Key Scottish Environment Statistics 2012

This publication aims to provide an easily accessible reference document which offers information on a wide range of environmental topics. It covers key datasets on the state of the environment in Scotland, with an emphasis on the trends over time wherever possible.

This document is part of a collection


As a compendia publication considering many aspects of the environment, Key Scottish Environment Statistics may be used to provide an overview of how the environment in Scotland is changing.

The environment is a key aspect to the success and well-being of Scotland. There are aspects of the environment which affect human health, wildlife and economic success. Scotland's environment is generally in a good condition but there remain areas where environmental quality is poor. Some of the main trends are highlighted below.

Annual mean temperatures in the 2000's were 0.9C higher than the 1961-1990 average, the highest for any decade since records began in 1910. 2010 was the tenth coldest year. The annual mean temperature in 2011 was 1.3C above the 1961-1990 average (Annual Mean Temperature: 1910-2011).

Net greenhouse gas emissions (taking account of emissions and removals) in 2010 were 16.4 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (Mt CO2e) less than in 1990 but 3.1 Mt CO2e higher than in 2009 (Greenhouse Gas Emissions by Source: 1990-2010). Adjusting for trading in the EU Emissions Trading System the 2010 figure is 1.0 Mt CO2e higher than 2009, a 1.9% increase, but 24.3% lower than the 1990 base year (Greenhouse Gas Emissions Adjusted to Take Account of Trading in the EU Emissions Trading System: 1990-2010).

Figures for air quality indicate that UK Air Quality Strategy (AQS) Objectives were not met at some Scottish sites. In relation to nitrogen dioxide, 12 of 58 monitoring sites failed to meet an annual mean AQS objective in 2011, and 7 failed an hourly mean AQS objective. Ground level ozone objectives were met at 8 of 11 sites in 2011 and the second stage of the AQS for PM10 to be met by 2010 was not met at 21 of 53 Scottish sites (Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations1,7,8: 1992-2011, Ground Level Ozone Concentrations1: 1990-2011).

Between 1990 and 2009, there were reductions in Scottish emissions of both PM10 and nitrogen oxides by 60%. There were decreases in sulphur dioxide and nitrogen dioxide emissions from large combustion plants in 2011 compared with 2010 (28% and 22% respectively) due to some plants no longer having to report emissions and reductions from major plants such as Longannet and Cockenzie (Particulate (PM10) Concentrations: 1993-2011, Nitrogen Dioxide Concentrations1,7,8: 1992-2011, Emissions of Sulphur Dioxide and Nitrogen Oxides from Large Combustion Plants: 1996-2011).

Drinking water quality and river water quality have both generally improved over time and between 2010 and 2011 (Drinking Water Quality: 1991-2011, River Water QualityR: 1992-2011). The percentage of river sites with a mean nitrate concentration of ≥ 2.5 mg N/l was 15.6%, the lowest level it has been since records started in 1993 (Nitrate Concentrations in Rivers: 1993-2011). Sites with a mean orthophosphate concentration < 25µg P/l peaked at 67%, up from 64% in 2007 (Orthophosphate Concentrations in Rivers: 1993-2011). Bathing water quality has varied over time with 95% of bathing waters meeting the mandatory standard required by the 1976 EC Bathing Water Directive in 2011 (Compliance with the EC Bathing Water Directive (76/160/EEC): 1988-2011).

Less waste was sent to landfill in 2010 than 2009 and 59% less than in 2000 (Waste Sent to Landfill: 2000-2010). In 2010/11 38.2% of local authority municipal waste was recycled or composted, up from 36.8% in 2009/10 and 4.5% in 2000/01 (Local Authority Collected Municipal Solid Waste (LACMSW)3,4: 2000/01- 2010/11). The proportion of households recycling waste items has increased each year since 2003 (Waste Recycling Behaviour: 2000-2011).

Between 1998 and 2007, the area of broadleaved woodland, improved grassland and acid grassland increased while coniferous woodland and arable and horticultural land decreased (Broad Habitat Change: 1990-2007). Derelict and urban vacant land increased by 2.7% between 2005 and 2011 (Derelict and Urban Vacant Land: 2002-2011). In 2012, 18% of Scotland's land was woodland, compared with 17.8% for the previous 2 years and 16.4% in 1995 (Area of Woodland: 1924-2012). In 2010, Nutrient application rates (nitrogen, phosphate and potash) applied to crops and grass decreased continuing a downward trend since around 2000 (Nutrients Applied to Crops and Grass: 1986-2011). The area of designated protected areas has shown an upward trend over the long term (Designated Areas: 1991-2012).

Between 1998 and 2007, plant species richness decreased in most habitats, notably fen, marsh and swamp (Changes in Plant Species Richness: 1990-2007). Terrestrial breeding bird numbers increased by 15% between 1994 and 2010, but have seen a 14% reduction since 2008. Seabird abundance declined between 1991 and 2004 and, though it has since stabilized, was 45% lower in 2010 than in the 1991 peak. Wintering waterbird numbers have shown a 21% reduction from a peak in 1995 to 2009 (Status of Wild Bird Populations: 1975-2010).


Email: Sandy McPhee

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