Public bodies climate change duties: putting them into practice, guidance required by part four of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009

Guidance to support public bodies in exercising their duties under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009.


What are the changes already being observed in Scotland?

Figure 2 below sets out some observed trends of climate change in Scotland from 1961 to 2004 60 :

Figure 2 - Observed trends in climate from 1961 to 2004

Observed change in Scotland's climate between 1961 and 2004


Temperatures have risen in every season in Scotland.


Scotland had become 20% wetter by 2004, with an increase of almost 70% in precipitation in northern Scotland. Heavy rainfall events have increased significantly in winter, particularly in northern and western regions.

Snow cover

The snow season has shortened across the country, with the season starting later and finishing earlier in the year. The greatest reductions have occurred in northern and western Scotland.

Growing season

The growing season has increased significantly, with the greatest change occurring at the beginning of the season.

Days of frost

There has been more than 25% reduction in the number of days of frost (both air and ground frost) across the country.

Sea level

Changes in sea levels around Scotland vary. All mainland gauges have recorded a rise over the last 100 years but in Shetland there has been a decrease since 1957.

How is Scotland's climate expected to change?

The UK Climate Projections ( UKCP09) are the latest generation of climate information for the United Kingdom. These provide probabilistic projections of change for a number of climate variables, with three future greenhouse gas emissions scenarios, averaged over seven overlapping 30-year time periods, at 25km grid resolution, as well as for 'administrative regions' and 'river basin districts'.

The key trends the projections identify are:

  • Hotter, drier summers; and
  • Milder, wetter winters.

We can also expect to see:

  • Increase in summer heat waves, extreme temperatures and drought;
  • Increased frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events;
  • Reduced occurrence of frost and snowfall; and
  • Sea level rise (depending on emissions scenario - central estimates of sea level rise in Edinburgh are 10 - 18 cm by 2050 and 23 - 39 cm by 2095).

Climate information is provided in UKCP09 for three Scottish 'climate regions' (defined by the Met Office), as shown on the map below. The data provided shows projected change in mean temperature and precipitation for winter and summer in the 2050s (under medium emissions scenario).

Figure 3: Mean temperature and precipitation increase in Scotland in 2050s under medium emissions scenario. Note: UKCP09 are probabilistic projections which assign a probability to different possible climate change outcomes. In Fig. 3, the main numbers represent the mid point of the probability range, known as the central estimate. Taking East Scotland as an example, there is a 50% chance the summer mean temperature will be more than 2.3°C hotter and a 50% chance it will not have increased quite that much. The figures in brackets show the range within which the actual change is likely to be. In this case, the projections suggest that it is very unlikely the increase in summer mean temperature will be less than 1.1°C or greater than 3.9°C.

Figure 3

What are the consequences of these changes?

The changing climate brings consequences that public bodies need to prepare for. In doing this, the public sector can contribute to developing broader resilience to change across Scotland.

Figure 4 - Illustration of the climate trends and the potential social, economic and environmental impacts and consequences (adapted from UKCIP)

Figure 4


Email: Central Enquiries Unit,

The Scottish Government
St Andrew’s House

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