The Scottish Plant Health Strategy

The strategy sets out the Scottish Government's approach to the protection of the health of plants, including agricultural and horticultural crops, and plants in parks and gardens, forestry and the natural environment, in Scotland.

4. Key Principles

4.1 Partnership working

This strategy is not simply about what government will do to improve plant biosecurity; partnership working is essential for a successful implementation. Pest risks should be considered by all involved, including traders in plant products; individuals, businesses and organisations importing, growing, moving ( e.g. hauliers) and using plants in agriculture, horticulture, forestry and gardens; and those maintaining, enhancing or protecting Scotland's environment.

The Scottish Plant Health Service

The Scottish Plant Health Service operates within two SG Directorates: Agriculture Food & Rural Communities and Environment & Forestry and is responsible for Scottish plant health policy and official plant health activities.

Plants Horticulture and Potatoes Policy Branch, Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture Division ( SASA) and Rural Payments and Inspections Division ( RPID) are responsible for plant health as it relates to agriculture and horticulture.

Forestry Commission Scotland ( FCS) is responsible for forest trees and timber.

The SG works with other parts of the UK Plant Health Service that have cross-border responsibilities, including Forestry Commission Cross Border (FCCB) which is currently responsible for activities including inspections of forest tree nurseries, import inspections of wood and wood packaging, contingency planning and plant health licensing. Forest Research, an executive agency of FCCB, provides scientific support to FCS and FCCB (as well as to Forestry Commission England and Natural Resources Wales).

The SG also works with other Scottish organisations, including Scottish Natural Heritage ( SNH) and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, to deliver a range of plant health activities in the natural environment.

The introduction and spread of many new pests has occurred as a result of increased trade in plants and plant products and are influenced by other factors such as climate change. Such pests can affect crop and garden plants, trees and native plants and they can therefore seriously affect livelihoods and the environment.

Clear governance is critical so that we are all aware of our roles and responsibilities in preventing the introduction and spread of pests. All sectors should take responsibility and a two-way process of communication and cooperation is needed between the SG, public bodies, industry, NGOs, academia, landowners and the general public. Engagement is required at all levels to ensure 'buy-in' from those who will implement this strategy. A 'risk-sharing' approach by industry with the SG is particularly important. For example, awareness by industry of the risks to their business associated with importation of certain plant material and the potential consequences to businesses and the environment if pests are introduced.

As well as considering plant health threats, it needs to be recognised that plant health actions can have unintended consequences ( e.g. negative impacts on trade and on biodiversity) as well as positive impacts. We need to work together to ensure all aspects are taken into account.

In preparing for outbreak situations, responsibilities should have already been identified through contingency planning, communicated clearly and tested through simulation exercises on a regular basis. Actions will not always be led by the SG; industry may take the lead. An example is the Spotted Wing Drosophila Working Group, which was set up to manage Drosophila suzukii. We will therefore ensure that in such situations the roles and responsibilities are clear. For UK outbreaks, we will work with the rest of the UK Plant Health Service and liaise closely with the UK Chief Plant Health Officer.

In Scotland, partnerships are well established for some sectors, for example potatoes and tree health, but we need to ensure that there is greater engagement and cooperation across all sectors.

The general public and trained experts have a role in preventing spread of pests and also identifying new outbreaks. Examples of successful initiatives for pest detection include citizen science projects such as Observatree [24] , OPAL tree health survey [25] and the Tree Alert [26] reporting tool.

4.2 Economic, social and environmental impacts

Plant pests have the potential to have a greater impact on livelihoods in Scotland compared to other parts of the UK. This is due to the relatively larger rural sector in Scotland and the importance of the natural landscape to tourism.

Although it may be relatively easy to quantify potential economic crop or forestry losses as a result of specific pests, there are greater challenges in quantifying social and environmental impacts and prioritising actions to mitigate these.

A further complication when considering environmental impacts is the potential for cumulative effects of multiple pests, leading to long-term cumulative impacts both on individual plant host species and on the ecosystems of which they form a part.

We must also consider the potential impacts of pests at different scales, from issues for individual growers associated with management of pests to impacts at sector level or on the natural environment and associated ecosystem services.

4.3 Communication and knowledge transfer

Two-way communications between SG and stakeholders is essential and communication plans should be put in place at an early stage. It is important for all to be aware of potential new pest risks so that sectors are prepared for such risks and know where to find information to take action if required. A particular challenge is to deliver biosecurity messages and outcomes positively without affecting consumer confidence.

We should pro-actively promote plant health, making use of available evidence, rather than simply responding reactively to issues after they arise. Given that Scotland's key crops and natural environments (including malting spring barley, seed potatoes, soft fruit, forests, woodlands and heather moorland) represent significant employment in rural communities, these communities and businesses may have the potential to positively influence change.

It is also important to improve awareness of plant health issues at all levels, from the general public to relevant sectors.

As well as communication within Scotland, we need to continue to play our part in ensuring there is effective communication across the UK, within Europe and internationally. Strategies for dealing with animal diseases are relatively well defined and it would be appropriate to learn from animal health experiences in some cases.

4.4 Preventative action

To prevent the entry and establishment of key pests and to manage risks from existing pests, the SG is actively involved in assessing pest risks, providing data and advice to help update the UK Plant Health Risk Register and agreeing actions as part of the UK Plant Health Risk Group. Through this process we can identify potential Scottish priorities. The SG is also responsible for the Scottish generic plant health contingency plan and developing simulation exercises. Additional specific contingency plans with clear arrangements for the management of key pests are required. These will be agreed in consultation with stakeholders.

Preventative actions may include the destruction of plants and plant material, movement controls, designation of buffer zones and special protection zones ( e.g. no new planting of host species), chemical and biological control methods, enhanced traceability of planting material and enhanced inspection regimes.

4.5 Value for money

It is essential that actions are proportionate, effective and affordable.


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