Climate Change Plan: third report on proposals and policies 2018-2032 (RPP3)

This plan sets out the path to a low carbon economy while helping to deliver sustainable economic growth and secure the wider benefits to a greener, fairer and healthier Scotland in 2032.

Chapter 6 Land Use, Land-Use, Change and Forestry

Land Use, Land-Use Change and Forestry ( LULUCF) is divided into afforestation, baseline forest planting, harvested wood products, peatland restoration, development emissions (from settlements) and Agriculture-Related Land Use emissions (Indirect nitrous oxide emissions from managed soils, as well as emissions/removals from Cropland, Grassland and Wetlands).

This sector has the potential to remove and store, or sequester, greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. The proposals and policies in this chapter relate to forestry and to peatland restoration.

Where We Are Now

This chapter discusses historical emissions and removals arising from LULUCF, and sets out the Scottish Government's ambitions specifically on forestry and peatland up to 2032.

Based on the 2015 GHG Inventory, in 1990, LULUCF as a whole was emitting a net 1.5 MtCO 2e. This is shown in the graph as positive emissions. Since then, there has been a significant increase in net sequestration up to -2.8 MtCO 2e in 2015.

The increase in net sequestration has been driven by a fall in the size of the emissions' source resulting from the conversion of grassland to cropland, an increase in carbon sequestered by grassland and an increase in carbon stored in harvested wood products. The LULUCF sector emissions are expected to be subject to revisions in the 2016 GHG Inventory, due to be published in June 2018, increasing the scale of the sector as a sink.

Progress Since RPP2

Woodland creation

Create 100,000 hectares of woodland between 2012-2022 (equivalent to 10,000 hectares per year).

During the period of RPP2 the Scottish Government has supported the creation of 32,000 hectares of new woodland, accounting for over 70% of all the woodland created in the UK. The average annual rate has been around 6,500 hectares per year. This is a lower annual contribution than the 10,000 hectare per year required to deliver the overall policy ambition of creating 100,000 hectares between 2012-2022. In response, the Scottish Government has initiated a number of interrelated initiatives to stimulate an increase in woodland creation including: Delivering a new Forestry Grant Scheme ( FGS); commissioning an independent review to streamline the grant application process; and working with farming stakeholders to establish more woodland on appropriate land on farms. These initiatives have led to an increase in woodland creation activity indicating that the existing annual target will be achieved in the near future.

Figure 17: LULUCF historical emissions
Figure 17: LULUCF historical emissions

Wood Products in Construction

The proposal to increase wood products in construction started in 2013 with RPP2. Since then the Scottish Government has worked to identify if there are any regulatory barriers to the use of wood engineered products in construction in Scotland. No regulatory barriers were identified, but guidance for planners and architects was suggested, as well as promoting the benefits of wood products in construction to developers. In response to these suggestions, the Scottish Government has supported the supply chain through Scottish Enterprise and the private sector, commissioned research to investigate the viability of Scottish wood products as a structural material, and explored the development of a UK market focused on the use of Scottish wood products in order to encourage private investment.

Peatland restoration

RPP2 highlighted that it would be technically feasible to restore 20,000 hectares of peatland a year, and that £1.7 million had been identified to support peatland restoration for the period 2013-2015.

Since RPP2, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has published its technical guidance on measuring the greenhouse gas benefits of peatland restoration [115] . This has allowed us to develop peatland restoration further and understand its costs and benefits. Funding was identified in the 2013 spending review to support peatland restoration and through the SNH-led Peatland Action work over 10,000 hectares have been restored since, through support of £8.6 million to Peatland Action.

Our ambition

Updated projections for the LULUCF sector, alongside proposals and policies, show that the sector will be a sink of around -6.9 MTCO 2e by 2020, dipping slightly after 2021, and then fairly constant until 2032.

It should be noted that since publication of the draft Climate Change Plan, new projected future baseline land use areas and emissions have been provided by BEIS, consistent with its Updated Emissions Projections [116] , and taken from analysis by the Centre for Ecology and Hydrology ( CEH). These have had the impact of increasing baseline sequestration by the LULUCF sector by about 6 MtCO 2e on average, per annum, relative to the data used in the draft Climate Change Plan.

This update will be incorporated into the 2016 GHG Inventory, which will be published in June 2018.

Figure 18: LULUCF emissions envelopes [117]
Figure 18: LULUCF emissions envelopes

The initial decrease in sequestration is a result of the decreasing rate of woodland creation over the last 40 years, and the felling and replanting of maturing conifer plantations. In years to come, this decrease will be compensated for by the increase in sequestration that will result from more woodland creation, the replanting of forests that have been felled and peatland restoration activity. The next two subsections set out the forestry and peatland elements of LULUCF in more detail.

In the LULUCF Sector, We Aim to

  • increase woodland cover from around 18% to 21% by 2032
  • increase the use of sustainably sourced wood fibre and encourage the construction industry to use timber
  • restore 40% (250,000 hectares) of Scotland's peatland by 2030


This section covers the expansion of Scotland's forest and woodlands and the increased use of wood products as a natural renewable resource.

Where We Are Now

Woodlands cover around 18% of land in Scotland (74% coniferous and 26% broadleaf tree species), and deliver a wide range of benefits, including inward investment and jobs, climate change adaptation and mitigation, and the enhancement of the health and well-being of Scotland's communities. The Scottish forestry sector is worth almost £1 billion per year and employs over 25,000 people [118] .

Further expanding Scotland's woodlands supports the fulfilment of the Scottish Government's commitments on climate change and biodiversity and the sustainable supply of wood products. 83% of timber harvested in Scotland, based on 2015 figures, came from woodlands that are independently certified to internationally recognised standards of good practice [119] .

The Scottish Government endorses and uses the UK Forestry Standard [120] , a benchmark for sustainable forest management and a requirement for all woodlands created using Scottish Government funding.

The harvesting and marketing of wood products is becoming an increasingly important economic activity in rural Scotland. Sustainable wood production is currently increasing as woodlands planted in the 1960s and 1970s mature, with over 8.4 million cubic metres of wood products produced in 2015 [121] .

Supporting Sustainable Forestry

The Government is committed to promoting and developing modern sustainable forestry and has developed a regulatory and policy framework, to ensure adherence to internationally recognised principles of sustainable forest management. This framework includes:

  • Forestry Legislation: the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill [122] will introduce a new statutory framework for the management, development, support and regulation (including felling and restocking) of forestry in Scotland. The Bill includes a new duty on Scottish Ministers to promote sustainable forest management. The Bill, when enacted, will replace the Forestry Act 1967 in Scotland.
  • The Forestry (Environmental Impact Assessment) (Scotland) Regulations 2017 [123] ( EIA): requires that new forestry projects take account of any significant environmental impacts.
  • Scottish Forestry Strategy [124] : the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill requires Scottish Ministers to prepare a new Forestry Strategy, which will apply to all forestry and woodlands in Scotland and will set out Ministers' objectives, priorities and policies with respect to the promotion of sustainable forest management.
  • Scottish Rural Development Programme [125] ( SRDP): the key purpose of the SRDP 2014-2020 is to help achieve sustainable economic growth in Scotland's rural areas by providing funding for the creation and management of woodland.
  • UK Forestry Standard ( UKFS): sets the criteria for the sustainable creation and management of forests and woodlands and promotes good practice. Payment of SRDP grants is conditional on meeting UKFS requirements, including:
  • The appropriate protection and conservation of designated sites, habitats and species;
    • Woodland creation projects designed and managed to take account of landscape context and designations;
    • Not establishing new woodlands on areas of deep peaty soils;
    • Consideration given to involving people in the development of forestry proposals;
    • And consideration of alternative species, or a greater variety of species, to mitigate the risks associated with climate change and pests and diseases.
  • Control of Woodland Removal Policy [126] : aims to minimise woodland loss, protect Scotland's woodland resource and requires compensatory planting where a change of land use under the planning system allows the removal of woodland to deliver significant public benefit.

Scotland's forest carbon sink increased between 1990 and 2002, to about 7.6 MtCO 2e. Between 2003 and 2010, it remained fairly stable. Since then, it has reduced slightly (reaching 7.0 MtCO 2e in 2015) and is expected to continue to do so. This is due to the rate of new woodland creation decreasing over the last 40 years and conifer plantations established in the mid-20th century reaching maturity and being felled and replanted. The absolute size of the sink is expected to be revised in the 2016 GHG Inventory. Scotland's forests continue to be a significant carbon sink. While this plan focuses on additional carbon reductions, the Scottish Government remains committed to ensuring that forestry in Scotland continues to be carried out sustainably to maintain this important carbon sink.

Under new arrangements proposed in the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Bill the Scottish Ministers will be under a duty to prepare a forestry strategy for Scotland. The strategy must set out Ministers' objectives, priorities and policies with respect to the promotion of sustainable forest management; and also with respect to the economic development of forestry, the conservation and enhancement of the environment by means of sustainable forest management, and the realisation of the social benefits of forestry.

Tree Health

The Scottish Government recognises that rapidly increasing globalisation increases the risk of exotic pests and diseases arriving in Scotland, and that climate change could also increase the risk of their establishment, spread and impact. The Scottish Plant Health Strategy [127] (2016-2021) outlines our approach to tree health management, while a revised generic Plant Health Contingency Plan, coupled with specific pest/disease contingency plans, has further enhanced our tree health readiness.

Our Ambition

By 2032, Scotland's woodland cover will increase from around 18% to 21% of the Scottish land area. These new woodlands will absorb greenhouse gas emissions, as well as potentially helping to mitigate flood risk and improve water quality, improve biodiversity and provide opportunities for people to improve their health and wellbeing. They will also provide confidence for the forest products industry to continue to invest in Scotland and create new jobs, through the ongoing production of sustainable raw materials.

The Scottish Government support will assist with planting the right woodlands (including new productive forests and native woodlands) in the right places to deliver a range of environmental, social and economic benefits. The Scottish Government provides £2,500 per hectare of funding for woodland creation. This funding is matched by the EU. Funding from the Scottish Government and the EU together represent 80% of the total cost of establishment and maintenance.

These new woodlands will meet the requirements of sustainable forest management and complement other rural and urban land uses to support the delivery of the Land Use Strategy (2016-2021) and other existing commitments, for example those in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy [128] and the Forest and Timber Technologies leadership group's 'Roots for Future Growth' [129] .

As this sustainable woodland resource increases and produces more wood fibre, more timber will be used in construction, consequently storing more sequestered carbon in buildings and providing jobs and investment in the wood products industry.

The focus for delivering our ambition is to:

Increase our long term annual woodland creation target from the current target of 10,000 hectares per year to;

  • 12,000 hectares per year from 2020‑2021
  • 14,000 hectares per year from 2022‑2023
  • 15,000 hectares per year from 2024‑2025

and increase the use of Scottish wood products in construction from the current level of 2.2 million cubic metres to;

  • 2.6 million cubic metres by 2021‑2022
  • 2.8 million cubic metres by 2026‑2027
  • 3.0 million cubic metres by 2031-2032

By 2050, Scotland's woodland will be delivering a greater level of carbon sequestration and ecosystem services, such as contributing to natural flood management and improving biodiversity. Forests will be making a greater contribution towards Scotland's natural capital stocks, and this renewable natural resource will be sustainably managed for the benefit of future generations.

Case Study

Oak saplings planted as part of woodland creation project at Shiplaw Burn near Eddleston
Oak saplings planted as part of woodland creation project at Shiplaw Burn near Eddleston.

Credit: Forest Carbon Ltd.

Fuel distributor BWOC invests in woodland creation to sequester carbon dioxide

In order to reduce its carbon footprint, BWOC, through Forest Carbon Ltd, invested in woodland creation projects, such as the 13 hectare Shiplaw Burn site near Eddleston in the Scottish Borders. Over its lifetime, this new native woodland will absorb 7,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide, will mitigate flooding, improve water quality in the Tweed and benefit woodland and water species. The Woodland Carbon Code [130] provides quality assurance and gives buyers the confidence to invest in such carbon sequestration projects. By the end of 2017, there were 110 projects registered in Scotland, with a range of management and species types. These projects are predicted to sequester over 4.5 MTCO 2e over their lifetime.

Forestry Policy Outcomes, Policies, Development Milestones and Proposals

Policy outcome 1:

We will introduce a stepped increase in the annual woodland creation rates from 2020‑2021 to enhance the contribution that trees make to reducing emissions through sequestering carbon.

There are six policies and three proposals that contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 1.

Policies which contribute to the delivery of policy outcome 1

1) Forestry grants: we will provide funding via a grant scheme, to support eligible land owners establish appropriate woodlands.

We will do this by continuing to operate grant schemes such as the Forestry Grant Scheme [131] to provide support for woodland creation projects that meet the requirements of the UK Forestry Standard. We will make support available for different types of woodland to deliver multiple benefits including greenhouse gas mitigation, production of sustainable wood products, biodiversity and health and wellbeing outcomes.

2) Woodland creation on the National Forest Estate.

Forest Enterprise Scotland will deliver an annual contribution towards the overall woodland creation target by creating new sustainable woodland on the National Forest Estate.

3) Awareness-raising

We will continue to deliver a programme of farm-based events to demonstrate and support improved productivity through integration of farming and forestry enterprises. An example of this is the Sheep and Trees [132] initiative, which is a project between the Scottish Government and the forestry and sheep farming sectors.

4) Woodland standards

The Scottish Government will lead on the work with the UK and other UK Governments to maintain and develop a UK Forestry Standard that articulates the consistent UK-wide approach to sustainable forestry. The Standard defines how woodland should be created and managed to meet sustainable forest management principles and provides a basis for monitoring.

5) Woodland Carbon Code

The Scottish Government will increase the promotion of the Woodland Carbon Code [133] in partnership with the forestry sector, and raise the profile of the Code as a potential vehicle for attracting additional investment into woodland creation projects.

6) Forestry and woodland strategies

Forestry and woodland strategies continue to be prepared by planning authorities, with support from Forestry Commission Scotland. They provide a framework for forestry expansion through identifying preferred areas where forestry can have a positive impact on the environment, landscape, economy and local people.

Policy proposals

1) Working with community, public and private sector investors to explore new partnership funding models (2018‑2019).

2) Develop further targeted grants measures (2018‑2019).

We will continually review the potential for further targeted grant support to encourage specific types of woodland creation and/or woodland creation in specific areas.

3) Review Forest Enterprise Scotland's woodland creation activity on the National Forest Estate (2019-2020).

In 2019-2020 we will undertake a review of the woodland creation activity on the National Forest Estate.


Policy output indicator for policy outcome 1

1) Number of hectares of woodland created.

Financial Year Until 2019‑2020 From 2020‑2021 From 2022‑2023 From 2024‑2025
Ha created 10,000 12,000 14,000 15,000

Implementation indicators for policy outcome 1

Policy 1:

1) Area of new woodland created with grant scheme support.

2) Percentage of applications that are processed within processing time agreements.

Policy 2: 1) Area of new woodland created on the national forest estate.

Policy 3 & 5: 1) Number of promotional events held.

Policy 4: 1) Number of woodland creation projects that have been issued with a UK Forestry Standard non-compliance notice within the first 10 years following creation.

Policy 6: 1) Number of planning authorities with current Forest and Woodland Strategies.

Explanation for selection of indicators

Indicators include direct measures of the scale of woodland creation activity by the private sector and Forest Enterprise Scotland. Other indicators demonstrate progress against delivering the enabling actions required to support woodland creation. These include promotional activities of the financial, environmental and social benefits of creating woodlands for land owners/ managers, supporting the regional approach to identifying where new woodlands should be located and a clear demonstration that new woodlands funded by the Scottish Government meet recognised standards of sustainable forest management.

Policy outcome 2:

Increase the use of sustainably sourced wood fibre to reduce emissions by encouraging the construction industry to increase its use of wood products where appropriate.

There is one policy that contributes to the delivery of policy outcome 2.

Policy which contributes to the delivery of policy outcome 2

1) In collaboration with the private forest sector and other public sector bodies the Scottish Government will implement the Timber Development Programme [134] through an annual programme of projects that support the promotion and development of wood products for use in construction.

The main aim of the Timber Development Programme is to increase use of wood products in construction. The outputs of the Programme are closely aligned to the objectives of "Roots for Future Growth" the Forest and Timber Technologies industry leadership group strategy, and Scotland's Economic Strategy. The Programme is developed and ratified through engagement with industry representatives on an annual basis and implementation is focused on increasing market demand across the UK.

Case Study

The Turf House, Isle of Skye
The Turf House, Isle of Skye.

Credit: Nigel Rigden

To promote the potential for timber in construction, the Scottish Government has worked in partnership with Wood for Good to publish "The Modern Timber House" [135] , which aims to inspire developers and architects to consider specifying wood in construction.

Approximately 5000 copies will be distributed to construction professionals and education establishments that run architecture courses. [136] Follow-up exhibitions and continued professional development events are planned to further distribute the publication throughout the UK.


Policy output indicator for policy outcome 2

1) Annual volume (in million of cubic metres) of Scottish produced sawn wood and panel boards used in construction (extrapolated from UK figures).

Reporting Financial Year 2021‑2022 2026‑2027 2031-2032
Volume 2.6 million cubic metres 2.8 million cubic metres 3.0 million cubic metres

Implementation indicators for policy outcome 2

Policy 1:

1) Number of knowledge exchange events held each year involving members of the construction industry e.g. designers, specifiers and engineers.

2) Annual Timber Association figures for the adoption of timber framed for new build houses across the UK.

Explanation for selection of indicators

The indicators were selected to demonstrate a sample of the activity under the Timber Development Programme that will support the delivery of the policy outcome. The key activity is the development and delivery of knowledge exchange events to inform and build the understanding of the properties of wood products in construction and the carbon storage benefits. The annual percentage of houses built using timber frame provides a direct measures of whether more wood products are being used in construction. The annual indicators will allow progress to be reported on a regular basis.

Enabling Factors and Wider Impacts

Contributing almost £1 billion to Scotland's economy and supporting over 25,000 jobs, sustainably managed forestry delivers substantial economic benefits. It helps mitigate flood risk, improves water quality and it has beneficial effects on soil. It improves biodiversity and, as accessible woodland, improves people's health and wellbeing.

Our woodland creation ambition will directly benefit all those that work in forestry (management, wood product supply and recreational activities) as well as the farmers, crofters and land managers who create woodland on land they manage. It could also improve the stewardship of land that has been poorly managed in the past. This ambition will be supported by ongoing work to ensure the complementary nature of farming and forestry grants. People across Scotland will benefit from access to new woods for recreation.

The majority of forests producing wood products in Scotland are independently certified against internationally recognised standards of sustainable forest management. Greater use of building materials obtained from renewable sources could reduce greenhouse gas emissions. A further benefit is that the revenue from these wood products can be re-invested in sustainable forest management, ensuring a continued cycle of benefits.

Additional benefits may also be gained from reducing the volume of construction waste materials, by weight one of the most significant waste material flows in Scotland. The waste from construction using wood products is lower and it can readily be recycled, reducing the amount of construction waste being disposed of in landfill.

An increase in the production of more wood products for construction will increase economic activity in rural Scotland.

Designing and managing woodland creation schemes in line with the requirements of the UK Forestry Standard and the guidance on appropriate sites as set out in regional Forestry and Woodland Strategies will deliver public benefits and minimise adverse environmental and landscape impacts. Furthermore, woodland creation proposals must meet the requirements of statutory processes for assessing impact on designated habitats or the wider environment such as the EIA process.

National Planning Framework 3 notes that timber transport networks and requirements for processing facilities will need to be considered as forests mature. Planning authorities should take account of the National Planning Framework in the preparation of development plans for their area. The Scottish Government is working to improve existing infrastructure through working with the forestry sector and local authorities, and providing support under the Scottish Government Strategic Timber Transport Scheme.

Planning system

Forestry Commission Scotland is the competent authority for forestry in Scotland and forestry does not fall within the definition of development. However, buildings, structures and access tracks associated with forest operations may need planning permission from the relevant planning authority for the area.

Under the Scottish Planning Policy, planning authorities have been advised to consider preparing Forestry and Woodland Strategies to guide appropriate areas and types of woodland creation. Where a planning application proposes the removal of forest and woodland cover, planning authorities have a legal duty to consider applying conditions that would safeguard, preserve or replace trees.

Seaweed at Ganavan Sands, Oban on the west coast of Scotland
Kelp and seaweed at Ganavan Sands, Oban on the west coast of Scotland.

Credit: Alan McAteer for Scottish Enterprise

Blue Carbon

The term blue carbon refers to the carbon sequestration and storage benefits of marine ecosystems. Although knowledge has advanced in the last five years, blue carbon remains a relatively new concept. Further scientific research is required to fully understand these complex processes. The current evidence base suggests that some marine ecosystems may be as important as forests and peatland are for carbon capture and storage on land.

Current literature states that blue carbon habitats and species may be relatively abundant in Scottish waters, when compared to other coastal areas in the UK and Europe. The degradation or damage of these ecosystems may cause carbon to be released from stores, and compromise their ability to sequester carbon in the future. Marine ecosystems have historically suffered degradation from human activity.

Current protection of blue carbon

Many of the key habitats and species that research has identified as being important for blue carbon are Priority Marine Features. This means they are given general protection by policies in the National Marine Plan, which requires decision makers to consider climate change mitigation and adaptation. Many of these habitats and species are also safeguarded within Scotland's Marine Protected Area Network. This provides potential to enhance these important marine ecosystems to ensure they continue to capture and store carbon.

Over the last five years, progress has been made to improve our understanding.

Research published by Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) in 2014 [137] provided the first attempt at assessing blue carbon stores and budgets. This estimated that Scotland's seas had stored more than 2,000 million tonnes of carbon, at a rate of around 7 million tonnes per year.

Further research published by SNH in 2017 [138] estimated that coastal marine protected areas had stored the equivalent of four years of Scotland's emissions. This research highlights that maerl beds, kelp forests, living reefs, and other habitats are of particular importance.

Separate research by St Andrew's University published in 2016 [139] estimated that Loch Sunart alone had almost 27 million tonnes of carbon stored in muddy habitats. In a paper by Smeaton et al. 2017, entitled Scottish Forgotten Carbon: A National Assessment of Mid-Latitude Fjord Sedimentary Carbon Stocks, that is currently in review, it is estimated that over 600 million tonnes of carbon are stored in the sediment of Scotland's 111 fjordic sea lochs at a rate of 31,000 – 40,000 tonnes per year.

Next steps

The research undertaken so far has developed better understanding of blue carbon, and established new methodologies for undertaking assessments. However, these need further development, and a better understanding of the processes involved is required to provide sufficient confidence in blue carbon estimates.

The new research programme [140] has been developed by Marine Scotland in partnership with SNH, St Andrew's University, Glasgow University, Heriot-Watt University, and the Scottish Association for Marine Science. The programme consists of one post-doctoral study and six Doctorates to further understanding of blue carbon capture and storage, and begin developing knowledge of how disturbance affects these processes. A further three Doctorates are funded by SNH.


Peatlands cover around 20% of land in Scotland or around 1.7 million hectares. Degraded peatland can act as a source of greenhouse gas emissions. The restoration of degraded peatlands will considerably reduce this source of greenhouse gas emissions.

Where We Are Now

It is currently estimated that over 600,000 hectares of Scotland's peatlands are in a degraded condition as a result of historic land management decisions.

Since 2013, through the Peatland Action Initiative, around 10,000 hectares of peatlands have been restored through Scottish Government-funded action, coordinated by Scottish Natural Heritage. The most recently available estimates suggest that degraded peatland (excluding peatlands used for forestry or agriculture) produces 6 MtCO 2e of emissions per year. Almost all of these emissions have yet to be accounted for in the national GHG inventory.

Our Ambition

By 2030, 250,000 hectares of degraded peatland will have undergone restoration. The restored peatland will help mitigate flood risk and improve water quality, as well as helping to increase biodiversity in restored areas.

This large-scale peatland restoration delivery across Scotland will also produce multiple benefits for communities and the economy. The key sectors expected to see benefits are tourism, food and drink and the environment.

To make progress towards this ambition, we will focus on achieving a significant increase in the scale of degraded peatland restored, from a 1990 baseline to:

  • 50,000 hectares restored by 2020
  • 250,000 hectares restored by 2030

Our longer term ambition is that by 2050, Scotland's expanded peatlands will be thriving habitats and sustaining a diverse ecosystem.

Case Study

Sandy Loch, Shetland. The eroding peat has been transformed into bog pools and re-planted with bog vegetation
Sandy Loch, Shetland. The eroding peat has been transformed into bog pools and re-planted with bog vegetation.

Credit: Sue White, PeatlandACTION, Shetland Amenity Trust

The purpose of SNH Peatland ACTION is to provide funding for projects that restore or lead to the restoration of peatlands and/or wider public engagement with peatlands in Scotland.

Land within the Sandy Loch catchment is typical rough grazing which has been modified over decades, possibly centuries, from peat cutting for domestic fuel and pasture improvement for livestock. The loch provides drinking water for Lerwick and much of the Shetland mainland – that's approximately 12,000 customers.

Areas of bare peat around the loch eroded when exposed to rain and the peaty soils ended up in nearby waterways, contributing to the high organic loading and brown discoloured water entering Sandy Loch, and ultimately Scottish Water treatment works. Treating the water at Sandy Loch before piping it to the islander's mains water supply was proving to be environmentally and financially costly. Restoring the peat would help to improve and protect water quality in the catchment and reduce the amount of chemical treatment.

Following consultation and advice from SNH Peatland ACTION, restoration of peatland at Sandy Loch involved creating bog-pools over the area of exposed peat with the aim of slowing the flow of water, and trapping and reducing the loss of peaty sediments into the loch. The restoration will result in improved drinking water supply before it enters Sandy Loch and water treatment works. The restored peatland at Sandy Loch will protect the ground from future erosion and reduce the flashiness of flood waters, creating suitable conditions for new peat to form and enhancing biodiversity, and contributing to and maintaining Scotland's natural carbon storage and resilience to climate change.

Phase one of the project was completed in March 2017 and restoration work is to be extended with SNH Peatland ACTION funding over a larger area of the catchment.

Peat Policy Outcome, Policies and Development Milestones

Policy outcome 1:

To enhance the contribution of peatland to carbon storage, we will support an increase in the annual rate of peatland restoration, from 10,000 hectares in 2017‑2018 to 20,000 hectares per year thereafter.

There are two policies which will contribute to the delivery of the policy outcome.

1) Restoration grants: We will provide grant funding to support eligible land managers to deliver peatland restoration. Levels of funding will enable at least 20,000 hectares of peatland restoration per year from 2018‑2019.

Public sector action will be led by SNH through the Peatland Action initiative. In addition to providing support and advice, this will offer financial support to peatland restoration projects initiated by individual land managers. Experience from the Peatland Action Initiative to date demonstrates significant interest in restoration projects.

2) Awareness raising: Working through partnership, we will put in place tools and information to develop the capacity, skills and knowledge of land managers, contractors and others, to deliver peatland restoration.

To support peatland restoration in 2018‑19, we will make available £2 million to the Scottish Rural Development Programme. An additional £4 million funding will be made available, including through the Sustainable Action Fund and the Land Managers' Renewable Fund, to the SNH Peatland Action initiative to deliver restoration projects. Our intention is to find additional resource during the year to support peatland restoration.

This action will be carried out jointly with wider partners, particularly land managers and NGOs. Delivery will be supported through the provision of information and tools on peatland restoration.

Relative significance of policies to the delivery of policy outcome 1

These two policies are mutually interlinked. Growing the capacity and skills of land managers and others will be essential to delivering practical restoration across Scotland. In addition, the increased involvement and interest of land managers in peatland restoration can also help draw in other forms of funding, including private initiatives such as the Peatland Code.


Policy output indicator for policy outcome 1

1) Number of hectares of restored peatland per year

Date 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022
Output 10,000ha 20,000ha 20,000ha 20,000ha 20,000ha

Implementation indicators for policy outcome 1

1) Number of hectares on the road to recovery through Peatland Action at the conclusion of the preceding financial year.

2) Total number of applications received for Peatland Action restoration project funding.

Date 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025
No. of grant applications 100 120 130 140 150 150 150 150

3) Number of projects approved for funding from the Peatland Action restoration project funding.

Date 2018 2019 2020 2021 2022 2023 2024 2025
No. of successful applications 90 110 115 120 125 130 130 130

4) Number and area of restoration feasibility plans supported through the Peatland Action programme.

5) Number of contractors trained to carry out the restoration.

6) Number of land managers/consultants trained through the Peatland Action programme.

7) Number of dedicated Project officers.

Explanation for selection of indicators

Indicators are based on the outcome required, physical restoration and the supporting actions that are required; e.g. maintaining awareness and building capacity to deliver the physical restoration, e.g. amongst contractors.

Enabling Factors and Wider Impacts

Peatland restoration will provide a number of co-benefits, including supporting increased biodiversity which, in turn, will help to maintain and improve the status of protected sites. Tick populations have been shown to reduce following restoration, benefitting both human and animal health.

Restoration will contribute to the water environment through reducing sources of diffuse pollution. This will help improve the ecological status of water bodies and help reduce the costs of treatment costs of public water supplies. For households and businesses using private water supplies, restoration may also help reduce the water discolouration. Restoration of peatlands can be an important component of natural flood management, by reducing and displacing flood peaks.

Additional economic benefits may also accrue given the importance of peatlands to Scotland's environmental image, critical to key sectors such as food and drink and tourism. Reduced sources of diffuse pollution will provide benefits to sectors such as fresh water fisheries.

Communities near peatlands also play a valuable role in their restoration and may benefit from the improved access to peatlands. In many parts of the Central Belt, bogs provide open space and places for people to walk away from traffic.

Individual businesses and environmental non-governmental organisations ( eNGOs) that manage peatlands will benefit from their restoration. Undertaking restoration action at the large, landscape scale aimed for by this policy outcome should help deliver greater co-benefits than smaller scale and more fragmented restoration projects. Peatland restoration will provide a common focus for a wide range of upland interests to come together. The restoration activity can be a catalyst for improvements to the wider landscape.

At the general level, there are no adverse effects. However, at individual site level there might be divergent views locally on the relative merits of restoration compared to alternative land uses.

The wider context

The National Peatland Plan [141] sets out Scotland's wider vision for peatlands and their multiple benefits; and the work to protect and support good management and, where required, restoration.

This work includes supporting the phasing out of peat in horticultural compost. This is a global challenge, as most of the peat used for this purpose is sourced from outside Scotland.

The Scottish Government is supporting industry led work to develop and promote alternative sources of compost, and demonstrate their effectiveness. This is work which the National Peatland Group will continue to support and pursue.

Planning system

Our National Planning Framework 3 already identifies peatlands as a significant carbon store, and recognises that peatland restoration is planned on a large scale. The Peatland Plan will guide planning decisions to ensure that we protect and enhance the multiple benefits of peatland.

Developments should aim to minimise the release of emissions from disturbed peatland and policy requires applicants to assess the likely effects of development on carbon dioxide emissions. Scottish Planning Policy states that commercial extraction of peatland should only occur in areas suffering historic, significant damage through human activity and where the conservation value is low and restoration impossible.

Land Use Strategy

The Scottish Government Land Use Strategy is a statutory commitment under the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009. The first Land Use Strategy was produced in 2011, and the most recent (2016-2021) provides the policy context for climate change adaptation and mitigation in relation to land use. Scottish Planning Policy also makes clear that the application of planning policies should have due regard to the principles for sustainable land use as set out in the Strategy.

The current Strategy contains proposals and policies which support actions in this Climate Change Plan period. These include better understanding and managing our natural resources for sustainable and productive use; reviewing the Scottish Forestry Strategy; developing measures to improve climate friendly farming and crofting (see Chapter Seven); and exploring the potential of Scotland's uplands to deliver multiple benefits and contribute to climate change targets. The forestry and peat policies in the Climate Change Plan complement each other and will help to deliver the Land Use Strategy's objectives and principles:


  • Land-based businesses working with nature to contribute more to Scotland's prosperity.
  • Responsible stewardship of Scotland's natural resources delivering more benefits to Scotland's people.
  • Urban and rural communities better connected to the land, with more people enjoying the land and positively influencing land use.


  • Opportunities for land use to deliver multiple benefits should be encouraged.
  • Regulation should continue to protect essential public interests while placing as light a burden on businesses as is consistent with achieving its purpose. Incentives should be efficient and cost-effective.

Land Use Strategy (continued)

  • Where land is highly suitable for a primary use (for example food production, flood management, water catchment management and carbon storage) this value should be recognised in decision making.
  • Land use decisions should be informed by an understanding of the functioning of the ecosystems which they affect in order to maintain the benefits of the ecosystem services which they provide.
  • Landscape change should be managed positively and sympathetically, considering the implications of change at a scale appropriate to the landscape in question, given that all of Scotland's landscapes are important to our sense of identity and to our individual and social wellbeing.
  • Land use decisions should be informed by an understanding of the opportunities and threats brought about by the changing climate. Greenhouse gas emissions associated with land use should be reduced and land should continue to contribute to delivering climate change adaptation and mitigation objectives.
  • Where land has ceased to fulfil a useful function because it is derelict or vacant, this represents a significant loss of economic potential and amenity for the community concerned. It should be a priority to examine options for restoring all such land to economically, socially or environmentally productive uses.
  • Outdoor recreation opportunities and public access to land should be encouraged, along with the provision of accessible green space close to where people live, given their importance for health and wellbeing.
  • People should have opportunities to contribute to debates and decisions about land use and management decisions which affect their lives and their future.
  • Opportunities to broaden our understanding of the links between land use and daily living should be encouraged.


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