Non-native species: code of practice

Guidance on non-native species, approved by the Scottish Parliament. Came into effect on 2 July 2012.

10. Non-Native Species - Which Body is Responsible


Who is responsible for non-native species in Scotland?

Scottish Minsters (including Marine Scotland), Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH), the Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA) and the Forestry Commissioners ( FCS) all have responsibilities relating to non-native species in Scotland.

These 'habitat leads' are given specific powers relating to the prevention, eradication and control of non-natives in the 1981 Act ( Chapter 9 provides more details) and are responsible for determining priorities for their habitat.

Who do I contact if I have a non-native species enquiry?

The habitat leads all have information on their websites however queries should be directed to SEARS (Scottish Environment and Rural Services) in the first instance:

08452 30 20 50 (24/7 customer service number)

Who do I contact if I require a licence to release a non-native species?

Most licensing is dealt with by SNH with freshwater fish being dealt with by Marine Scotland.


10.1 A Framework of Responsibilities (the Framework) has been agreed by those identified in the Act as having powers relating to non-native species in Scotland. Referred to as the relevant bodies in the 1981 Act, these are the Scottish Minsters (including Marine Scotland), Scottish Natural Heritage, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency and the Forestry Commissioners. The Framework aims to ensure that roles and responsibilities are clear. This will help to ensure that control work is undertaken promptly, reducing costs and avoiding duplication. Although the Framework will make the response to non-native species more effective, limited resources will mean that each relevant body will have to balance the effort involved in tackling non-native species not only against the potential cost of doing nothing but also against other priority tasks.


10.2 The Framework designates SNH as the overall lead co-ordinating body for non-native species issues. SNH will work with lead bodies for each habitat type as set out on the next page (referred to as habitat leads for the purposes of the Code).

Forestry Commission Scotland ( FCS)

Habitat Responsibilities: Woodlands

Comments: Woodlands and other habitats managed by FCS (the national forest estate). FCS will also lead in other woodlands for most non-native plant species, and other non-native species that impact on plant health or forestry interests. A partnership approach may be taken for some species affecting biodiversity interests, especially animals and plants that are found both in woodland and other habitats.

For example: Rhododendron.

Marine Scotland ( MS)

Habitat Responsibilities: The marine environment

Comments: Marine and coastal habitats up to Mean High Water Spring level or the limit of saline influence up an estuary.

For example: Carpet sea squirt and Wireweed.

Scottish Environment Protection Agency ( SEPA)

Habitat Responsibilities: Freshwater - still and flowing waters

Comments: Species found within the water body itself including emergent plants. The boundary between freshwater and marine is that previously agreed with MS for the purposes of the Water Framework Directive - these relate to the limit of saline influence up an estuary.

For example: Signal crayfish and New Zealand pygmyweed.

Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH)

Habitat Responsibilities: All terrestrial and wetland habitats and species in situations not listed above.

Comments: Including riparian vegetation, peatlands and mires outwith woodland areas. All terrestrial vertebrates and invertebrates (including all birds, and amphibians).

For example: Japanese knotweed and American mink.

The role of the co-ordinating body - SNH

10.3 As co-ordinating body SNH will ensure that the Framework operates effectively as well as providing an oversight of delivery and implementation of non-native species policy in Scotland. SNH will work in close partnership with the other habitat leads ( SEPA; MS; FCS) as well as with others such as the current Scottish Non-Native Species Working Group. SNH will provide generic advice and guidance to the habitat leads and to others on non-native species issues where required.

The role of habitat leads

10.4 Habitat leads will:

  • be a point of contact for species within that particular habitat;
  • be required to determine what the strategic priorities are for that habitat type;
  • ensure an appropriate strategy is delivered for these priorities. This may include public awareness raising, the "do-nothing" option, containment, biosecurity measures, eradication etc. This will, in many situations, mean encouraging or coordinating action by other groups or bodies;
  • maintain a dialogue and work with partners to deliver these priorities;
  • consider prevention measures such as assessment and management of high-risk pathways (both into and within the habitat) and consider strategies to reduce risk from these pathways (regulation, public awareness etc.); and
  • determine the suitability and necessity of control work and coordinate and manage any work undertaken within the habitat. Note that this does not necessarily require work to be progressed "on the ground" as control action must be technically and financially feasible, humane and safe, and proportionate to the level of threat. Habitat leads will also need to assess any control work against any competing priorities.

Joint responsibility

10.5 For some species a joint or shared responsibility, often through a partnership, is the most effective arrangement. The case study below sets out some of the partnership work underway at the time of writing. Efforts will be made to maintain and develop partnership working both between the habitat leads described above and by bringing in additional organisations.

Rhododendron case study

The extensive growth of Rhododendron ponticum hybrids in the west and south-west of Scotland poses a major threat to biodiversity of international importance, particularly to mosses, liverworts and lichens. A partnership led by Forestry Commission Scotland and Scottish Natural Heritage involving Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park, the National Trust for Scotland, Highland Birchwoods and others has been formed to address this threat.

The role of Scottish Government and the Scottish Non-Native Species Working Group

10.6 The Scottish Government will continue to lead on strategic policy on invasive non-native species in Scotland. This will include:

  • coordination at the Great Britain and European level;
  • coordination, development and strategic oversight of policy within Scotland;
  • chairing the Scottish Non-Native Species Working Group;
  • leading on matters relating to non-native species policy work including risk assessment, prevention, legislation and research.

10.7 The Scottish Non-Native Species Working Group was set up in March 2006 to ensure effective policy co-ordination and implementation in Scotland. The group co-ordinates the overall response of public sector bodies in Scotland to the environmental, social and economic challenges presented by non-native species.

SEPA, SNH, FCS, MS, Police Forces, the Convention of Scottish Local Authorities (CoSLA), Ministry of Defence, GB Non-Native Species Secretariat, research institutes, environmental charities and organisations are all represented on this group.

Who to contact?

All non-native species enquires and reports

SEARS (Scottish Environment and Rural Services) 24/7 customer service number or email;

08452 30 20 50

Contacting the Habitat Lead directly



Marine Scotland:


Licensing enquires SNH :

Tel: 01463 725245


Marine Scotland:

Tel: 0131 244 6236


Native ranges and species specific advice

Orders and other general information


The Invasive Non-native Species mailbox:

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