Biodiversity strategy to 2045: tackling the nature emergency - draft

This draft biodiversity strategy sets out our clear ambition for Scotland to be Nature Positive by 2030, and to have restored and regenerated biodiversity across the country by 2045.

3. Strategic Vision And Outcomes

The previous chapter outlined the scale and scope of the of the biodiversity crisis and the growing international consensus that urgent and deep rooted action is needed to halt biodiversity loss and bend the curve to ensure a nature positive future. The strategy’s vision sets out Scotland’s response to the challenge:

By 2045, Scotland will have restored and regenerated biodiversity across our land, freshwater and seas.

Our natural environment, our habitats, ecosystems and species, will be diverse, thriving, resilient and adapting to climate change.

Regenerated biodiversity will drive a sustainable economy and support thriving communities and people will play their part in the stewardship of nature for future generations.

This Vision encapsulates three core ideas: that urgent action is needed at scale across our land and seascapes; that we are looking to the future – regenerating biodiversity and building resilience to climate change; and that people and communities are central to a nature positive future.

Underneath the 2045 term vision sits a key milestone of halting biodiversity loss by 2030, in line with the Leaders’ Pledge for Nature. This milestone will enable us to assess whether we are on track to achieving the longer term vision.

3.1 Outcomes - what does success look like?

Delivering this Vision will mean a Scotland that looks substantially different to what we are familiar with today. To help define what success looks like we have identified, in conjunction with experts and stakeholders, a set of Outcomes which capture how our land and seascapes will need to evolve.

By 2045 across our land and seascapes:

  • Ecosystems will be diverse, healthy, resilient and deliver a wide range of ecosystem services
  • Protected areas will be larger, better connected and in good condition
  • The abundance and distribution of species will have recovered and there will be no loss of diversity within species
  • Scotland’s internationally important species will have increased in numbers and have healthy resilient populations
  • Natural capital will be embedded in policy making
  • Nature-Based Solutions, such as tree-planting, peatland and blue carbon habitat restoration, will be central to our efforts to deliver NetZero and adapt to climate change
  • Harmful invasive non-native species (INNS) will be managed so that established INNS no longer degrade native habitats and species or impede their restoration and regeneration and new introductions are managed quickly and effectively
  • Biodiversity as a concept will be understood and valued across the population and embedded in educational curriculums

On land by 2045

  • Nature Networks across our landscapes will underpin the resilience and health of species and habitats
  • Farmland practices will have resulted in a substantial regeneration in biodiversity, ecosystem and soil health and significantly reduced carbon emissions while sustaining high quality food production
  • Management of deer ranges, grouse moors and upland agriculture will be contributing to the regeneration of biodiversity in upland areas

Extensive heaths are diverse, with deer and sheep numbers in balance with the environment. Native tree planting has been targeted to maximise biodiversity and avoid rare and vulnerable habitats. The mosaic of open and wooded habitats are home to healthy populations of iconic species such as capercaillie, curlew, mountain hare, emperor moth and golden eagle. Restored alpine peatlands have dunlin and golden plover, and adjoining heaths and plains have nesting dotterel and ptarmigan.

Windfarms are situated where their impacts upon peatland, birds and other wildlife are minimised. Upland moorland and peatland soils retain and capture vast amounts of carbon in their peat layers, and support a diversity of fungal hyphae (threads). Small mammals, worms, springtails, mites and spiders are abundant.

Areas of actively growing peatland are retained as open habitat, capturing carbon with restored natural pools and increased cover of Sphagnum mosses.

  • Forest and woodland management will have led to sustainable natural regeneration; a greater diversity of woodland species; increased woodland cover with a healthy understorey, enhanced woodland connectivity; and improved integration of trees into other land uses
  • Soil health will have been improved by tackling loss of organic carbon, erosion, compaction, and the impacts of grazing, air pollution and climate change, and will function as a nature-based solution to flooding, erosion and biodiversity loss
  • The actions we take to improve biodiversity will create new green jobs and economic opportunities to supporting thriving communities
  • Towns and cities will include nature-rich environments close to all communities, contributing to Nature Networks and measurable increases in urban biodiversity
  • Multi-functional urban nature-based solutions will enable people and biodiversity to adapt to our changing climate by cooling the urban environment and managing extreme rainfall events, with blue and green infrastructure designed and managed to benefit biodiversity, provide habitats and allow wildlife to move through urban areas

Patches of species-rich grassland and wee forests have replaced short amenity grassland, with an increase in insect populations benefitting birds species such as blackbirds and robins. Grassland sown with native wild flowers and grass species is not mown until the flowers have either set seed or been eaten by birds such as house sparrows.

Children enjoy the urban outdoors both as a place to play and an outdoor classroom. New urban ponds and existing ponds are colonised by wild plants and animals such as yellow iris and dragonflies. Gardens are enjoyed for flowers, wild birds, animals and insects which control pests, entertain and pollinate. Community gardens allow people to grow and pick their own food and connect with nature.

Buildings incorporate nest boxes for swifts, house martins and bats; green walls and roofs; rooftop gardens; and window boxes. Vertical rain gardens and ponds help reduce flash flooding and make neighbourhoods more attractive. Green areas join up to allow pollinators and larger animals such as hedgehogs and frogs to travel across the urban environment.

Trees and other plants help clean the air and provide shade reducing the urban heat island effect. Impermeable surfaces have been replaced with species-rich grassland and urban woodland to increase soil biodiversity and capture carbon within the soil. People benefit from clean air and access to species-rich green or blue spaces.

In rivers, lochs and wetlands by 2045

  • The extent of restored catchments and improvements in ecological status of rivers, lochs and wetlands will have increased with waterbodies in good condition
  • Riparian woodland will have expanded reducing the average temperature of our rivers and burns, leading to increases in freshwater fish species and other wildlife
  • A substantial, widespread and ongoing programme of peatland restoration will have led to the majority of Scotland’s peatlands being in good condition, a net sequester of carbon with thriving wildlife and biodiversity
  • The extent, condition, connectivity and resilience of wetlands, including floodplain wetlands and pond habitats will have significantly improved
  • Beavers, salmon recovery and riparian woodland will be established as key ecological components of restored rivers and wetlands

In marine and coastal environments by 2045

  • The health, condition, and resilience of pelagic, coastal, shelf, and deep sea marine habitats will have been restored, supporting wider ecosystem function, providing increased benefits to society, and contributing to climate resilience and adaptation through nature-based solutions

Soft coasts such as beaches, tidal flats and saltmarshes are appreciated as natural defences and allowed to respond naturally to changes in sea level. Most infrastructure that inhibited natural change in these habitats has been removed. Coastal soils support low intensity grazing, which helps maintain grassland vegetation rich in wildflowers and insects such as burnet moths and dingy skipper butterflies.

Chains of coastal wetlands provide freshwater and brackish habitats for birds and opportunities for species to move in response to climate change. Tidal flats and saltmarsh provide a stopover point for migratory water birds such as knot, dunlin and bar-tailed godwit and over-wintering for species such as curlew, redshank and oystercatcher. The ability of flourishing coastal habitats such as saltmarshes and tidal flats to provide significant carbon sequestration and storage is acknowledged and protected. Highly valued for recreation, the coast provides an opportunity to connect with nature.

Clean seas are the foundation of our inshore and offshore fishing fleets, cementing Scotland’s reputation as a world-class source of sustainable seafood. Fisheries are in balance with biodiversity, the seabed is largely intact and the environmental food chain supports species from tiny plankton to massive fin whales. Industries have incorporated environmentally-friendly management practices, eliminating pollution and reducing their carbon footprint through new technologies.

Marine mammals and species such as basking shark are a frequent sight in Scottish seas. Seabird populations are vibrant and guillemots, gannets and kittiwakes find abundant food throughout the year. Undisturbed, important blue carbon habitats can regenerate naturally capturing and storing carbon at their full potential. Carefully situated marine renewables provide a valued contribution towards Scotland’s net zero targets.

3.2 Priority Actions for 2030

Five year Delivery Plans will set out in detail the actions needed to deliver these outcomes. The first plan will be published in conjunction with the final strategy. Work on the delivery plan has begun and from this we have distilled a set of priority actions. Cumulatively these will drive the transformation needed to ensure Scotland is on track to meet the 2030 milestone of halting biodiversity loss and being Nature Positive. It will also ensure that Scotland is seen as a global leader in fulfilling its international obligations.

1. Accelerate restoration and regeneration

If we are to achieve our Vision and Outcomes, we need to address restoration of our degraded landscapes and ecosystems more urgently and at greater scale than we have done up to now. By 2030, to accelerate the rates of restoration we will:

  • Introduce Statutory Nature Restoration Targets to drive cross sectoral action which will include targets for species abundance, distribution and extinction risk, and habitat quality and extent
  • Introduce a programme of ecosystem restoration across land and sea to deliver stronger functioning ecosystem health, resilience and ecosystem services, increased diversity and abundance of species, and soil and seabed health, using National Parks as exemplars of ecosystem restoration and regeneration
  • Take action, through implementation of the Deer Working Group recommendations and greater use of regulation and incentives, to continue to drive down and deliver substantially reduced deer densities across our landscapes
  • Ensure livestock grazing is sustainable and leads to a reduction in overall herbivore impact, in order that ecosystem health as a whole improves
  • Implement Scottish Plan for INNS surveillance, prevention and control, and secure wider support measures to enable effective INNS scale across our land, freshwater and marine environment
  • Ensure grouse-moor management sustains healthy biodiversity especially with regard to muirburn, legal predator control and diversification of habitat to create a more diverse upland landscape
  • Develop a policy and investment framework for restoring Scotland’s Atlantic Rainforest

These Key Actions support our efforts to meet CBD Goal A and Targets 2, 6 and 9[9].

2. Expand protected areas to 30% and improve connectivity and condition

Much of our special biodiversity is found in protected areas. These are among the ‘jewels in the crown’ – this biodiversity is rare, sometimes endangered and globally significant. By 2030 we will:

  • Expand our Protected Areas to at least 30% of the land surface
  • Ensure that every local authority area has a nature network of locally driven projects improving ecological connectivity across Scotland
  • Ensure positive effects on biodiversity from our National Planning Framework (NPF4) and that Nature Networks are integrated into the urban fabric, ecologically coherent and are prominent in school, health, neighbourhood and community spaces. Development proposals will contribute to the enhancement of biodiversity including, where relevant, restoring degraded habitats and building and strengthening nature networks
  • Deliver fisheries management measures for existing Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) where these are not already in place
  • Add to the existing MPA network by designating a world-leading suite of Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) covering at least 10% of our seas
  • Introduce at least one new National Park and strengthen their leadership role for nature recovery and just transition to net zero in their areas
  • Realise the potential of National Nature Reserves as key assets for building landscape-scale approaches and increasing nature connectedness

These Key Actions support our efforts to meet CBD Goal A and Targets 1, 2, and 3

3. Nature-friendly farming, fishing and forestry

Areas under agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, and forestry must be managed more sustainably, in particular through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity, increasing the productivity and resilience of these production systems. By 2020, we will:

  • Put in place measures to ensure that farmland practices result in increased uptake of high diversity, nature-rich, high soil carbon, low intensity farming methods while sustaining high quality food production;
  • Design and introduce an agricultural future support framework which delivers for nature restoration and biodiversity as well as high quality food production, climate mitigation and adaptation
  • Shift half of all funding for farming and crofting from unconditional to conditional support by 2025, with targeted outcomes for biodiversity gain and a drive towards low carbon approaches which improve resilience, efficiency and profitability
  • Ensure that productive forests and woodlands are designed and managed in ways that deliver increased biodiversity and habitat connectivity whilst sustaining timber production and carbon sequestration to meet the climate crisis and reduce their vulnerability to climate risks
  • Take action to improve the status of marine biodiversity through: (i) further fisheries measures for vulnerable marine ecosystems and Priority Marine Features outside of MPAs; and (ii) an ecosystem based approach to management of sea fisheries, based on the best available scientific advice, and avoiding adverse impacts on non-target species

These Key Actions support our efforts to meet CBD Goal A and Targets 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6

4. Recover and protect vulnerable and important species

Scotland is home to significant populations of species which are at risk from the threats outlined in this Strategy. Climate change will mean that the profile of species and populations in Scotland will need to adapt but we must make every effort to prevent the extinction of globally threatened species. By 2030 we will:

  • Continue effective species recovery, reintroduction and reinforcement programmes, and targeted measures to restore important groupings and concentrations of species, such as the ferns, lichens, fungi and mosses characteristic of Scotland’s rainforest and the wading birds associated with our uplands and wetlands
  • Take action to improve the status of marine biodiversity through: (i) Effective management of existing and emerging pressures to improve the conservation status of seabirds; (ii) Responding to pressures facing marine mammals to maintain or improve their status; and (iii) Implementation of measures to protect and recover Scotland’s wild Atlantic salmon and migratory fish populations
    • Revise the Scottish Biodiversity List of species and habitats that Scottish Ministers consider to be of principal importance for biodiversity conservation in Scotland
    • Support surveillance and monitoring to support managing risks around pathogens and disease in wild bird populations

These Key Actions support our efforts to meet CBD Goal A and Target 4.

Case Study: Species on the Edge

A map of Scotland highlighting the locations of several projects in the Species on the Edge programme

The multi-partner[10] Species on the Edge Programme, is a five and a half year programme of work with an overall cost of £6.3 million led by NatureScot. It comprises nine species recovery projects delivering action for 37 threatened species:

Coastal Treasures of the Eastern Solway: amphibians, primarily natterjack toads;

Bees on the Edge: great yellow bumblebee, moss carder bee, northern colletes mining bee;

Invertebrates on the Edge: tadpole shrimp, medicinal leech, narrow-mouthed whorl snail, bordered brown lacewing, short-necked oil beetle, plantain leaf beetle;

Jewels of the north: Scottish primrose, purple oxytropis, Irish lady’s tresses, eyebrights, curved sedge, oysterplant, autumn gentian;

Rockin’ the blues: small blue and northern brown argus;

Protecting Scotland’s island wonders: common pipistrelle, soprano pipistrelle, brown long-eared bat and Daubenton’s bat;

Farming horizons: Greenland white-fronted goose, red-billed chough, lapwing, curlew, dunlin, red-necked phalarope, twite and corncrake;

Terning the tide: arctic tern, sandwich tern and little tern; and

A brighter future for herb-rich pastures: marsh fritillary, new forest burnet moth, slender scotch burnet moth, transparent burnet moth and talisker burnet moth.

5. Invest in nature

The finance gap for nature in Scotland for the next decade has been estimated to be £20 billion[11]. The biggest gaps relate to biodiversity protection and enhancement (£8 billion) and climate change mitigation through bio-carbon (£9 billion). It will be absolutely crucial that we quickly find ways to bridge this finance gap and provide certainty of investment in order to deliver the changes we are seeking. Green-investing is a growth area globally and Scotland is well placed to take a leading role offering investors the opportunity to play a part in enhancing ecosystems while generating sustainable returns. We will:

  • Maintain and seek to increase investment in nature restoration through our £65 million Nature Restoration Fund
  • Develop a Biodiversity Investment Plan to set out how we will address the Finance Gap for nature
  • Establish a values-led, high-integrity market for responsible private investment in natural capital, supported by a national project pipeline for nature-based solutions
  • Provide direction on and investment in green skills and local economic opportunities
  • Continue to develop and enhance the woodland and peatland carbon codes to attract and assist additional investment


This strategy was updated and published in September 2023. Read the updated version of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy to 2045.


Back to top