Information pertaining to agriculture developments: EIR release

Information request and response under the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004

Information requested

1. What progress has been made on developing a land reform bill?

2. What is the total Nature Restoration fund?

3. Has an Peatland restoration programme been established?

4. What work has been done to stimulate responsible private investment in the restoration of nature and enhancement of Scotland’s natural capital?

5. What work has been done to enhance the Forestry Grant Scheme to deliver better community engagement, improved biodiversity and increased value for money, including improved support for tree planting around rivers and streams?

6. What development has been undertaken to create a framework to deliver the Scottish governments commitment to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030?

7. What work has been undertaken on the development of nature networks?

8. What consultations have taken place on a new flooding strategy since September 2022?

9. What work has been undertaken on the development of a water scarcity programme?


As the information you have requested is 'environmental information' for the purposes of the Environmental Information (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (EIRs), we are required to deal with your request under those Regulations. We are applying the exemption at section 39(2) of the Freedom of Information (Scotland) Act 2002 (FOISA), so that we do not also have to deal with your request under FOISA.

This exemption is subject to the 'public interest test'. Therefore, taking account of all the circumstances of this case, we have considered if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest in applying the exemption. We have found that, on balance, the public interest lies in favour of upholding the exemption, because there is no public interest in dealing with the same request under two different regimes. This is essentially a technical point and has no material effect on the outcome of your request.

1. The Bute House Agreement and Policy Prospectus set out the Scottish Government’s commitment to the introduction of a further land reform Bill. The Bill will further improve transparency of land ownership, help ensure large scale land holdings deliver in the public interest, and empower communities by providing more opportunities to own land and have more say in how land in their area is used.

The public consultation on the Bill, ‘Land Reform in a Net Zero Nation’, was open from 4 July until the 30 October 2022 and received approximately 540 responses which are available online. An independent analysis of the responses was published on 2 June 2023.The analysis showed a majority of respondents agreed with many of the ambitious proposals for land reform - including the introduction of a public interest test for transfers of large-scale landholdings.

As highlighted in the Bute House Agreement, the Scottish Government is committed to the introduction of the Bill by the end of 2023.

2. In July 2021 the Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) was launched, which provides £65 million additional funding across this parliament for multi-year, multi-partner larger scale projects that aim to deliver significant improvements in biodiversity. In the first two years, the NRF has provided over £23 million to local authorities, our two national parks, and their partners, to undertake projects which restore nature, safeguard wildlife, and tackle the causes of biodiversity loss and climate change. More information on the NRF can be found here - Scottish Government Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) | NatureScot.

3. A peatland restoration programme was established in 2020 in response to the Scottish Government’s commitments to provide £250 million over 10 years to restore 250,000 hectares of degraded Scottish peatlands by 2030 as initially set out in the Climate Change Plan Update.

Peatland restoration is delivered by Peatland Action - a flagship partnership programme established by the Scottish Government with five public sector delivery partners– NatureScot (NS), Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park Authority (LLTNPA), Scottish Water (SW), Cairngorms National Park Authority (CNPA) and Forestry and Land Scotland (FLS).

You can find out more about the programme via the Nature Scot Peatland Action website - Peatland ACTION Project | NatureScot

4. Public and responsible private investment in Scotland’s natural capital will be essential to meet the pace and scale of the challenge of delivering on our climate change and biodiversity targets and wider land use policy objectives. In recognition of the significant opportunity for Scotland, the National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) includes a commitment to establishing a values-led, high-integrity market for responsible private investment in natural capital, supported by a national project pipeline for nature-based solutions. This commitment fits with the 2022 UK Climate Change Committee (UKCCC) advice to Governments to take action to improve the integrity and transparency of voluntary carbon markets.

The NSET is available here: Scotland's National Strategy for Economic Transformation - ( The natural capital markets commitment is listed under the ‘New Market Opportunities’ theme as part of Project 7 on page 28 of the PDF version of the NSET. Box E on page 29 provides the Scottish Government’s definition of natural capital which includes specific references to the intrinsic value of nature and the importance of working within safe environmental limits.

The vision of our National Strategy for Economic Transformation (NSET) is that by 2032 Scotland will be a wellbeing economy, thriving across economic, social, and environmental dimensions, and placing people and the planet at its core. It will be based on the principles of resilience, sustainability, equality and prosperity. In recognition of the significant opportunity for Scotland, NSET includes a commitment to establishing a values-led, high-integrity market for responsible private investment in natural capital, supported by a national project pipeline for nature-based solutions.

Scottish Government published a set of Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital on 31 March 2022. The Interim Principles have been an important early action to support delivery of this NSET commitment and set out the Scottish Government’s ambitions and expectations for a values-led, high-integrity market for responsible private investment in natural capital to communities, investors, land managers, land owners, public bodies and other market stakeholders. The Interim Principles are available here: Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital - (

The Facility for Investment Ready Nature in Scotland (FIRNS) will allocate up to £1.8m in grant funds this financial year to help build a pipeline of natural capital restoration projects which are able to attract responsible private investment. It will help selected projects to bridge the gap between a conceptual idea and the investment ready proposition capable of attracting private capital and finance, helping to fill the estimated finance gap for nature restoration in Scotland over the next decade. Projects successful in receiving grant support will be expected to demonstrate how they will adhere to the Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital. FIRNS responds to the lack of capacity in the sector to understand how to develop projects in order that they are ‘investment ready’ and the lack of market mechanisms (beyond woodland and peatland) to enable responsible private investment. More information can be found at FIRNS - The Facility for Investment ready Nature in Scotland | NatureScot

NatureScot is partnering in a private investment pilot that could mobilise up to £2 billion of private finance in landscape scale restoration of native woodland, create new jobs and support rural communities across all parts of Scotland. If successful, the pilot could unlock private investment in natural capital, with the aim of reducing emissions and restoring biodiversity through landscape scale nature projects. Private investment resulting from the partnership will support woodland expansion, peatland restoration and enhancement of other habitats. The partnership will work with existing land owners and managers and will also seek to deliver direct community benefits as a result of the investment, in line with the expectations of the Scottish Government’s Interim Principles for Responsible Investment in Natural Capital. More information is available at £2 billion private finance pilot potential ‘vital step in restoring Scotland’s woodlands’ | NatureScot

The Scottish Government has set ambitious targets for climate change and biodiversity alongside wider goals for land use transformation policy. This includes halting biodiversity loss by 2030 and achieving net zero emissions and restoring and regenerating biodiversity by 2045. It has set ambitious targets for increasing the uptake of nature-based solutions for climate change. This includes increasing the current woodland creation target of 12,000 hectares annually in 2020/21 up to 18,000 hectares in 2024/25 and restoring 250,000 hectares of degraded peatland by 2030.

Scottish Government is already investing in nature at scale – with £250 million in peatland restoration alone – but we know that public funding won’t be sufficient by itself. That is why both public and responsible private investment in Scotland’s natural capital will be essential to meet the pace and scale of the challenge of delivering on our climate change and biodiversity targets and wider land use policy objectives.

5. As a first step towards better community engagement in forestry, Scottish Forestry has recently published refreshed guidance on community engagement and consultation. The purpose of the guidance is to provide greater clarity around the existing engagement and consultation processes during the development and approval of woodland creation schemes, felling permission applications, and management plans. The document outlines why engagement and consultation is important, the processes involved in the development and approval of forestry plans and proposals, roles and responsibilities, how to use the public registers and how complex cases are resolved.

Building on this first step, we also recently ran a public consultation on future forestry grant support. The consultation asked for views on how forestry regulatory and grant processes can be evolved to provide greater opportunities for communities to be involved in the development of forestry proposals. Consultation responses are currently being analysed by an independent consultant and we will consider this analysis, alongside other available evidence, to help identify priority improvements to the Forestry Grant Scheme.

Enhanced Forestry Grant Scheme support for planting trees around rivers and streams was announced and became operational on 12th July. The ‘Woodlands for Riparian Benefits’ grant is targeted to areas of land around rivers which has the greatest potential to deliver multiple benefits. Approximately 175,000 hectares are now eligible for enhanced grant support for tree planting where there can be benefits for enhancing biodiversity and reducing river temperatures, diffuse pollution, and flood risk.

Better targeting of the Forestry Grant Scheme to broaden the range of benefits it delivers for biodiversity will help increase the value from public investment in woodland creation.

6. The commitment to protect 30% of land and sea for nature by 2030 (known as 30 by 30) is being progressed in two parallel workstreams. Within the marine environment, Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) already cover over 37% of Scottish waters so the focus of the work is to ensure the effective management for nature of the MPA suite. On land/freshwater, approximately 18% of Scotland is within a protected area. To establish the principles which would guide the delivery of the 30% target on land, in late 2022 NatureScot facilitated discussions in a series of co-design stakeholder workshops. These workshops sought to identify the challenges in achieving the 30 by 30 target and identified possible solutions. The results of the workshop have been collated by NatureScot in to the 30 by 30 Delivery Framework. There will be an opportunity to comment on the Framework, as it will be part of a wider consultation for the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy Delivery Plan and equivalent Nature Networks Delivery Framework.

7. The Scottish Government commissioned NatureScot to develop a Nature Network Framework setting out the vision, principles and implementation elements needed to deliver Nature Networks in Scotland. Following an extensive co-design workshop process, which began in June 2022 and included a wide range of stakeholders, a draft co-designed framework has been produced. This will be published on the NatureScot webpages once agreed and finalised with co-producers, and is intended for inclusion in a public consultation on the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and Delivery Plan to be published this summer. Details of the co-design process can be found on the NatureScot website - 30 by 30 and Nature Networks | NatureScot. Should you wish to be informed when the above consultation is published please do contact the Scottish Government Biodiversity mailbox – – so that we can include your contact details in our distribution list.

Responses received from the public consultation, and continued stakeholder engagement, will inform further development of the implementation elements set out in the final Framework. Additionally, NatureScot has commissioned a CIVTECH 8 project aimed at helping to identify opportunity areas across Scotland, for nature connectivity. This tool is intended to be of use to local authorities and other stakeholders in identifying local areas that may be suitable for nature network development. Further information is available under project 8.3 on the CIVTECH website - CivTech 8 Challenges — CivTech.

Further work to develop a ‘toolbox’ to aid implementation of nature networks across Scotland will take place this year, and will continue to evolve over time as new technologies and processes are developed. It is envisaged that this will include signposting to inter alia, mapping tools such as those being developed under CIVTECH 8 for nature networks and natural capital purposes, and to existing nature networks such as the Central Scotland Green Network and Edinburgh Nature Network. Inclusion of case studies on this portal also aims to facilitate knowledge exchange and learning opportunities as nature networks across Scotland emerge and evolve.

Nature Networks are a critical action to deliver upon the vision for Scotland’s biodiversity, to halt and reverse biodiversity loss by 2023 and 2045 respectively. They are also included in the fourth National Planning Framework to protect biodiversity, reverse biodiversity loss, deliver positive effects from development and strengthen nature networks, through the planning and development system. NatureScot has developed guidance on the type of action that can be taken to enhance biodiversity within developments Developing with Nature guidance | NatureScot. The Scottish Government have also recently published guidance related to Local Development Planning, for local Authorities, which includes Nature Networks.

Our Nature Restoration Fund is helping Local Authorities undertake the kind of nature restoration and ecological connectivity projects which contribute to nature network development, and help to connect local communities with nature. More information can be found here - Scottish Government Nature Restoration Fund (NRF) | NatureScot.

8. The 2022-23 Programme for Government commitment is to “Consult on a new flooding strategy for Scotland, including how we can build community flood resilience and engage a broader range of delivery partners to deliver more diverse flood management actions faster.” Our aim is to ensure that the strategy sets out our long term approach to improving Scotland’s flood resilience in the face of climate change. The strategy will be a key component of the third Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (SCCAP3) due to be published in autumn 2024.

Consultations since September 2022 have included:
FRM2023 Conference - Water Resilient Places | Sniffer The Scottish Flood Risk Management Conference was held in person on 22 – 23 February 2023 at Perth Concert Hall. It was attended by over 600 delegates with an interest in flooding issues including engineers, community representatives, planners, land managers, local authorities, Scottish water, SEPA and representatives from academia. Scottish government took the opportunity to introduce our emerging ideas on a flooding strategy at this event. The keynote speech and discussion session focused on the need to develop a water resilience/flood resilience strategy. Delegates were given the opportunity to contribute views and ideas as input to the strategy during the conference and on-line afterwards.

Summer 2023 engagement workshops Flood Resilience Strategy for Scotland | Sniffer There will be ten consultation engagement workshops taking place over the summer. These will be with flood management practitioners and communities to gather views on what the strategy should contain and the issues it should address. The first workshop took place on 26 July and was attended by over 60 delegates.

Since the requirement for a flood resilience strategy was identified over a year ago there has been an ongoing programme of engagement with key organisations and other Scottish government policy areas to seek their views and inform thinking on how the strategy should be developed and what it should contain.

Organisations and groups have included:

  • SEPA
  • Scottish Water
  • The Metropolitan Glasgow Strategic Drainage Partnership
  • The Edinburgh and Lothians Strategic Drainage Partnership
  • Local Authorities
  • The Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland (Flooding Group) – represents the 32 local authorities.
  • Scottish Flood Forum
  • Transport Scotland
  • Scottish government – related policy areas.

A programme board and strategic leads group are being convened and will meet for the first time this summer to oversee the development of the strategy. These groups will be chaired by Scottish Government and include representation from SEPA, Scottish Water, NatureScot, COSLA and Heads of Planning in Scotland. An advisory group will also be set up to enable us to test/consult on elements of the strategy as they are developed with a wider group covering flooding, community, placemaking and climate adaptation interests.

Following the targeted summer consultation workshops the strategy will be drafted and our aim is to publish the draft strategy for public consultation in spring 2024.

9. Scotland’s third River Basin Management Plans (RBMP), published in December 2021 by the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), sets out our aims and objectives to improve the management of land in a way that secures sustainable and long-term improvements to our water environment and supports our response to the climate emergency and biodiversity crisis. The RBMPs are complemented by Scotland’s National Water Scarcity Plan (NWSP) which sets out how water resources will be managed prior to and during periods of dry weather.

In the 2022-23 Programme for Government, the Scottish Government made the commitment to “Work with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA), abstractors and others to ensure the right strategic approach to water scarcity is in place to build on the lessons from our experiences this summer.” As a direct result of this commitment, in June 2023 SEPA published guidance which clarifies how they will apply the NWSP where abstractions have limited cumulative environmental impact. In addition, an important lesson learned from last year and a key priority for 2023 has been to ramp up early and proactive communications on water scarcity planning.

SEPA on behalf of the Scottish Government began a full communications campaign at the start of May with a comms stakeholder group stood up to coordinate messaging. Building on feedback from last year, there has also been close partnership with the Scottish Government sponsored Farm Advisory Service (FAS), further strengthening engagement with abstractors on the ground. An ongoing program of social media and news releases is in place to support stakeholder engagement around the changing water scarcity risk across Scotland. SEPA also publish a weekly water scarcity report on their website and following each publication SEPA issue a news release to communicate the increased water scarcity risk across Scotland, providing interviews to news outlets including BBC and STV.

Taking our commitment to ensure the right strategic approach to water scarcity is in place, the Scottish Government supports a wide range of research projects which investigate Scotland’s resilience to water scarcity. The Scottish Government’s Rural and Environment Science and Analytical Services Division (RESAS) funds the Centre of Expertise on Water (CREW), the James Hutton Institute and Scotland’s Rural College to conduct both short and long-term research projects. There are ongoing and future research projects included in the 2022 RESAS funded 5-year strategic research programme, aimed at improving our understanding of seasonal water scarcity in Scotland and how we can change behaviours to build resilience to water scarcity.

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