Nitrogen use efficiency in Scotland: annual report 2023

First annual report under section 5(1)(c) of the Climate Change (Nitrogen Balance Sheet) (Scotland) Regulations 2022, and complements the latest published version of the Nitrogen Balance Sheet for the year 2020.

Future opportunities for improving nitrogen use efficiency in Scotland

In parallel to a programme of ongoing technical development and monitoring of the SNBS, the Scottish Government will also continue to explore opportunities to integrate new evidence provided by the SNBS into wider policy frameworks and structures.

Food Production: Agriculture

The next Climate Change Plan, due in draft this year, will include policies and proposals to ensure that agriculture play its part in meeting our ambitious Net Zero national target and we have commissioned research through the ClimateXChange to consider the potential to set a nitrogen use efficiency target for Scottish agriculture.

Food Production: Aquaculture

Our future Vision for Sustainable Aquaculture will include outcomes related to climate change with an ambition to see the aquaculture sector play its part in Scotland achieving Net Zero emissions by 2045 and transitioning to a zero waste and circular economy.

This will include delivering emissions reductions in line with our climate targets and exploring the potential to reduce waste discharge beyond regulatory limits and capturing more organic waste for the circular economy.


Among the transport related actions which will play an important role is the introduction of Low Emission Zones that set minimum emission standards for vehicles entering the four cities of Glasgow, Edinburgh, Aberdeen and Dundee. The latest Euro 6 (VI) technologies to reduce NOx emissions work predominantly through Selective Catalytic Reuptake in the exhaust system, that injects an ammonia based solution to reduce NOx to N2. CAFS 2 also includes several actions intended to reduce nitrogen emissions from agricultural activities, with a particular focus on ammonia.

Humans and settlements (including waste management)

Delivering a circular economy in Scotland is key to ensuring optimal, sustainable use of nitrogen inputs to the economy, for example re-using and recycling any nitrogen in waste products, and minimising losses of nitrogen into the environment. We still have a significant challenge ahead and it is unlikely that our vision for a circular economy can be met in full without large-scale, significant and rapid system changes. As we set out in the CCPu, we are developing a route map focussed on actions to deliver our waste reduction and recycling targets to 2025 and beyond, in a way that maximises carbon savings potential. In May 2022, we consulted on our draft route map[1] and set out proposed new and boosted measures to accelerate progress towards existing targets. We will publish a final Route Map later this year. We also consulted on proposals for a circular economy bill, to ensure legislation is in place to support Scotland's transition to a circular economy. Consultation analysis has been recently been published and we will be bringing forward legislation this parliamentary term.

These actions will complement the existing, wide-ranging measures we have in place to support delivery of these targets, set out in the CCP, improving how efficiently nitrogen is used and supporting our drive to tackle climate change. For example, we have established our £70 million Recycling Improvement Fund to improve local authority recycling infrastructure – one of the biggest investments in recycling in Scotland in a generation. To date, over £53 million has been awarded to 17 local authorities to increase the quantity and quality of recycling.

Forests, woodlands and terrestrial semi-natural ecosystems

Wood products are largely composed of carbon and contain relatively little nitrogen, compared with forest residues, including leaf litter and brash, which are generally retained in the forest where nutrients are naturally recycled. Despite this to assure that high levels of nitrogen deposition will not pose challenges for Scotland's sensitive near-natural woodlands we will continue to monitor nitrogen flows in order to protect Scotland's ecosystems.



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