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.

5. Framework For The Strategy

The Scottish strategy is based on the framework in the GB strategy ( Figure 1).

5.1 Risk based decision making

Government actions

The UK Plant Health Risk Register ('the risk register') underpins and provides a focus for plant health activities within the UK. The Plant Health Risk Group manages the Risk Register and SG participates actively in the monthly meetings which assess pest risks and decide on management options. Scottish experts engage with relevant counterparts in the UK, Europe and internationally to identify new risks.

The risk register lists known potential pests and will be used, with adjustments, to identify Scottish priorities. SG will prioritise actions accordingly with the relevant sectors.

We will develop a forum [27] to discuss Scottish pest risks and agree priority actions. Decisions will be based on available evidence and may require commissioning of new evidence, including modelling of potential pest spread. The proposed Centre of Expertise for Plant Health (see section 5.6) may play a role in such evidence provision. We will consult with stakeholder groups and agree relevant actions and highlight threats to different sectors.

The priority will be to deal with threats to Scottish interests appropriately and quickly. These may not always have the same priority level for the rest of the UK or the EU. However, in most cases, as pests do not recognise borders, most actions will be coordinated across the UK. We will also take actions where required in EU legislation.

Stakeholder decisions and actions

Actions will not always be led by government, ongoing sharing of responsibilities is essential and in some cases industry may take the lead. Businesses must also take actions to manage risks to their business and the natural environment. All those with a role in plant health should be aware of the plant health risks and what they can do to reduce them.

The publication of the risk register allows for risk-based decision making by different sector groups. Relevant information from SG and other parts of government is also published on websites and through communication with industry bodies, NGOs and charities. Some sectors in Scotland are already well-placed to make decisions and take action in response to new pest risks based on such information.

Readily accessible, clear information is helpful for businesses. Alert systems on the main threats to particular plant species would mean that relevant industries could identify risks and take appropriate actions. We will therefore consider ways to highlight specific pests, pathways and vulnerable hosts to the key sector groups in Scotland so that they are aware of threats and can take actions.

We will also work within SG to highlight potential risks of new pests, for example to influence grant requirements and procurement policies to minimise planting low health material to meet short term goals.

A collaborative approach is the best way to prevent the entry of new pests, to manage outbreaks and to improve our preparedness for dealing with new threats.


  • Scotland to continue to play its part in UK plant health efforts
    SG officials will continue to contribute to UK plant health meetings, including the UK Plant Health Risk Group, to protect Scottish interests, influence UK decisions and maintain collaboration across the UK.
  • Identify Scottish pest risks and priorities
    We will develop a government plant health forum to agree priority actions in collaboration with existing advisory groups.
  • Develop stakeholder participation
    We aim to develop a mechanism, e.g. a stakeholder network, for all Scottish plant sectors to be informed of pest risks, to contribute to discussions on priorities and therefore to take actions to deal with identified pest risks.

5.2 Increased awareness and involvement

The SG must work with all stakeholders, including the general public, and provide clear messages. Certain sectors within Scotland have good awareness of plant health issues and have existing mechanisms for communication, for example the seed potato sector and the forestry sector through the Scottish Tree Health Advisory Group ( STHAG). A challenge is to develop and maintain communications with and between all relevant parties. We will aim to proactively raise awareness of pest risks with the public sector, industry, NGOs, academia, landowners and the general public (see section 5.1).

Increased awareness of plant health issues is needed in some key sectors, for example the retail food sector, amateur gardeners and gardening organisations, small but potentially high risk sectors ( e.g. carrots and bulbs) and the landscape sector importing plant material (often with associated soil). It is also important that plant health risks are considered as part of public projects e.g. by local authorities or Transport Scotland.

Within-sector engagement is also necessary. Some, e.g. Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board ( AHDB) Potatoes and the Horticultural Trades Association, have clearly established networks and in the forestry sector biosecurity messages have been promoted at forestry events, on websites and via social and traditional media outlets. However, more work is needed with and by other sectors to develop their networks and engage on plant health.

In the scientific and advisory community good relations already exist, with updates at technical meetings and conferences ( e.g. Crop Protection in Northern Britain, Potatoes in Practice, Cereals in Practice, Fruit Focus, Scottish and Regional Forestry Forums, International Union Of Forest Research Organisations) and with producer groups.

As part of raising awareness of plant health issues, it will be important to engage with private stakeholders, publicise plant health threats and support surveillance (citizen science) activities. SG already contributes to wider UK campaigns through Defra, for example the Royal Horticultural Society's Chelsea Flower Show, but it will be important to engage with the public in Scotland, such as through Gardening Scotland and agricultural shows. It might be possible to change attitudes towards public purchasing of plants, such as promoting purchasing of plants under the 'Grown in Britain' certification scheme through media, e.g. Beechgrove Garden, horticultural societies or though awareness raising activities in popular venues such as the Royal Botanic Garden in Edinburgh.

Businesses and the public also need to be aware of risks associated with specific pathways, for example the implications of buying plants on-line from unknown sources or the use of wood and wood packaging material that does not meet EU import requirements or UK/ GB protected zone requirements. Responsible procurement and sourcing ( e.g. by growers, supermarkets and construction companies) should be encouraged. International passengers also need to be aware of risks associated with bringing plants and plant material to Scotland.

There should also be increased understanding across SG departments of plant health issues; the responsibility to prevent pest introduction and spread is not just that of a single area. This should prevent fragmentation in decision-making.

For trade in Scottish products, ensuring that customers are aware of the benefits of healthy plant material may be an effective way of ensuring market advantage for certified products.


In most cases the roles and responsibilities of different groups in protecting the health of plants in Scotland are clear. In some situations the SG agrees roles and responsibilities on a case by case basis depending on circumstances. Governance needs to evolve, and roles and responsibilities are reviewed regularly to ensure that arrangements are as clear as possible. For example, SG already works with SNH and other environment stakeholders to agree responsibilities for protecting the natural environment and how they interact with official plant health services in implementing actions.


  • Publicise information on pest risks for all sectors
    By creating a network of all sectors in Scotland and by working with the UK Plant Health Service, SG will increase the availability of information on pest risks and actions for all stakeholders.

    We will ensure all target audiences are aware of their responsibilities to help prevent the spread of pests.

    We will provide points of contact and, where appropriate, best practice guidelines.
  • Governance
    We will identify clear roles and responsibilities and build better relationships between SG departments. Areas for early attention are clarification of plant health roles, responsibilities and resource allocation for the natural environment and urban trees.

  • Stakeholder engagement
    We will work with all sectors to develop and improve engagement activity on plant health issues.

  • Biosecurity
    We will increase the awareness of biosecurity to protect plant health by participation in UK/ GB campaigns, via social or traditional media or relevant publicity at Scottish shows, meetings and workshops.

5.3 Pre-border measures

SG and stakeholders can reduce the likelihood of introduction of new pests to Scotland by working with other countries to ensure the effective application of control measures before import. Interactions with trading partners can also increase our awareness of pests that may pose a risk to Scottish crops, trees and the wider environment.

Scotland, as part of the UK, operates within the EU plant health regime. National and EU plant health regulations take international agreements into account. The current review of the EU regime has provided an opportunity to enhance plant health controls and to introduce a new regime that is better suited to meeting our needs. SG has contributed actively to the UK's negotiating positions on EU plant health issues, reinforcing Scottish priorities. Scottish experts also contribute internationally to influence plant health regulations and standards ( e.g. International Plant Protection Convention and European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organization standards).

SG will continue to support UK and EU efforts to work with exporting countries to help ensure they comply with EU import requirements. The intention is to enhance pre-border security and minimise pest risks. Collaborations with scientists in exporting countries will also continue to be encouraged.

We have good international links for some commodities, but need to work with other countries and within the UK on our approach to assessing the risk from new and emerging trades. Mapping and targeting possible pathways for introduction of key and yet-unknown pests would help with assessments of risks to Scotland. Sourcing relevant information is essential to provide evidence for decision making.

We already work with Defra and EU colleagues to prohibit the introduction of products posing significant pest risks where technically justified. For example, we have supported the UK position on simplification of the personal baggage allowances at import [28] to enable better enforcement, as the UK Plant Health Service has identified this as a potential pathway for the introduction of pests.

There is a need to ensure traceability of plants and plant products. In sourcing plant material, businesses should be encouraged to develop customer-led specifications to safeguard plant biosecurity.

In relation to exports, SG will continue to contribute to UK export negotiations and take the lead for coordinating a UK position for plant products which are particularly relevant to Scotland, such as seed potato exports. We also host inward missions of plant health officials from potential importing countries. This will continue and we will look at other sectors where this model may be helpful. The 2015 initiative on Scotland's Year of Food and Drink [29] has also focussed on the quality of Scottish produce and its importance for the rural economy.

We provide health certificates for plants and plant products for export to ensure that the wider global plant health biosecurity is maintained. Preventing the export of pests is important to enhance our international reputation and benefit trade by supplying clean material.


  • Scottish involvement in pre-border activities
    SG will continue to contribute to and influence UK negotiating positions on EU plant health regulations to ensure Scottish priorities are included, to deliver more effective plant health protection, and reduce the risk of harmful pest introductions.

    Scottish experts will continue to contribute to development of international plant health standards.
  • Exports
    SG will continue to contribute to UK export negotiations and lead the coordination of a UK position for certain commodities which are particularly relevant to Scotland e.g. seed potatoes. We will actively participate in hosting visits from plant health officials (inward missions).

    We will look at the inward mission model with interested stakeholders to assess if it could be beneficial for other sectors to help develop their export markets.

    We will continue to work with Scottish exporters to ensure they are aware of their responsibilities to inspect material and not spread pests.

5.4 Border measures (imports from outside the EU)

Scotland, as part of the UK, operates within the EU regime of import controls. Inspections are carried out at the border on regulated material from outside the EU to verify that import requirements have been met and to intercept prohibited material and pests. There is no systematic inspection of unregulated material on entry into Scotland or the UK, but Member States may undertake risk-based monitoring checks anywhere in the production chain to ensure that plant health requirements have been met.

SG plant health inspectors check all regulated plant material from outside the EU imported directly into Scotland in accordance with EU requirements, apart from inspections of wood and wood packaging material (which are currently carried out by FCCB). In the UK, most trade is via English ports and airports. On average approximately 200 consignments are directly imported into Scotland annually compared to more than 100,000 for the UK as a whole. SG will continue to cooperate and liaise with Defra's Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate (PHSI) who inspect imports at English and Welsh ports and airports.

PHSI inspections are prioritised based on risk. SG inspectors also carry out risk-based monitoring to safeguard the high health status of planting material and where specific pest risks have been identified. The UK will continue to liaise with other plant health authorities to prevent entry of new pests; this relies on effective sharing of information

We charge for plant health import inspections for material from outside the EU and will continue to keep charges under review in liaison with stakeholders.

We will work with the rest of the UK Plant Health Service and the scientific community to explore and develop, where appropriate, new technology to be used for detection and diagnosis of pests at the border.

Imports arriving in the UK as a result of internet or distance selling represent an increasing risk but there is a lack of awareness of the pest risks associated with this pathway by businesses and the public. Also, although covered by legislation, it is difficult to obtain information about this trade and ensure regulations are implemented properly. The extent of plant material brought into the UK by international passengers is also poorly understood.

We will work with the UK Plant Health Service and Border Force to develop a better understanding of risks from commercial trade and passengers and consider how we can improve public awareness of the risks. We will also explore how to better target or increase passenger baggage checks. Highly visible information on plant health displayed at borders is one important way of raising awareness with the public.


  • Border inspections
    SG inspectors will continue to inspect regulated material at import and conduct risk-based inspections of unregulated trades.

    We will support UK Plant Health Service activities with Border Force to ensure passenger baggage allowances are clear and to gain intelligence on risks and raise awareness.

    We will support publicity campaigns for example on passenger baggage allowance or distance selling/internet trade.

5.5 Inland measures and intra- EU trade

The EU plant health regime requires that certain plants and plant products must be accompanied by a plant passport. Authorised persons are responsible for ensuring that the plant material meets requirements for freedom from quarantine pests prior to attaching the plant passport and moving the plants. The SG's annual programme of audits and inspections verify that plant health requirements are met and also provide a way of informing registered operators about new pest risks.

Plant passporting arrangements are likely to be strengthened under the new EU Regulation on Protective Measures against Pests of Plants. We will continue to work with the rest of the UK Plant Health Service and other EU Member States to develop a robust system. The new regulations will include more stringent requirements for registered operators and training for authorised persons. Clear guidance and best practice guidelines for the movement of plants will be important and traceability is a key issue.


Surveillance is crucial for the detection of pests and the GB strategy commits to increase our capacity in this area, a good example being FCS's enhanced aerial surveillance programme for Phytophthora ramorum on larch and a range of other tree pests and pathogens. We will continue to undertake surveillance required under EU legislation and will also undertake targeted, risk-based surveillance and monitoring based on risks identified in the risk register and Scottish priorities.

This activity should be flexible and may require additional capacity for inspection and laboratory testing. We will also explore the development and introduction of new diagnostic methods for certain pests.

We will explore with stakeholders options and opportunities for them to contribute to monitoring activities. Existing projects and groups, such as Observatree volunteers and SNH monitoring of protected nature conservation sites, may be able to be involved with determining the extent of relevant outbreaks. There may also be other existing networks, such as Local Authority Biodiversity Officers and Local Authority Tree Officers which could assist with such activities. Points of contact should be provided for dealing with stakeholders and the public to provide guidance and information on best practice.

Contingency planning and outbreak management

A priority for the next five years will be to update the SG plant health contingency plan and to develop specific plans for key Scottish pests. Contingency planning exercises for priority pests will also be required under the new EU plant health regime. We will therefore develop and undertake simulation exercises to test and improve our plans and readiness.

We will work with stakeholders to develop Scottish plans and to provide clarity on roles and responsibilities. We will need to anticipate requirements for such contingency plans so that when outbreaks occur we are all aware of our responsibilities, with clear reporting lines, and outline measures for the control of specific pests or broader plans are in place for new pests. In addition to Scottish activity, we will work with the UK Plant Health Service to ensure collaboration in developing plans to avoid unnecessary duplication and ensure efficient use of resources and data.

We will improve our plant pest modelling capacity to help define priority actions and identify likely outbreak scenarios.

There are particular challenges with contingency planning and outbreak management for pests affecting trees and plants in the natural environment. Outbreak management plans will need to include consideration of issues such as:

  • assessment of future threats, especially for long-lived species
  • resilience objectives and how these allow change or adaptation from current systems.

When outbreaks of EU quarantine pests occur we will aim to eradicate, or if this is not possible, contain them. We will need to be ready to adjust plans and respond flexibly. For serious outbreaks of non-quarantine/native pests, management plans may need to be developed enabling us to 'learn to live' with them.

We will work with partners to tackle outbreaks quickly and keep all informed. SG has a pool of trained specialists who can be used in emergency situations. We also have business continuity plans in place to respond to, and practice, outbreak situations.

It will be important to assess the effectiveness of previous surveillance and eradication campaigns and learn lessons for future activities. If necessary we will commission studies to provide evidence of best practice.

The potential impacts of changes in pesticide legislation will be considered by the PHRG and added to the UK Plant Health Risk Register, particularly how such changes may affect outbreaks of new pests.


  • Strengthened EU plant health regime requirements
    We will work with stakeholders and registered operators to implement the new EU Regulation on Protective Measures against Pests of Plants to ensure it delivers greater protection from pests and, where possible, avoid unnecessary additional burdens.
  • Surveillance
    We will fulfil mandatory surveillance obligations for EU priority pests and increase surveillance for other pests where we have determined this is a priority.

    We will engage with stakeholders to develop initiatives for surveillance and reporting, for example Observatree, Tree Alert and possible networks of amateur gardeners.
  • Improved technology
    We will work with others to develop and implement new technology to improve diagnostic capability wherever possible.
  • Contingency planning
    We will engage with stakeholders to update the SG generic contingency plan and publish it on the SG web site. In partnership with the UK Plant Health Service, we will contribute to and develop pest specific plans identified using the risk register.

    We will develop and/or undertake regular simulation exercises to test our plans.

    We will review the effectiveness of our procedures and measures and make changes as necessary.

    We will support initiatives to build resilience in plant communities.

5.6 Evidence

There is a need for a strong evidence base and underpinning scientific knowledge to support our plant health activity. This is used by SG and stakeholders in order to target resources effectively and provide solutions from a Scottish perspective. Factors include:

  • timescale of the risk, influenced by the epidemiology of pests;
  • value of sectors and potential outbreaks;
  • impact on sectors and between sectors; and
  • uncertainty.

Through plant health inspections, surveillance and monitoring programmes ( e.g. helicopter surveillance for Phytophthora ramorum on larch), networks of trained experts ( e.g. FCS Tree Health champions and Observatree volunteers) and scientific services, SG generates evidence including in the areas of pest diagnostics, surveillance and pest distribution, epidemiology and control measures.

Scottish scientists have a high reputation globally and work with colleagues throughout the UK, Europe and internationally.

Future Evidence Needs

In many cases there is scientific literature or other evidence available to identify potential impacts of pests of agricultural crops, horticultural plants and forest trees. However, a key uncertainty relates to potential future impacts on ecosystems with time-scales measured in decades or even centuries. In such situations there is the added complexity of predicting the interaction that other pressures such as climate change may have on pest impacts.

As most movements of plants and plant products into Scotland are via England, many assessments on risks associated with potential introduction and establishment of pests in Scotland are based on UK figures. Data on movements into and within Scotland could aid risk-based decision making and modelling, although such data would be hard to obtain.

The 'value' of the plant/crop/landscape sectors to the Scottish/ UK economy (related to both trade and environmental aspects) needs to be assessed. There is a lack of evidence currently concerning the economic and wider social impacts of pest outbreaks to the natural landscape. These values would be useful for assessing Scottish priorities and determining the costs and benefits of interventions. Cumulative effects of several pests on a particular host or ecosystem may need to be taken into account in some cases.

Another gap is provision for modelling of likely impacts of pests on agricultural and horticultural crops, trees and plants in the natural environment. In addition, we do not routinely undertake Scottish-based pest risk analyses ( PRAs),but this may not be necessary as we contribute to the UK PRAs.

Research funding

SG funds world-leading research to underpin our plant health capacity through the Strategic Research Programme [30] and policy-related projects via the Contract Research Fund. We are committed to shared knowledge exchange and we ensure that our research has synergy and alignment with other research initiatives funded across the UK and EU.

We maximise the impact of our investment by co-funding research that Scottish stakeholders participate in (for example in EUPHRESCO [31] projects) and by actively contributing to collaborative working groups to steer plant health research of relevance to Scotland ( e.g. the Living With Environmental Change ( LWEC), Tree Health And Plant Biosecurity Initiative [32] , Global Food Security Programme, the Animal and Plant Health- UK initiative, AHDB, Horizon 2020 and the Scottish Forestry Trust).

The Science and Innovation Strategy for Forestry in Great Britain [33] was signed off in 2014. There is a strong focus on tree health and environmental resilience which has followed through in the agreed four-year Forest Research Programme. This programme integrates with other research providers e.g. through the LWEC Tree Health and Plant Biosecurity Initiative projects.

For many natural environment plant species we lack baseline knowledge of plant distribution or ecology that would allow us to determine if plant health issues were developing. Furthermore, many plants communities occur in remote or rugged areas where the costs and difficulty of acquiring information may be high. There may be communities of interest or specialists who can provide some information ( e.g. lower plant specialists), or a citizen science approach may be helpful. Overall however, knowledge of plant health in the natural environment is likely to be on a sample or proxy basis (via modelling), or limited to specific species.

Our plant health capacity and capability will be strengthened further by the commissioning of the proposed virtual Scottish Centre of Expertise (CoE) for Plant Health, which will provide faster responses to address policy questions than the Strategic Research Programme can deliver and will take a holistic, multidisciplinary approach to plant health issues. The CoE will co-ordinate collaborative working, knowledge exchange and research needs to identify and fill current shortfalls, such as modelling capacity and data exchange and provide support for plant health activities. This will be the fourth Scottish CoE. CoEs allow the creation of new partnerships and synergies, for example between existing research providers and universities. The CoE for Plant Health will help to raise the profile of plant health in Scotland and create a forum for discussion of difficult and/or contentious issues, for example potential issues associated with pests affecting trees or shrubs in gardens, forests and the natural environment.


  • Scottish Centre of Expertise (CoE) for Plant Health
    Scottish Government is proposing to commission a Scottish CoE for Plant Health in early 2016.
  • Research commissioning
    SG will support plant health research through the Strategic Research Programme, Forest Research Programme, Contract Research Fund and the CoE. We will ensure compatibility across research programmes to maximise synergy and prevent duplication of effort.

    When commissioning research, we will take into account social, economic and environmental impacts of pest outbreaks, especially in the natural environment. This integrated approach will be further facilitated by the proposed CoE and areas with shortfalls, such as modelling, will be strengthened through skills transfer or research funding.
  • Participation in plant health research
    We will continue to participate in relevant collaborative research projects.

5.7 Capability and capacity

The SG was involved in the project on 'Animal and Plant Health in the UK - Building our science capability' [18] , which examined scientific capability and capacity in the UK. As part of the UK Science Partnership for Animal and Plant Health we are taking this work forward and the output from the project can be used to inform the Scottish position.

There is an existing plant health resource in Scotland (including governmental, industry, scientific and citizen science) which can be built upon. A mapping exercise of the current capability and skills in Scotland has been undertaken in the context of the development of the CoE for Plant Health. Existing strengths have been identified including capacity for inspection and identification, applied laboratory skills and availability of specialised equipment and facilities. Creation of the CoE should increase scientific partnerships in the field of plant health within Scotland, particularly with Higher Education Institutes and across sector boundaries.

Some knowledge and capacity gaps have been identified e.g. taxonomic skills, singleton science specialists and diagnostic support. Applied plant health skills may soon be lost due to a lack of relevant training in universities, which is a risk for the success of this strategy. In some cases there is a lack of effective and/or acceptable control measures, including chemical/biological treatments, for some pests.

Skills pathway and Register of Plant Health Professionals

The initiative of the UK Chief Plant Health Officer to develop a skills pathway and a Register of Plant Health Professionals (hosted by the Royal Society of Biology) will help to ensure that expertise is maintained and enhanced. The SG is supportive of and involved in this initiative.

This should ensure that UK plant health experts continue to be and are increasingly recognised internationally for their knowledge and expertise. The UK is committed to engaging in and influencing international developments including taking the lead on knowledge exchange with exporting countries.

Continued investment is critical to ensure that surveillance methods, rapid and accurate diagnostic tests and control methods are available for pests, and to ensure continuity of skills in the next generation of inspectors, policy makers and scientists.


There is the potential to engage with stakeholders at all levels to provide training and enhanced skills. We will continue to provide training in Scotland and will work with the UK Plant Health Service to develop this further.


  • Maintain and enhance capacity and capability
    We will support initiatives to maintain and enhance key skills and capacity, including citizen science, for Scotland and address any gaps.

    We will contribute to the next phase of the 'Animal and Plant Health in the UK - Building our Science Capability' project through the UK Science Partnership for Animal and Plant Health.

    We will support the UK Chief Plant Health Officer's initiative for a skills pathway for plant health and Register of Plant Health Professionals.
  • Scottish Chief Plant Health Officer (SCPHO)
    We will appoint a SCPHO.
  • Education and training
    We will support developments to increase plant health awareness and engage with sector professionals and volunteers ( e.g. Observatree), via training courses and by promoting plant health as a career.


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