessing animal health risks on particular topics. EPIC has generated VRAs which have helped inform long-term contingency planning for different exotic diseases. The VRAs have covered: responses to potential Avian Influenza and Classical Swine Fever outbreaks; decisions on animal movement licences and access to the countryside in the event of a Foot and Mouth Disease outbreak; and the retention of single flock tagging versus the double Electronic Identification ( EID) tagging which highlighted that retaining the single tags would increase risk.

Exercise Walnut - Pig Movements

Exercise Walnut was a disease simulation exercise undertaken in 2013 to test the UK's preparedness for an outbreak of classical swine fever ( CSF). The operation involved the Animal and Plant Health Agency ( APHA, previously the Animal Health and Veterinary Laboratories Agency, AHVLA), DEFRA, the Scottish Government, Welsh Government and Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. EPIC researchers participated in the exercise, and during the 'live play' section were asked to interrogate pig movement and demography databases to enable understanding of disease transmission routes and to identify control options. A subsequent report prepared by EPIC assessing the impact of implementing a movement ban during a CSF outbreak has led to findings valuable to Scottish Government and DEFRA policy teams.

Sheep Scab Control

A collaboration between Scotland's Sheep Scab Action group, SRP researchers and EPIC scientists helped to instigate a local eradication campaign on the island of Mull in 2013. An optimal testing schedule for applying the sheep scab diagnostic blood test was devised. The majority of flocks were demonstrated to be free from the disease. The same schedule was used to test breeding tups in 2015, resulting in sheep scab being detected in a defined area, showing the value in this approach to disease monitoring.

Avian Influenza

There have been a number of cases of Avian Influenza confirmed in both domestic and wild birds in the UK, including two instances in Scotland. Communication by Scottish Government, to industry and other partners, was supported by EPIC scientists. In addition to assisting the Scottish response, EPIC scientists were invited to join meetings of the National Epidemiology Emergency Group. EPIC's work contributed to Scottish Government understanding of the Scottish commercial poultry sector, susceptibility of the industry to exotic disease and the value of existing data on forensic contact tracing, enabling policy-makers to make more informed decisions.


Email: Jenny Watson,

Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit

The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House
Regent Road

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