Strategic Environmental Assessment (SEA) for the Small Landholdings and Land Use Tenancy Proposals Environmental Report

SEA is a systematic process for evaluating the environmental consequences of proposed plans, strategies, or programmes. This Report accompanies the Small Landholding and Land Use Tenancy proposals, within the Land Reform Bill.

Appendix A Scoping information


This appendix provides an overview of information presented in the SEA Scoping Report prepared by the Scottish Government for the Small Landholdings and Land Use Tenancy proposals in February 2023. Consultation took place between 7th February 2023 and 14th March 2023.

The purpose of the SEA Scoping Report is to set out sufficient information on the proposed Small Landholdings and Land Use Tenancy legislative proposals contained in the ‘Land Reform in a Net Zero Nation’ consultation and ‘Small Landholdings Modernisation’ consultation to enable the Consultation Authorities to form a view on the proposed scope and level of detail for the Environmental Report.

Scoping of SEA topics

The Small Landholdings and Land Use Tenancy proposals are considered to have the potential for likely significant positive environmental effects on the climate factors and biodiversity, habitats, flora and fauna SEA topics.

At a local level, it is considered likely that the implementation of the agricultural tenancies proposals may result in a range of localised indirect environmental effects. Their significance will depend on factors such as location, scale and individual practices.

In the interest of proportionality and given the national level focus of the policy, coupled with the presence of existing mitigation in place at the project level within existing current agricultural regulations and consenting regimes, the environmental topic areas: soil; water; air quality; cultural heritage; material assets; and landscape have been scoped out of this SEA.[13] Notwithstanding, to ensure that the potential for any localised indirect effects is recorded, and to allow for the SEA findings to directly inform the consideration of relevant issues at the local and project levels, it is proposed that the SEA acknowledge these within the context of the topics scoped into the assessment, as appropriate.

Development of the environmental baseline

For each topic scoped into this assessment, environmental baseline data has been collated to provide an understanding of these.

Climatic factors

The global climate is changing. Since the 1880s, human activity has led to a significant increase in atmospheric greenhouse gas emissions and global warming. This has resulted in an increase in the average temperature of the atmosphere and oceans; a reduction in snow and ice cover; and sea level rise. In Scotland, the period 2008 – 2017 was an average of 0.7°C warmer than 1961 – 1990 and had fewer days of air and ground frost. An increase in precipitation (11%) has been observed for the same period. The amount of rain from extremely wet days across the UK has also increased by 17% with the biggest observed changes seen in Scotland.[14]

In general, climate change projections suggest observed climate trends will continue to intensify in the future, including:

  • An increase in both summer and winter average temperatures across both low and high emission scenarios.
  • Drier summers and wetter winters.
  • An increase in the intensity of rainfall; and
  • Increased risk of flooding, drought, and extreme weather events.[15]

Key pressures on climate change include greenhouse gas emissions from a range of sectors with the highest contributors being the transport sector (including international aviation and shipping) (approximately 37%), agriculture and related land uses (24%), business and industrial process (22%), the energy supply sector (15%), and the residential sector (15%). Relatively minor contributions were reported for public sector buildings, development, and waste management. Forestry was a net carbon sink and contributed to reducing emissions by approximately 24% in 2017.[16]

Scottish agriculture generated 7.4 MtCO2e in 2020, equivalent to 18% of total Scottish emissions, making it Scotland’s third highest GHG emitting sector. The government’s Climate Change Plan update[17] requires agricultural emissions to reduce by a further 2.3 MtCO2e to 5.3 MtCO2e by 2032, the equivalent of a 30% reduction from 2020 levels.[18] For context, this means achieving double the reduction in emissions achieved over the past 30 years, in less than half the time.

Biodiversity, habitats, flora and fauna

The changing climate, in addition to other human-related drivers such as pollution, direct exploitation, land use change and invasive non-native species, has led to the biggest global decline in the health of ecosystems ever seen in human history.[19] In Scotland, NatureScot’s 2019 State of Nature report showed that between 1994 and 2016, average species abundance declined by 24%.[20] In addition to the intrinsic value of having a healthy natural environment, as a society we also rely heavily on the services Scottish ecosystems provide. It is therefore imperative that we halt the decline in biodiversity and restore it in a way that is resilient to future changes in climate for the future prosperity of Scotland.

Declining biodiversity has been observed both globally and in Scotland for several decades. The latest State of Nature report for Scotland[21] showed that half of the species measured decreased in abundance between 1994 and 2016 with a 24% decrease in average species abundance, much of which has occurred since 2010. Likewise since 1970 there has been a 14% decline in the average distribution of species measured. Scotland now has one of the lowest biodiversity intactness index11 scores in the world (212 out of 240 countries), with only 56% of Scotland biodiversity deemed ‘intact’.

Agriculture is a contributing factor to all five drivers of biodiversity decline.In broad terms, the historical move from low input-low output agricultural systems towards agricultural intensification is linked to declining biodiversity[22],[23]. Increasing intensification, whether in arable or livestock systems, aligns with a greater control over natural processes. For example, in arable systems, intensification generally leads to the increased use of pesticides and fertilisers, continuous cropping, changed sowing seasons and the loss of non-cropped habitats[24]. In livestock systems it is linked to higher nutrient inputs into and out from improved grasslands, the greater use of veterinary medicines and the removal and suppression of habitat[25]. These practices impact on biodiversity both directly (e.g. direct loss of habitat from agricultural practices[26]) and indirectly (e.g. increased nutrients in runoff causing eutrophication in aquatic ecosystems[27]).In the context of other drivers, agricultural management practices have been shown to be the largest driver of terrestrial biodiversity loss at the UK level[28].

Land management and land use changes are driven, by market, economic and social factors that will influence the effect of policies and legislation on the ground.



Back to top