Chapter 6 Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry - 3.6. Land Use, Land Use Change and Forestry
3.6.1 Land is key to Scotland’s history, culture, and identity. Our landscape and natural environment is one of our greatest national assets, contributing hugely to our economy and society. How we use our land matters to our collective health and wellbeing.
3.6.2 We are rightly proud of our world-renowned, diverse and rich nature and landscapes. They have a vital role to play in our future, not least in supporting us to meet our ambitious climate change targets and ambitions. The importance of our land in delivering Scotland’s emissions reduction targets has been highlighted by the UK Climate Change Committee. The capacity that our land has to deliver nature-based solutions to climate change, including through increased tree cover and restoration of degraded peatland, is unique within the UK. Scotland has a positive story to tell in these areas but we have not always fully understood that what we do on the land, and to the land, can have far reaching consequences and negative impacts, some of them intangible and long lasting.
3.6.3 For example, it is estimated that around 80% of Scotland’s peatlands are degraded and, despite the significant progress over recent years, Scotland remains heavily deforested compared to many European countries, and imports significant quantities of timber and timber products. Our soil quality is poor and some native species are finding it hard to survive in our current environment.
3.6.4 Changing these outcomes is both a challenge and an opportunity: through significant increases in tree cover and widespread peatland restoration, we can reduce greenhouse gases and other pollutants, increase the levels of carbon dioxide being absorbed and locked up in timber products, enhance and protect our biodiversity, derive other co-benefits such as flood mitigation and climate adaptation, and also support clean, new jobs as part of the green recovery.
3.6.5 We must now act urgently and make real and substantive progress in cutting emissions. We must make large scale and rapid changes in the way we use and manage our land to help reach our statutory net-zero targets. This will require us to move appropriate land out of farming as we currently understand it into forestry and peatland, and require those who manage our land for whatever purpose to embrace more sustainable practices (such as those set out in the agriculture chapter of this update).
3.6.6 Increasing woodland creation and peatland restoration on this scale, and over this number of years, will result in significant changes in the iconic landscape and environment which has evolved over centuries and for which Scotland is globally renowned. We need to ensure that the people of Scotland understand and support these changes, particularly those individuals and communities likely to be most impacted. To do that will require early engagement, consistent communication, and genuine dialogue between different groups and communities. We must take people with us in understanding why the look of Scotland and key parts of our landscape are changing. We must also ensure that we don’t assume nor accept that radical reform of land use necessarily means fewer people living in rural Scotland: the aim should be to use land use change to help repopulate remote and island areas too.
3.6.7 Achieving land use transformation on this scale will require a major increase in the size and capability of the workforce. This significant expansion of an already important sector of the rural economy is an opportunity for more people to work and live in rural Scotland. We will accordingly need more rural housing and more planning flexibility in the provision of that rural housing.
3.6.8 This chapter sets out the policies and actions that the Scottish Government is taking to enable, support and drive these land use changes. We are also determined to ensure that we transition in a just way, and in a way that also supports our wider ambitions and priorities such as:
- protecting and restoring Scotland’s biodiversity and natural environment;
- investing in the natural capital that underpins our economy and wellbeing;
- providing a platform for the sustainable production of high quality food;
- providing a source of other long-term sustainable products like Scottish timber;
- providing a base for more renewable energy generation like on-shore wind and bio-energy, with appropriate safeguards for biodiversity;
- prioritising nature-based solutions to societal challenges, including air quality, water supply and quality, flood risk management, climate mitigation and adaptation and much more; and
- providing more modern, affordable and energy-efficient rural housing.
3.6.9 Scotland’s forthcoming third Land Use Strategy (due for publication in spring 2021) will demonstrate how these priorities and the actions of the Scottish Government come together as we deliver on our sustainable land use vision and objectives.
The two key pillars of LULUCF in Scotland: forestry and peatland
3.6.10 Expanding the area of Scotland’s forests and woodlands will contribute to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, and will also generate an important commercial natural resource, improve biodiversity and provide spaces for people to enjoy. We have created over 22,000 hectares of new woodland in the last two years, and we will continue to invest to increase overall forest cover in Scotland. As part of the Scottish Government’s Low Carbon Fund, Scottish Forestry will receive an additional £100 million to increase new planting and Forestry and Land Scotland will receive an additional £30 million to expand Scotland’s national forests and land. We will also provide £20 million to further increase tree nursery capacity, investing in new and redeveloped facilities to support higher production. This investment will enable us to increase woodland creation from the current level of 12,000 hectares in 2020/21 up to 18,000 hectares in 2024/25, ensuring that forestry and woodlands play an important role in cutting emissions and sequestering carbon.
3.6.11 Peatlands are a key part of the Scottish landscape, our cultural and natural heritage, forming more than 20% of Scotland’s land cover. In good condition, they actively remove and store carbon from the atmosphere, support habitats and species and help to improve water quality and manage flood risk. When degraded, peatlands no longer provide these benefits and emit more carbon than they remove, becoming a net source of greenhouse gases.
3.6.12 The 2018 Climate Change Plan established an annual peatland restoration target of 20,000 hectares (noting that using an area target is a proxy measure for achieving greenhouse gas emissions reductions and the extent of restoration will vary considerably according to the mix of land type). Since 2012, over 25,000 hectares of degraded peatlands have been put on the road to recovery through projects supported by Peatland Action – the NatureScot programme that is funded by the Scottish Government. This includes around 6,000 hectares annually over the past two years. Although feasibility studies have been carried out since 2012 on over 200,000 hectares (including nearly 75,000 hectares annually in the past two years), the extent of restoration achieved thus far over 8 years illustrates the scale of our challenge. It also highlights that achieving peatland restoration at scale requires a considerable step change in the pace and geographical extent of restoration and that new approaches need to be explored.
3.6.13 Earlier this year we announced a £250 million ten-year funding package to support the restoration of 250,000 hectares of degraded peat by 2030. We are currently working with our peatland restoration delivery partners and others involved across the public, private and third sectors to improve and streamline how we organise, fund and deliver increased restoration in the coming years, and to identify and develop solutions to any current barriers. These include the need for multi-year funding, enhanced contractor capacity, as part of developing a peatland restoration sector, and improved awareness among land owners and managers of the opportunities and benefits of peatland restoration. We will also be exploring with major landowners and stakeholders a strategic approach to achieve large-scale restoration projects over multiple years.
3.6.14 Modelling shows that in order to deliver on the 2032 emissions envelope of this update, annual peatland restoration would need to be far higher than the current 20,000 hectare annual target. As highlighted at the start of this chapter, meeting these challenges will require fundamental change in the way land is used and managed, and how support is provided. How to achieve this change will require careful thought; there are many technical considerations and uncertainties to overcome. We will work closely with public sector and other delivery partners, land owners, land managers, farmers and crofters to continue to encourage protection, maintenance and restoration of all peatland types and will explore opportunities to restore more of the land that offers the highest emission savings per hectare.
3.6.15 Determining the optimal mix of land use involves a complex set of interlinked considerations and goals that are at times in tension. We have commissioned research to map the location of land that offers the greatest emissions savings potential and to understand its current use and tenure in order to inform targeted action. We have also commissioned research to better understand landowner and land manager motivations for, and attitudes towards, undertaking peatland restoration.
The Woodland Carbon Code
The Woodland Carbon Code is a standard for generating verified carbon credits through planting new woodlands, enabling businesses to compensate for their residual emissions. The Code underpins trust in the woodland carbon market in order to attract additional investment into woodland creation by verifying that woodland carbon projects are responsibly and sustainably managed to national standards. An updated and expanded carbon registry, the UK Land Carbon Registry, was launched in November 2020 and now also includes peatland restoration credits generated under Peatland Code. Over 250 woodland projects have been validated under the Woodland Carbon Code to date. These are predicted to sequester over 5 million tCO2 in the future, and provide a range of other benefits for the environment and local communities.
A new mixed productive and broadleaved woodland covering over 225 hectares of former low quality hill grazing land in the Yarrow Valley, Scottish Borders, will generate over 70,000 verified carbon credits. Situated adjacent to the Minch Moor drove road and the Southern Upland Way, the woodland also offers recreation benefits for the surrounding area and supports flood mitigation and biodiversity in both the woodland and open ground areas. The code is a UK wide scheme and more information can be found here: https://www.woodlandcarboncode.org.uk/
3.6.16 During the COVID-19 crisis, and the restrictions necessary in our response to it, we have seen people right across Scotland, in cities and rural areas alike, connect with nature and the environment to a much greater degree. Nature has provided a source of comfort, strength and solace at a time of national and personal crisis, and has itself benefited from reductions in air and noise pollution.
3.6.17 Many of the actions set out in this Climate Change Plan update enhance and increase these opportunities. The expansion of new woodland and enhanced protection and restoration of peatlands will improve important natural habitats for a range of species, as well as expanding opportunities to support public health and wellbeing outcomes through recreation and increased interaction with nature.
Green recovery and just transition
3.6.18 Scotland’s land and the natural capital it supports will play a fundamental role not only in our response to the climate crisis, but also in our green recovery from COVID-19. Land use change at the required scale will provide green economic and employment opportunities, offer public health benefits, help to address rural depopulation and provide social benefits to communities across Scotland. This will in turn help secure a just transition to our economic and environmentally sustainable future. The LULUCF sector will therefore form a key plank of our green recovery from COVID-19.
3.6.19 Government cannot fund this on its own, we need everyone to get involved. Both public and private investment in Scotland’s natural capital will be essential to deliver on our emissions reduction targets, not least to support people and businesses to make the changes we need on how they use and manage land. It will also be necessary to ensure long-term sustainable management of restored peatland so that the carbon it stores remains locked up in the long term. As well as our commitment of £250 million of funding over ten years, we are working to attract increased private investment.
3.6.20 For example the Woodland Carbon Code and Peatland Code are recognised standards for businesses to purchase and report on carbon units for woodland creation and peatland restoration. Scottish Forestry oversees the management and development of the Woodland Carbon Code and through our grant funding via our delivery partners we contribute to the development and management of the Peatland Code and are working with the IUCN to promote it more widely to land managers and businesses.
3.6.21 In the future we will work to integrate public and private funding for woodland creation and peatland restoration and management through better coordination between the Woodland Carbon Code, Peatland Code and government grants to our delivery partners. A shared carbon registry has been set up in 2020 for the Woodland Carbon and Peatland Codes to reduce complexity in the carbon market and facilitate increased private sector investment in nature-based solutions to tackle greenhouse gas emissions and improve wellbeing.
3.6.22 We will also explore the development of a Peatland Restoration Standard to ensure best practice and continuous development in the success and effectiveness of peatland restoration.
3.6.23 Scotland’s forestry sector currently supports over 25,000 jobs across Scotland, including among demographic groups where job creation is particularly needed, such as in rural and remote areas and among younger age categories. Scottish Forestry is doubling its recruitment of assistant woodland officers and Forestry and Land Scotland is doubling the number of opportunities for young people (including modern apprenticeships, student placements, etc.) creating high value, high skilled jobs often in remote locations in the natural economy. Employment in the private forestry sector will grow in response to our more ambitious targets for woodland creation and increasing domestic timber production, which is forecast to increase by over a third during the next 10 years.
3.6.24 Similarly, peatland restoration offers further potential to create skilled green jobs across rural Scotland. It is estimated that over 3-5 years starting in 2021-22, peatland restoration associated with our existing commitment to invest around £25 million annually will build to supporting around 200 FTE contractor and delivery jobs across Scotland.
3.6.25 In addition to direct employment, these actions will support employment in wider supply chains associated with forestry and woodland creation, and peatland restoration. There will also be spill over benefits in the wider rural economy for rural and island communities.
3.6.26 As well as increasing the pace and extent of restoration of degraded peatlands, we also need to protect existing peatlands which may be damaged by certain human activities including commercial extraction and development. We will therefore accelerate work towards our 2019-2020 Programme for Government commitment to seek to phase out the use of horticultural peat by increasing uptake of alternative growing materials, including undertaking research to understanding the issues around transitioning to alternatives. Our Position Statement on National Planning Framework 4 confirmed our current thinking that through the planning system we will not support applications for planning permission for new commercial peat extraction for horticultural purposes. We are looking at strengthening controls on development on peatland and we will help facilitate restoration through permitted development rights.
Positive vision for 2032 and 2045
3.6.27 By 2032, land use will have already changed significantly. Since trees need to become established before they begin to sequester carbon significantly, we need to plant in this decade to deliver to 2045 targets. Increased forestry cover along with the restoration of degraded peatland and changes in the management practices of other land based industries will have begun to ensure that our land is used and managed more sustainably. We will have raised awareness of the importance of our land and be firmly on the road to fully recognising and better understanding and valuing the resources it offers. People and communities will accept why landscapes are beginning to look different, businesses will welcome the opportunities land use change has created, and our rural communities will be recognised as providing good employment opportunities and high-quality housing.
3.6.28 By 2045, Scotland will be internationally recognised for its woodland and peatland restoration achievements and potential, attracting investors from international and domestic business organisations who want to play their part in delivering a more sustainable future. Our landscapes will be a mosaic of integrated land uses featuring a range of nature based solutions to produce high quality food sustainably, to deliver a vibrant and enriched natural environment and to help Scotland be a prosperous, healthy, fair and inclusive nation with a thriving natural economy.
Route Map to 2032
Forestry sector supported on plant and seed supply strategy.
Timber Development Programme implemented.
Further opportunities to attract finance into woodland creation are developed, including through the Woodland Carbon Capture Programme.
At least 20,000 ha of peatland restored annually.
Review of peatland restoration support mechanisms to remove embedded barriers concludes, restoration rates increase, and engagement by land owners, land managers and crofters is promoted and widens.
Opportunities to attract private finance into peatland restoration are developed and promoted, including through supporting increased use of the Peatland Code.
Establishment of Regional Land Use Partnership pilots and publication of Scotland’s third Land Use Strategy.
Delivery plan and timetable for phasing out horticultural peat developed and produced following engagement with stakeholders.
Research commissioned to (1) inform decisions about where to target peatland restoration to deliver the highest emissions savings per hectare and the mix of land use changes needed to meet the new targets; and (2) to understand behaviours and attitudes towards peatland restoration.
Draft Fourth National Planning Framework published for Parliamentary consideration in late 2021: we anticipate that it will strengthen the role of the planning system in not supporting applications for planning permission for new commercial peat extraction for horticultural purposes. It will also look at strengthening controls on development on peatland.
Regional Land Use Frameworks developed.
18,000 Ha of new woodlands created annually.
Scotland’s fourth Land Use Strategy published.
At least 250,000 hectares of peatland restored.
The actions we are taking
3.6.29 We have boosted our policy outcome on woodland creation:
|Year||Proposed annual woodland creation target (hectares)|
3.6.30 The 2020-2021 Programme for Government announced an increased woodland creation target of 18,000 hectares per year by 2024/25, together with £150 million of funding support through forest grants (£100 million), increased state nursery production (£20 million) and expansion of Scotland’s national forests (£30 million).
Woodland Carbon Capture Investment Programme
3.6.31 Scottish Forestry and Forest and Land Scotland will implement a new work programme with investors, carbon buyers, landowners and market intermediaries to increase private investment in new woodlands in order to increase the woodland carbon market by at least 50% by 2025. Building on almost 4 million validated credits (each equivalent to one tonne CO2) in the Woodland Carbon Code registry in March 2020, this will require the validation of approximately 400,000 credits a year between 2020 and 2025.
3.6.32 Scottish Forestry will:
- provide strategic and technical support to some major private sector investment proposals, helping them to develop new business models and to design their woodland proposals;
- work with market intermediaries to increase the accessibility and liquidity in the buying and selling of carbon credits in order to achieve greater scale and maturity in the market; and,
- further develop the Woodland Carbon Code to attract more private investment in woodland creation, building on the launch in November 2020 of a new UK Land Carbon Registry in conjunction with the Peatland Code.
3.6.33 Forestry and Land Scotland will attract carbon investment with a view to acquiring more land o support a diverse forest estate including continuous cover and native woodlands on Scotland’s national forests and land for the benefit of future generations and to optimise carbon sequestration.
Plant and seed supply strategy
3.6.34 We have a new policy to support the forestry sector to develop a plant and seed supply strategy to help meet the increased planting targets. A programme of technical innovation to develop and adapt modern horticultural practices will help improve seed preparation and handling, techniques to reduce environmental impacts, and increase nursery production. Funding to support increased production of young trees is available through the Harvesting and Processing grant which is now open to forest nurseries across GB with support from Defra.
3.6.35 Working with the farming sector, we will boost our work on forestry and farming and develop models to increase woodland creation on both tenanted and owner-occupied farms, increasing the scale and scope of agro-forestry.
Capacity building and awareness raising: forestry
3.6.36 We have maintained our policy on capacity building in the forestry sector, working closely with the sector through the Scottish Forestry and Timber Technologies Industry Leadership group. We have supported the development of a skills action plan to encourage new entrants into forestry and to increase the skill sets of those already working in the sector.
3.6.37 We are carrying out a series of training and awareness events, including through the Institute of Chartered Foresters, to build knowledge and capacity in the sector and develop opportunities in the woodland carbon market.
3.6.38 We are building our staff resources, creating employment opportunities in rural and remote areas. Scottish Forestry is doubling its recruitment of assistant woodland officers and Forestry and Land Scotland is doubling the number of opportunities for young people (including modern apprenticeships, student placements, etc.), both of which provide an important entry route for future careers in the forestry sector.
3.6.39 Through the Scottish Forestry Improvement Programme, we will continue to invest in streamlining and digitising our grant application and regulatory processes, ensuring that they are as efficient and simple as possible. By delivering an efficient and customer-focused service, we will make it easy for those who wish to engage in land use change to do so.
3.6.40 We will identify opportunities to expand the Forestry and Land Scotland land acquisition programme, investing in new state-owned forestry and peatland assets, underpinning greater growth in both areas.
Capacity building and awareness raising – peatland
3.6.41 We have boosted our commitment to significantly increasing the pace and extent of peatland restoration. In 2019-20 we increased funding by £11 million to a total of £14 million and in February 2020 we announced a commitment to invest more than £250 million over 10 years to support the restoration of at least 20,000 ha of Scottish peatland annually, towards a total of 250,000 hectares by 2030. This will support at least 200 new skilled green jobs across rural Scotland.
3.6.42 Going beyond this level of peatland restoration to meet the new targets will increase opportunities and challenges. We will undertake new research to inform our understanding of these and will boost work to develop opportunities to attract private finance into peatland restoration, including through supporting increased use of the Peatland Code.
3.6.43 To support our ambitions, we have launched with our key delivery partners a new review of peatland restoration support mechanisms to improve and streamline how we organise, fund and deliver increased restoration in the coming years, and to identify and develop solutions to barriers. A virtual peatland summit with stakeholders across the public, private and third sectors held in December will inform this review and help raise awareness of opportunities, characterise barriers to peatland restoration and identify solutions, particularly around multi-year funding and contractor capacity.
3.6.44 In our 2019-20 Programme for Government we made a new commitment to seek to phase out the use of peat in horticulture by increasing uptake of alternative materials and undertaking stakeholder engagement to understand transitional challenges, improving the uptake of alternatives and developing a time-scaled plan. We will consider approaches to raising public awareness of these issues, and work with the UK Government as necessary where levers exist at that level.
3.6.45 We are strengthening the role of the planning system: our Position Statement on National Planning Framework 4 confirmed our current thinking that through the planning system we will not support applications for planning permission for new commercial peat extraction for horticultural purposes, that we are looking at strengthening controls on development on peatland, and also that we will help facilitate restoration through permitted development rights (which will provide clarity that planning permission is not required to undertake peatland restoration and thus help streamline the approval and implementation of new peatland restoration projects).
3.6.46 We will explore how to involve Scotland’s crofters and crofting communities more in our mission to deliver more restored peatland. There is over 550,000 ha of Common Grazing land in Scotland, some of which is degraded peat and part of which is owned by the Scottish Ministers. We will also explore how best to restore all degraded peat in the public estate and also within formally designated nature conservation sites, including through statutory mandate.
3.6.47 We intend to undertake research into the scale of the wider environmental, social and economic benefits across society derived from peatland restoration, and how such considerations can be embedded in wider public investment decisions.
3.6.48 We will also explore the potential to enhance Forestry and Land Scotland’s existing peatland restoration programme, ensuring that any forest removals on peatlands are replaced with new forest planting on suitable land. This would be an additional programme of land acquisition to directly replace hectare for hectare land restored to peatland from forestry.
3.6.49 How best to incentivise and reward high value nature farming, including peatland restoration and agro-forestry will be considered and included in our policy and approach to future rural support, which will also include sustainable food production, emissions reduction, production of biofuel crops and appropriate land use change.
3.6.50 The above areas where our policy and approach will be developed will help enable us to achieve our current emissions reduction targets and they have the potential, in time, to help deliver the expanded LULUCF envelope.
3.6.51 In developing the fourth National Planning Framework (NPF4) we recognise that nature-based solutions to climate change, including tree planting and peatland restoration, and tackling emissions related to soil disturbance and agricultural land use, will be essential to reduce emissions from our land and increase carbon sequestration. We expect that our spatial strategy will explore how we can promote nature-based solutions to climate change, which also protect and restore biodiversity and deliver wider benefits.
Regional land use partnerships
3.6.52 We have reaffirmed our commitment to make use of Regional Land Use Partnerships from 2021. We continue to develop our approach to Partnerships which enable national and local government, land owners, stakeholders and local communities to work together to meet regional priorities, whilst also supporting our national endeavour to end Scotland’s contribution to climate change from land use. By the end of 2021, we will have established pilot Regional Land Use Partnerships to test our approach, and by 2023 each Partnership will have developed a Regional Land Use Framework that strategically identifies where resource can have the most positive climate impact.
Our Call to Others
The UK Government
3.6.53 We require urgent clarity from the UK Government on what funding it will provide after EU Exit to replace the EU funding element in the Forestry Grant Scheme. We also need to understand how and where the UK Government proposes to deliver the ambitious woodland creation and peatland restoration targets it has adopted at a UK level; and we will continue to look to UK Government funding to help support our expanded forestry and peatland restoration activity as a contribution to delivery of UK climate change targets.
3.6.54 To ensure a coordinated approach to the phasing out of horticultural peat where levers and risks exist at the UK level, we will continue to engage where relevant with the UK Government and the other devolved administrations.
Scottish public sector organisations
3.6.55 We will take forward the statutory duty, established by the Forestry and Land Management Act (Scotland) 2018, for all public authorities to promote sustainable forest management in exercising their functions. In particular, we need and will support public sector organisations to develop opportunities for woodland creation, and to improve sustainable management of existing woodlands on publicly owned land. We will look to relevant public sector bodies to adopt a ‘team Scotland’ approach to supporting our enhanced tree planting commitments, including ensuring an optimum approach is adopted to applying any advisory or regulatory roles.
3.6.56 Key public sector delivery partners will work collaboratively with the Scottish Government to identify innovative solutions to the barriers currently limiting the pace and extent of peatland restoration.
Scottish businesses and industry
3.6.57 In the forestry sector, supply chain businesses, including nurseries, contractors and land managers, need to scale up to ensure that enough capacity exists to deliver woodland creation at increased scale and pace. In the construction sector, we will encourage businesses to recognise the advantages of using sustainably sourced wood fibre and make more use of wood products.
3.6.58 We will also work to encourage private investment in woodland creation, peatland restoration and long-term management through mechanisms such as the Woodland Carbon Code and the Peatland Code which provides the quality and reliability assurances that investors considering this emerging and innovative opportunity will need.
3.6.59 Scottish Forestry and Forestry and Land Scotland are developing and enhancing opportunities for individuals, families and communities to:
- make use of woodlands on public and private land, leading to benefits in health, recreation and wellbeing; and
- engage with proposals for woodland creation and management of existing forests.
3.6.60 The policies within this Climate Change Plan update will lead to a wider choice of sustainably sourced wood products via construction and other sectors. Consumer recognition of the benefits of this in their purchasing decisions will allow a greater and faster development of sustainable woodland businesses.
3.6.61 We will also develop a greater understanding of the benefits that peatland restoration can make to mitigate climate change and support significant biodiversity across areas of international importance, as well as delivering further benefits to members of the public though assisting with flood risk management and improved drinking water quality.
3.6.62 Many countries, including but not only in the EU, have established significant afforestation programmes. The Scottish Government seeks opportunities to share experience with these countries including through exchange visits. Scotland has also made international commitments for example through the Bonn Challenge to contribute, through its own programme of woodland creation, to wider global goals to restore degraded land.
3.6.63 We will engage internationally on peatland restoration with nations with similar interests and ambitions before, during and after COP26 in order to showcase our achievements and expertise, exchanging understanding and learning.
Blue Economy Action Plan
A clear opportunity for recovery and renewal in Scotland lies in our massive marine zone - six times the size of Scotland’s land mass. Our rich marine natural capital has the potential to help drive Scotland’s green recovery from COVID-19. The Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development forecast the global blue economy to double from 2010 to 2030.
The ocean absorbs over a quarter of the CO2 produced by humans, and produces over half of our oxygen. Scotland’s marine carbon stores are vast – research indicates that our marine sediments may contain eleven times the amount of carbon stored in Scotland’s peatlands given the vast marine area we’re responsible for.
In recognition of the importance of the marine environment for naturally storing carbon, we have committed over £570,000 to our Blue Carbon Research Programme. We are also developing Scotland’s Blue Economy Action Plan, which will provide leadership through collaboration and innovation, maximising the impact of public investment and developing better regulation to help manage the shared use of the seas by Scotland’s marine sectors, communities and ecosystems. We will optimise opportunities in order to unlock the significant inclusive growth potential of Scotland’s marine space whilst supporting a transition to net zero.
This will take sustained joint working across government bodies, industry and NGOs, stimulated, stimulated by government leadership, throughout which we will draw on international learning and experience, maintain pace and momentum, and secure engagement with a well-supported robust whole-systems approach.
Near term initiatives which we expect to deliver very soon include the key building blocks for the development of our Blue Economy Action Plan, such as our strategy on future fisheries management, our sectoral offshore wind plan and the Scottish Marine Assessment 2020.
Over the next 6-9 months we will engage widely across government and the wider public sector to develop a strategic approach to marine-related policies and actions. We will also undertake engagement with key marine industry and environmental sectors to ensure that they can meaningfully input into the development of an Action Plan that adds value and gains traction.
Longer-term, we will work to further develop and improve the Action Plan, and embed the approaches and mechanisms needed to benefit emissions reductions, as well as broader interests in years to come. We expect the outcome of the national marine plan review next spring to help inform that longer-term vision.