Chapter 5: Progress towards "our natural environment being valued, enjoyed, protected and enhanced and having increased resilience to climate change"
Scotland's natural environment is globally renowned. Scotland's peatlands, mountain landscapes, coastal cliffs and seas, machair and diversity of woodland ecosystems are exceptional by European standards. These environments support a fantastic range of species, as well as being key assets for health and wellbeing. A healthy natural environment is vital to our society and economy. Unfortunately, as has been highlighted in recent global reports from the Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, our species and habitats are currently under threat, facing the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss.
The fifth and sixth chapters of SCCAP2 set out policies to protect and improve the resilience of our natural environment in the face of these challenges. The present chapter relates mainly to the terrestrial environment, whereas chapter six relates mainly to the marine and coastal environment.
The approach in SCCAP2 builds on the strong focus in the first adaptation programme (2014-2019) on protecting Scotland's much loved natural environment. Adaptation has been firmly embedded within the core work of the wider public sector, including a long track record at SEPA, SNH, Scottish Forestry, HES and Marine Scotland. In particular, SNH has developed a suite of eight adaptation principles which contribute to natural environment climate change adaptation work. These principles complement the sub-outcomes in SCCAP2.
Progress on cross-cutting policies in support of this outcome
Land Use Strategy -The 2019-20 Programme for Government set out a commitment to bring forward proposals around the development of regional land use partnerships and frameworks. The Scottish Government is now working closely with the Scottish Land Commission as we look to understand how best to deliver the partnerships in order to maximise integrated and sustainable land use at a local, catchment and landscape scale.
Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and Route Map - Ecosystem restoration has shown increased progress and collaboration. Green network expansion has been achieved through projects such as EcoCo which increased habitat connectivity in central Scotland (final report published in January 2020), as well as the Green Infrastructure Fund (covered below) and the related Community Engagement Fund. Large utilities companies in Central Scotland are following Crown Estate Scotland's lead in using the Natural Capital Protocol to prioritise new investment in green infrastructure.
Examples of progress on policies in support of sub-outcome that: "Scotland's biodiversity, ecosystems and landscapes are adaptable to the changing climate"
Scotland's National Peatland Plan / Peatland Restoration Grants - The Scottish Government is investing over £250 million in peatland restoration over ten years, starting with £20 million in 2020-21. This funding demonstrates Scotland's commitment to nature-based solutions to the climate crisis and represents a step change in our commitment to protecting our habitats. It will enable large-scale restoration projects to be developed, enhancing biodiversity in some of the most important habitats in Europe and securing jobs in the rural economy. To date, we have already restored almost 20,000ha of peatland through our Peatland Action initiative.
Scottish Fire and Rescue Service (SFRS) work on wildfires - SFRS chairs the Scottish Wildfire Forum, a multi-agency group which has developed a strategy that seeks to reduce the instance of wildfires by promoting good practice, providing education and information and developing a shared understanding across all relevant sectors. This work has also provided assistance to the Scottish Government in developing the Scottish National Risk Assessment for Wildfires, which will appear in Scotland's Risk Preparedness Assessment. SFRS is also participating in the EU HEIMDALL Project, which combines earth observation and ground sensor data to allow for predictions on where and when wildfires might occur. A further update on the SFRS Climate Change Response Plan was included in chapter 4.
Biodiversity Challenge Fund - During its first round in 2019, the Fund granted over £2.5 million to 21 projects delivering over two years. To date there has been notable progress in those projects delivering native tree planting to enhance the resilience of ecosystems while also sequestering carbon. Other examples of progress include the creation and restoration of habitats in the Forth Valley to boost the resilience of amphibians, reptiles and other wildlife populations.
Pollinator Strategy for Scotland 2017-2027 - Reporting on activity from this SNH-led strategy over the whole of 2019 shows progress across all objectives, notably:
- Over 30 habitat creation and enhancement projects such as park schemes (Falkirk), roadside verges (Stirling and Argyll & Bute), and local authority Pollinator Plans (e.g. Glasgow & North Lanarkshire);
- 11 projects on understanding pollinators and the benefits they bring, ranging from courses and guidance for communities (e.g. Butterfly Conservation) to research work informed by counts and surveys from the UK Pollinator Monitoring Scheme;
- 17 projects increasing awareness and action, such as guidance and resources from NGOs and SNH, and the Edinburgh Living Landscape initiative.
Examples of progress on policies in support of sub-outcome that: "Scotland's natural environment and its contribution to wider societal adaptation is enjoyed, valued and maintained"
Outdoor Learning in Nature - The Learning in Local Greenspace project had, by Autumn 2019, exceeded the target of improving 100 green spaces for play and outdoor learning, engaging 115 schools from 12 local authorities.
Our Natural Health Service Programme - With £3 million of funding from the Scottish Government, NHS Scotland health boards and the Green Exercise Partnership, the first stage of the NHS Greenspace demonstration project (2012-2019) has supported greenspace interventions being delivered at 13 sites across ten mainland health boards. A final report from the project was published in April 2020. The Partnership has also provided assistance to each health board to undertake landscape assessments, appraisals and 'master planning' of the estate to develop priorities for the future. In total, across a diversity of primary and secondary health and care settings, delivered by each of the health boards, greenspace improvements have been delivered across 87 hectares of the NHS estate.
Green Infrastructure Fund - There are seven phase one projects (around £20 million total investment) in this SNH-led fund. The first two are complete, with the others due to finish during 2020. Through the Placemaking Principle, sites have been designed to truly benefit the community and provide space for nature. They form nature-based solutions, addressing adaptation and resilience through, for example, flood mitigation, habitat creation, enabling active travel and access to quality greenspace, and community food growing. The sites already attract heavy use, with resounding positive feedback, further evidencing the need for this type of intervention. They have attracted international interest in how Scotland is using multi-functional greenspace for adaptation, delivering for nature and people simultaneously and successfully.
Updates relevant to the SCCAP2 proposal for a National Monitoring Strategy - SNH has further promoted the development of two new world-leading Ecosystem Health Indicators, which use mosses and liverworts to measure how biodiversity is affected by changes in summer temperature and nitrogen pollution. The data largely comes from volunteer citizen scientists. The State of Nature Scotland report was published in October 2019 as a collaboration between NGOs, SNH and the Scottish Government. The report covers marine and terrestrial climate change impacts, with most data again collected by citizen scientists.
How the Adaptation Scotland programme is supporting this outcome
Adaptation Scotland is collaborating with SNH and Scottish Forestry to support the implementation of the Adaptation Capability Framework. They are further collaborating with SNH in their role leading the climate change group of the Outer Hebrides Community Planning Partnership, which will lead to an adaptation plan for Outer Hebrides.