Scottish Natural Capital Accounts: 2021

This report estimates quantity and value of services supplied by Scottish natural capital for:

Agricultural biomass

Fish capture


Water abstraction


Fossil fuel

Renewable energy

Carbon sequestration

Air pollution removal

Noise mitigation

Urban cooling

Recreation and house price values

2. Things you need to know about this release


This article looks at natural capital assets, including the flows and values of services. These terms help us think logically about how to measure aspects of the natural world and their impact upon people. Natural capital assets are environmental resources that persist long-term, such as mountains, woodlands, or a fish population.

From these assets, people receive a flow of services, such as mountain hikes and fish captured for consumption. We can value the benefit to society of those services by estimating what the hikers spent to enable them to walk over the mountain or any profit from bringing the fish into the market. Applying this logic consistently across assets and services enables us to start building accounts of Scotland’s nature.

Where available, estimates are presented between the period 1998 to 2019 and all monetary valuations are given in 2019 prices. Because of data coverage constraints, 2017 is the latest year we can estimate an overall Scottish natural capital asset value.

The Scottish and UK accounts remain experimental and future publications will be subject to methodological improvements. There have been fewer methodological improvements since the Scottish Natural Capital accounts: 2020 than between that and the Scottish natural capital accounts: 2019; however, we still caution against comparison between accounts. Please use the data available alongside this release for time series analysis.

For context, the £196 billion (in 2018 prices) asset value of natural capital for 2016 in the 2020 accounts is now 4% lower (£188 billion in 2018 prices) based upon the methodological differences in this publication. In addition to the decrease caused by the methodological improvements, there has been a further 19% real drop in asset valuation between 2016 and 2017.

Readers should also be cautious in how they interpret a fall or increase in value. An increase in asset value does not directly measure an increase in the quality or quantity of an asset. If there are crop failures in other parts of the world then farming in Scotland might be worth more with no change in yield. The change in value is still interesting but requires analysis. This is equally true of “air pollution removal” which might fall in value when the total air pollution requiring removal falls. This would actually be a good outcome with no signal that Scottish vegetation’s capacity to remove air pollution is degraded.

Several ecosystem services are not being measured in this article, such as flood mitigation, water quality regulation and tourism, so the monetary accounts should be interpreted as a partial or minimum value of Scottish natural capital.



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