4. Natural Capital
Scotland’s natural environment is, first and foremost, important because of its intrinsic value. Biodiversity and beauty are precious in and of themselves. Our natural environment is also of great economic significance. It is believed to account directly for more than 60,000 jobs in Scotland. It is vital to our tourist industry, which employs more than 200,000 people across the country and it is essential to Scotland’s food and drink sector, including whisky.
Natural capital is defined as a country’s stock of natural resources and environmental assets including plants, animals, water, air, soils and minerals. People derive a wide range of benefits from natural capital. These benefits are often referred to as “ecosystem services”. Ecosystem services are vital to society and the economy, providing benefits such as the food we eat, the water we drink, climate regulation, carbon storage, natural flood defences, and timber and crop pollination. Protecting the environment and safeguarding Scotland’s natural capital is a crucial part of the transition to a low carbon society. Scotland is leading the way in demonstrating that there needn’t be a tension between protecting our environment and our natural capital, and growing our economy.