Climate Change Plan 2018-2032 - update: strategic environmental assessment - draft

Draft strategic environmental assessment of the update to the Climate Change Plan 2018 to 2032. The appendices are available as a supporting file on this page.

Chapter 3 - Context of the Update to the Climate Change Plan

Relationship with other Plans, Programmes and Strategies and Environmental Objectives


3.1 The 2005 Act requires the ER to outline the relationships between the update to the Climate Change Plan and other relevant plans, programmes, and strategies. It is also a requirement of the 2005 Act that relevant environmental protection objectives at the international, European or national level be identified. The following sections of this report provide an overview of the policy context and the overarching objectives considered most relevant.

The policy context

3.2 The immediate policy context for the update to the Climate Change Plan is illustrated in Figure 3.1.

Figure 3.1: Immediate policy context for the update to the Climate Change Plan

  • The Climate Change Plan: the Third Report on Policies and Proposals 2018-2032
    Legislative Driver
    Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009
  • First Minister declares a climate emergency and commits to updateing the current Climate Change Plan within six months of the Act receiving Royal Assent
  • The update to the Climate Change Plan 2020-2032
  • The next new Climate Change Plan: the Fourth Report on Policies and Proposals
    Legislative Driver
    Full integration of the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 and Climate Change (Emissions Reductions Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019

3.3 As discussed previously, the 2019 Act increases the ambition of targets for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, in response to the UN Paris Agreement and global climate emergency. It also updates arrangements for advice, planning and reporting in relation to those targets. This includes advice from the UK Committee on Climate Change who have a statutory advisory and reporting role under Scotland’s climate change legislation. The Just Transition Commission[11] also provides independent advice on a net-zero economy for Scotland that is fair for all.

3.4 Big Climate Conversation[12] engaged over 2,500 people in Scotland, over a six-month period up to November 2019, in a discussion about Scotland’s response to tackling the global climate emergency. Cross cutting issues which emerged included:

  • A holistic and system-wide approach requiring an integrated plan.
  • Government leadership ensuring that low carbon behaviours become the most convenient or only option.
  • A just transition to ensure that action to address climate change should not exacerbate inequalities and, where possible, should reduce them.

3.5 Climate Ready Scotland: Second Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme 2019-2024[13], published in September 2019, provides an overarching framework for adaptation to climate change, setting out Scottish Ministers’ objectives as required by the 2009 Act. Building on the work of Climate Change Ready Scotland: Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (2014) this second Programme sets out to address the impacts identified for Scotland by the 2017 UK Climate Change Risk Assessment[14] as well as the Evidence Report Summary for Scotland.

3.6 Scotland’s Economic Strategy[15] sets out an overarching framework for a more productive, cohesive and fairer Scotland. The Economic Strategy forms the strategic plan for existing and all future Scottish Government policy. In addition to setting goals for sustainable economic growth, the Economic Strategy also sets out our ambitions for investing in Scotland’s infrastructure, and prioritises investment to ensure that Scotland protects and nurtures its natural resources and captures the opportunities offered by the transition to a more resource efficient, lower carbon economy.

3.7 Protecting Scotland, Renewing Scotland: The Government’s Programme for Scotland 2020-2021[16] sets out Scottish Governments plans to make Scotland a more successful country, with opportunities and increased well-being for all. Within the context of the global climate emergency it sets out that the Scottish Government is committed to achieving net zero by 2045. The importance of adaption to prepare and manage the impacts of climate change is also set out. The programme sets out the next Infrastructure Investment Plan which will reflect Scotland's commitment to achieving net zero.

3.8 National Planning Framework 3 (NPF3)[17] and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)[18] set out Scotland’s ambitions as: a successful, sustainable place; a low carbon place; a natural, resilient place; and a connected place and a long-term vision for development and investment across Scotland. NPF3 and SPP also set out the key role that planning plays in delivering Scottish Government’s commitments of transitioning to a low carbon economy and highlights the role of planning in protecting and making efficient use of Scotland’s existing resources and environmental assets.

3.9 A review of NPF3 has commenced and the Programme for Government highlights NPF4 as a major commitment in response to the global climate emergency. NPF4 will incorporate SPP so that spatial and thematic policies will be addressed in one place. It will look to 2050 and set out where development and infrastructure is needed to support sustainable and inclusive growth. A final version of NPF4 is expected in 2021 and will be approved by Parliament, before it is adopted by Scottish Ministers. NPF3 will remain in place until it is replaced by NPF4.

3.10 Scotland’s National Marine Plan fulfils requirements under the Marine (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Marine and Coastal Access Act 2009 to prepare marine plans, providing a cohesive approach to the management of both inshore and offshore waters in accordance with EU Directive 2014/89/EU on maritime spatial planning. It seeks to promote development in a way that is compatible with the protection and enhancement of the marine environment. The Plan covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12 to 200 nautical miles). The role of the marine environment in supporting decarbonisation, including through reducing pressure and safeguarding natural carbon sinks is noted. The Plan also notes the interaction between marine and terrestrial planning and highlights the importance of alignment between both.

Environmental Baseline


3.11 Schedule 3 of the Environmental Assessment (Scotland) Act 2005 (the 2005 Act) requires that the following be identified when undertaking a SEA:

  • Relevant aspects of the current state of the environment and its likely evolution without implementation of the plan or programme.
  • Environmental characteristics of areas likely to be affected.
  • Relevant existing environmental problems.
  • Relevant environmental protection objectives at the international, European or national level.

3.12 The update to the CCP will be assessed against this baseline to provide an indication of the type and significance of any environmental effects that could arise.

Climatic Factors

Environmental Protection Objectives

3.13 Scotland’s ambition on tackling climate change is set out in the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 (“the 2009 Act”)[19]. Through this legislation, Scotland contributes to international (EU and UN) efforts on climate change mitigation and adaptation. The 2009 Act creates the statutory framework for greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions reduction in Scotland and set targets for reduction in emissions of the seven Kyoto Protocol GHG by 80% by 2050, with an interim 2020 target of 42%, compared to the 1990/1995 baseline level.

3.14 The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019[20], amends the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009, sets targets to reduce Scotland's emissions of all greenhouse gases to net-zero by 2045 at the latest, with interim targets for reductions of at least 56% by 2020, 75% by 2030, 90% by 2040.

3.15 The 2019 Act also requires that annual GHG emissions targets are set, by Order, for each year in the period 2021-2045. Following the initial phase of target-setting, the annual targets are set in nine-year batches.

3.16 The Scottish Climate Change Adaptation Programme (the Adaptation Programme)[21] addresses the impacts identified for Scotland in the UK Climate Change Risk Assessment (CCRA)[22]. The Adaptation Programme sets out Scottish Ministers’ objectives in relation to adaptation to climate change, their proposals and policies for meeting these objectives, and the period within which these proposals and policies will be introduced. The Programme also sets out the arrangements for wider engagement in meeting these objectives.

3.17 At the Paris Climate Conference (COP 21) in December 2015, 195 countries adopted the first ever universal, legally binding global climate deal. The Paris Agreement is a bridge between today’s policies and climate-neutrality before the end of the century. The agreement sets out a global action plan to put the world on track to avoid dangerous climate change by limiting global warming to well below 2oC[23]. The deal also states that countries should aim for the even more ambitious target of 1.5oC[24]. A number of other agreements were reached on key issues such as mitigation through reducing emissions, adaptation and loss and damage[25]. The Agreement entered into force on 4th November 2016[26].

Overview of Baseline

3.18 In October 2018, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change published a report which predicts that the impacts and costs of global warming 1.5oC above pre-industrial levels will be far greater than expected. It also highlights that the impacts will be much worse if global warming reaches 2oC or more. Urgency for action is required as the report predicts such level of global warming can be reached within the next 11 years, and most certainly within 20 years without major reductions in CO2 emissions. The Scottish government has recognised a climate emergency and is acting accordingly.

3.19 In 2018, Scotland’s total emissions of the seven GHG were estimated to be 41.6 MtCO2e, an increase in source emissions of 1.5% from 2017[27]. The main contributors to this increase between 2017 and 2018 was a rise in Energy Supply emissions (0.8MtCO2e, 13.4%) and it was driven almost entirely by increased emissions from power stations. A 45.4% reduction in estimated GHG emissions between 1990 and 2018 was also reported[28]. Decreases in emissions were from energy supply, land use, land use change and forestry, waste management (i.e. landfill), and business emissions (such as manufacturing). The largest factor slowing the overall reduction is transport (excluding international), as this sector was the largest contributor in 2018 with 12.9MtCO2e, and it has only reduced emissions by 4.9% since 1990[29].

3.20 Land use, land use change and forestry play a crucial role in removing CO2 from the atmosphere by serving as a carbon stock in a form of forestland, cropland, grassland, wetlands, settlements and harvested wood products and rewetting soils and gaining soils organic matter.

3.21 In towns and cities, urban woodlands, forests and trees not only improve the general public realm but also deliver cooling, shade, better air quality and absorb CO2 emissions.

Evolution of the Baseline – Pressure, Trends and Key Points

3.22 In Scotland, greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions are the key driver for climate change. Major contributors to the GHG emissions include transport sector (excluding international aviation and shipping) (12.9 million tonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent (MtCO2e)), business (8.4MtCO2e), agriculture (7.5MtCO2e), energy supply (6.8MtCO2e) and the residential sector (6.2MtCO2e). Minor contributions were recorded for international aviation and shipping, public sector buildings, waste management and industrial processes. Land use, land use change and forestry were the only aggregate sector which contributed to reducing emissions by approximately 5.4MtCO2e in 2018[30].

3.23 Almost three-quarters (74.2%) of Scotland’s GHG emissions in 2018 were in the form of carbon dioxide (CO2)[31]. During 2018, CO2 was the main GHG emitted in most sectors, with the exception of agriculture sector. Methane (followed by CO2 and nitrous oxide) was the main gas emitted by the agriculture sector and almost all emissions emitted by the waste management sector were in the form of methane.

3.24 It is predicted that the greatest direct climate change-related threats for the UK are large increases in flood risk, exposure to high temperatures and heat waves; shortages in the public water supply and for agriculture, energy production and industry; substantial risks to UK wildlife and natural ecosystems risks to domestic and international food production and trade[32]. New and emerging pests and diseases, and invasive non-native species affecting people, plants and animals has also been noted as a research priority[33].

3.25 Scotland’s soils and peatlands are the biggest terrestrial store of carbon with peatlands alone holding around 3,000 megatonnes tonnes of carbon[34]; 60 times more than carbon stored by trees and other vegetation[35]. Inshore and offshore waters also store a significant resource of blue carbon, with an estimated 18 million tonnes of organic carbon stored in the top 10 cm of sediments across Scotland's seas[36]. Stocks of carbon within the habitats and surface sediments of offshore Marine Protected Areas are estimated at 9.4 Mt organic carbon and 47.8 Mt inorganic carbon[37].

3.26 The extent of the effects of climate change will vary by location and projections indicate that climate change trends observed over the last century will continue and intensify over the coming decades. Key long-term climate change trends for Scotland are that weather may become more variable, typical summers will be hotter and drier, winter and autumn will be milder and wetter and sea levels will continue to rise[38] and this will have an impact on coastal landscapes. Increases in summer heat waves, extreme temperatures and drought, as well as an increase in the frequency and intensity of extreme precipitation events, are also expected[39]. Urban areas in particular will be exposed to extreme heat conditions.

3.27 Climate change has been identified as a primary pressure on many of the SEA topic areas (i.e. soil, water, biodiversity, cultural heritage and the historic environment). These pressures and predicted impacts have been discussed further under the individual SEA topics. The complex interaction between air quality and climate change has also been considered under the SEA topic of “Air Quality”.

3.28 Climate change can also give rise to indirect impacts arising from mitigation and adaptation measures. For example, renewable energy is crucial to meeting Scotland’s emissions reduction targets. However, individual technologies can have negative environmental impacts such as localised visual effects, changes in landscape and land use, and impacts on biodiversity, water. and air quality, amongst others.

3.29 The Covid pandemic has posed new challenges and highlighted the scale of changes required for achieving Scotland’s emissions reduction targets. Despite strict lockdown regulations imposed across the world and resulting temporary local improvements in air quality, evidence suggests that the direct effect of the pandemic-driven response will be negligible in the longer term. However, the same research highlights a window of opportunity to reduce emissions if the economic recovery is tilted towards green stimulus and reductions in fossil fuels investments[40]. Importantly, the pandemic has demonstrated that radical change can be achieved if necessary.

Related SEA topics: Climate change has been identified as primary pressure on many of the SEA topic areas (i.e. soil, water, biodiversity, cultural heritage and the historic environment).

Population and Human Health

Environmental Protection Objectives

3.30 Many existing environmental protection objectives are relevant to population and human health, either directly or indirectly. For example, the Air Quality Standards (Scotland) Regulations 2010[41], the Air Quality (Scotland) Regulations 2000[42], the Air Quality (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2002[43] and the Air Quality (Scotland) Amendment Regulations 2016[44] help set out current objectives and requirements for air quality with clear relevance for human health. Protection is also afforded through existing legislation against noise and vibration nuisance at the both the European level through the Environmental Noise Directive (2002/49/EC)[45] and the national level through regulations such as the Environmental Noise (Scotland) Regulations 2006[46].

3.31 The Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012[47] (PPC Regulations) also seek to provide protection for human health. The PPC Regulations introduce a consistent and integrated approach to environmental protection to ensure that industrial activities that may have a significant impact on the environment are strictly regulated. The regulations were designed to eliminate or minimise emissions to air, water and land and extended pollution controls to previously unregulated sectors.

3.32 Cleaner Air for Scotland – The Road to a Healthier Future[48] sets out a long-term vision for air quality in Scotland by detailing how Scottish Government and its partner organisations aim to reduce air pollution. As a result, this strategy will lead to improved human health, wellbeing, environment, placemaking and sustainable economic growth. Lastly, it will fulfil Scotland's legal responsibilities to reduce emissions. Currently, the strategy is under review and a new strategy is due to be published early 2021.

Overview of Baseline

3.33 The estimated population of Scotland in 2018 was 5.4 million, the highest to date, and has increased by 0.5% from 2017 and by 5% over the last decade[49]. Projections forecast that the population will continue to rise to around 5.6 million in 2026 to around, continuing to increase to around 5.7 million in 2041[50]. Life expectancy has increased over the past three decades; however, this has slowed in recent years[51].

3.34 Approximately 71% of Scotland’s people live in urban areas, which accounts for just 2% of Scotland’s land surface[52]. Most of the population and industry is concentrated in highly urbanised areas in the Central Belt and on the East Coast, and primarily in four key city regions (Aberdeen, Dundee, Edinburgh, and Glasgow) and several smaller cities and towns (e.g. Ayr, Inverness, Perth and Stirling). Around 12.4% of the population live in small towns of less than 10,000 people; of these, around 70% are located within a 30-minute drive of large urban settlements, with the other 30% located more remotely[53].

3.35 The Scottish Index of Multiple Deprivation ranks small areas (data zones) in Scotland from the most deprived to the least deprived. It analyses data from several indicators across the domains of income, employment, health, education, skills and training, housing, geographic access and crime. Key findings from the 2020 Index show that 14 areas have been consistently among the 5% most deprived in Scotland since the 2004 Index. Of these, 9 were in Glasgow City with the remainder located in Inverclyde, Renfrewshire, Highland, North Lanarkshire and North Ayrshire. Six council areas now have a larger share of the 20% most deprived data zones in Scotland compared to 2016, with the largest increases observed in Aberdeen City, North Lanarkshire, Moray, East Lothian, Highland and North Ayrshire[54].

Evolution of the Baseline

3.36 Air quality is important for both short and long-term human health. In general, healthy people may not suffer from any serious health effects from exposure to the levels of pollution commonly experienced in urban environments. However, continual exposure can cause harm over the long term, and those with pre-existing health conditions such as heart disease, lung conditions, and asthma can be adversely impacted by exposure to air pollutants[55]. Research has shown that air pollution is one of the largest environmental risks to public health in the UK, reducing average life expectancy and often contributing to premature deaths[56]. Activities that generate air pollutants have been considered under the topic of Air Quality.

3.37 Transport is a significant contributor to poor air quality in urban areas[57] and emissions from transport have only declined by 4.9% since 1990[58]. Approximately 66% of all journeys in Scotland are reported to be made by car, which is an increase of 7.7% over 5 years[59]. 40% of these journeys are less than two miles in length and could be potentially covered by bicycle or on foot[60]. In addition to helping to reduce GHG emissions, active travel such as cycling or walking, can provide access to the outdoors with additional benefits for physical and mental health and well-being, including reducing obesity and stress. Due to several common sources, most notably road traffic in urban areas, there is also a close relationship between air quality and environmental noise[61]. The agriculture sector has dominated the ammonia emissions inventory, producing around 90% of Scotland’s ammonia emissions in 2016[62].

3.38 Heating and cooling homes and businesses accounts for approximately half of Scotland’s GHG emissions. Challenging weather, poor energy efficiency and reduced heating options (especially in rural areas) can make fuel bills unaffordable, resulting in fuel poverty[63]. In 2018, the estimated rate of fuel poverty remained similar to the previous year at approximately 25.0% or around 619,000 fuel poor households, and 7.0% or 174,000 households were living in extreme fuel poverty[64]. This compares to the 26.5% or 649,000 fuel poor households in 2016, with 7.5% or 183,000 households living in extreme fuel poverty[65].

3.39 Flooding can have significant environmental impacts and can also affect people, communities and businesses[66]. When floods occur, they disrupt day-to-day lives and their impacts can be long lasting. Climate change is expected to increase the risk of flooding in coming years, and it also brings additional risks to human health posed by changes to air quality and rising temperatures[67].

3.40 The potential risks and benefits of climate change on population and health will not be evenly spread. For example, pockets of dense urban development will be more at risk of surface water flooding and summer heat stress. In addition, the effects to human health from climate change may have the greatest impact on vulnerable people. Negative health effects are likely to be disproportionately severe in areas of high deprivation because of the reduced ability of individuals and communities in these areas to prepare, respond and recover[68].

Related SEA topics: Many of the issues that affect population and human health have direct or indirect impacts on other SEA topics such as air quality.


Environmental Protection Objectives

3.41 Scotland’s air quality environmental protection objectives are largely derived from the EC Air Quality Directive (2008/50/EC)[69] and the 4th Air Quality Daughter Directive (2004/107/EC)[70], via the Air Quality Standards (Scotland) Regulations 2010[71] which transpose these Directives into the Scottish context. There are also domestic objectives as part of the Local Air Quality Management system set under the Environment Act 1995[72] and associated regulations[73]. These objectives are largely aimed at reducing air emissions that are potentially harmful to human health and the environment, and together they set out the requirement for monitoring with a particular focus on areas where air pollution is concentrated.

3.42 Scotland’s PPC Regulations (2012)[74] allow for the regulation and monitoring of certain industrial activities in Scotland that can generate airborne pollution. Together with the Air Quality Standards (Scotland) Regulations 2010[75], the PPC Regulations enable regulators to monitor, manage and, ultimately, improve Scottish air quality. It also sets a requirement for monitoring of air quality with a particular focus on areas where air pollution is concentrated and seeks to identify the sources.

3.43 Air Quality Strategy for England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland[76] sets out long term air quality objectives and policy options to further improve air quality in the UK. The strategy focuses on tackling the key air pollutants to air in the UK which include Particulate Matter (PM-PM10 and PM2.5), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), Ozone, sulphur dioxide, polycyclic aromatics hydrocarbons (PAHs), benzene, 1,3 – butadiene, carbon monoxide, lead and ammonia. It sets out specific national objectives that consider European Directive limits and target values for protecting human health.

Overview of Baseline

3.44 As discussed in ‘Population and Human Health’, air pollution can result in adverse impacts on human health and can significantly affect many aspects of quality of life. Air pollution can also cause adverse effects in the wider environment. For example, it can increase nutrient levels in water bodies and soil and contribute to acidification, both of which can impact on plant and animal life, as well as damage the fabric of buildings and monuments.

3.45 The quality of the air around us is affected by the pollutants released into the atmosphere through human activities, such as transport, industry and agriculture as well as pollutants arising from natural sources. The main air pollutants are nitrogen oxides (NOx), particulate matter (PMx), sulphur dioxide (SO2), ammonia (NH3), volatile organic compounds (VOCs), and ozone (O3). Sulphur dioxide, oxides of nitrogen, particulates, and low-level ozone are generally considered to be of most importance in relation to human health and the environment[77].

Evolution of the Baseline – Pressure, Trends and Key Points

3.46 Air quality in Scotland has improved considerably over the last few decades. Between 1990 and 2016 there were decreases of 84% for carbon monoxide (CO), 72% for nitrogen oxides (NOx), 65% for non-methane volatile organic compounds, 64% for fine particulate matter (PM10) and 94% for SO2[78]. However, air pollution is still estimated to reduce the life expectancy of every person in the UK by an average of 7–8 months[79] and there are some areas of towns and cities where air quality has been identified as a concern.

3.47 Section 83(1) of the Environmental Act 1995[80] sets out a requirement that where air quality objectives are not being met or are unlikely to be met within the relevant period, Local Authorities must designate an Air Quality Management Area (AQMA). In Scotland, 38 AQMAs have currently been declared, with 15 of Scotland’s 32 Local Authorities having declared at least one. The majority of these are in urban areas as a result of NOx alone or in combination with PM10 levels, and primarily as a result of traffic emissions[81].

3.48 Air pollution often originates from the same activities that contribute to climate change; notably transport, agriculture and energy generation. Transport is the most significant source contributing to poor air quality in urban areas[82]. While measures such as using alternative fuels sources and encouraging active travel can help improve air quality in addition to reducing GHG emissions, some measures aimed at reducing the impacts of climate change can also have a negative impact on air quality. For example, while emissions from well operated and well-maintained modern biomass boilers are generally lower than the coal equivalent, the burning of biomass feedstock does emit air pollutants such as particulates[83].

3.49 Cleaner air provides multiple benefits and actions taken, such as a shift towards low or zero emissions transport and energy sources, should provide mutual benefits for both air quality and climate change[84].

3.50 Evidence suggests that due to the pandemic, air pollution of NO2 and NOx across 7 sites in Scotland has on average decreased by -55% and -61% respectively[85]. However, such results have been gained by implementing very strict measures.

3.51 Covid-19 pandemic has led to air quality improvements especially in urban areas mainly due to the reduction in private and public transport use. Private and public transport declined by approximately 90% between 14th to 19th of April 2020 in comparison to the same period last year. In the same time active travel such as cycling has increased by 50%[86]. With the easing of lockdown restrictions, private vehicles have returned on the roads, however bus and rail services still experience significant drops in demand (rail: -70%, bus: - 55% for the week of 17 – 23 of August). Interestingly, cycling rates have remained stable and are 30% higher than last year[87].

Related SEA topics: Air quality can directly or indirectly impact on other SEA topics, such as biodiversity and population and human health.

Soil and Geology

Environmental Protection Objectives

3.52 The importance of soil as a resource is recognised internationally through the European Commission’s Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection[88]. Nationally, the protection of prime quality agricultural land and peatlands is set out in the Scottish Soil Framework[89], Scotland’s National Peatland Plan[90] and the Scottish Government’s Draft Peatland and Energy Policy Statement[91].

3.53 Geological sites receive protection through the designation of geological Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs) at the national level and at the international recognition through establishment of a network of Geoparks[92].

Overview of Baseline

3.54 Soil is a non-renewable resource and is fundamentally one of Scotland’s most important assets[93]. It supports a wide range of natural processes and underpins much of our natural environment, helping to provide a wide range of environmental, economic and societal benefits. For example, soil provides the basis for food, controls and regulates environmental interactions such as regulating the flow and quality of water and providing a platform for buildings and roads[94]. There is an intrinsic relationship between soil health and other environmental topics; biodiversity, water and air quality in particular. For example, soil erosion is one of the main contributors to diffuse water pollution[95].

3.55 Soils can play two significant roles with regards to carbon. It is estimated that Scotland’s soils contain over 3 billion tonnes of historic carbon, 60 times the amount of carbon held in trees and plants, making up over 53% of the UK’s soil carbon[96]. It is estimated that the loss of just 1% of soil carbon as carbon dioxide would triple Scotland’s annual GHG emissions[97]. However, soil has also capacity to continue removing atmospheric carbon dioxide through additional sequestration.

3.56 Degraded soil can act as a net carbon emitter, soils in good condition protect the carbon store and depending on the vegetation cover can continue to sequester carbon. Land use change and management practices can impact significantly on soil carbon stores and sequestration.

3.57 Peatlands are of particular importance for mitigating climate change by acting as carbon ‘sinks’. If peatlands are in good condition they have the ability to deposit and continually sequester new carbon in peat-forming vegetation. Peatlands in Scotland extend over large areas of Scottish uplands but are most extensive in the north and west in areas with gentle slopes and poor drainage[98]. Blanket bog is the most extensive semi-natural habitat in Scotland, covering around 23% of the land area[99]. Approximately 1.6 billion tonnes of the carbon stored in Scottish soils is within peat[100]. As with all soils, peats are at risk from land use change and the effects of climate change, and their loss or degradation (and the associated loss of carbon) has the potential to be a significant contributor to Scotland’s GHG emissions[101]. If Scotland lost all of the carbon stored in its peat soils as CO2, it would be the equivalent of more than 120 times Scotland's annual GHG emissions. It is estimated that over 80% of Scotland’s peatlands are degraded[102].

Evolution of the Baseline – Pressures, Trends and Key Points

3.58 While Scotland’s soils are considered to generally be in good health, there are a range of pressures on them. Climate change and loss of organic matter pose significant threats to Scottish soils, with both likely to affect soil function, including loss of soil carbon. The loss of valued soils in particular has the potential for national impacts which will be difficult to reverse. In the case of climate change, these impacts have the potential to be felt on a global scale[103]. As such, the management and use of these resources can affect the amount of CO2 that is held or released. Peatlands in good condition remove CO2 from the atmosphere and store carbon in the soil. Conversely, degraded peatlands may emit more CO2 than they remove and become a net source of greenhouse gases[104].

3.59 Changes in land use and land management practices are also a key pressure on soil. These include activities such as transport and development, including road building and the expansion of agriculture and forestry[105]. At present, there is uncertainty and a lack of quantitative information regarding threats to soil functions and ecosystem services, particularly in relation to the extent of soil sealing, changes in soil biodiversity, and compaction of soils[106]. Estimates of soil sealing suggest figures of approximately 1000 hectares a year[107]. Soil contamination can also arise from many causes, including atmospheric deposition, agriculture and forestry operations, mining and historic land contamination, and can impact on soil function and biodiversity[108].

Related SEA topics: Loss of soil or poor-quality soils can have direct or indirect impacts on other SEA topics such as biodiversity, climatic factors and water quality.


Environmental Protection Objectives

3.60 Objectives relating to the condition of all water bodies are set through the Water Framework Directive[109], which governs objectives for rivers, lochs, transitional waters, coastal waters and groundwater resources. The Water Framework Directive sets out the requirement for an assessment of both chemical and ecological status, alongside the requirement to consider the status of biodiversity as an indicator in determining water quality.

3.61 These objectives are set in the Scottish context in a range of water, coastal and marine policies. Scotland’s two River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs)[110] aim to improve the overall condition of water bodies. The protection of Scotland’s water resources has also been translated through the establishment of legislation and regulations such as the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003[111] and the Water Environment (Controlled Activities) (Scotland) Regulations 2011[112] .These complement the role of others such as the Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2012[113], developed to specifically control pollution relating to industry discharges.

3.62 The Flood Risk Management (Scotland) Act 2009[114] provides for the management of flood risk and translates the EU Floods Directive[115] into the national context. The Directive mandates the creation of Flood Risk Management Plans (FRMPs) for all inland and coastal areas at risk of flooding, integrating their development and employment with existing RBMPs.

3.63 Scotland’s National Marine Plan[116] covers the management of both Scottish inshore waters (out to 12 nautical miles) and offshore waters (12 to 200 nautical miles). The plan provides direction to a wide range of marine decisions and consents made by public bodies and seeks to promote development that is compatible with the protection and enhancement of the marine environment.

Overview of Baseline

3.64 Scotland’s water provides a wide range of benefits that support our health and prosperity, such as the provision of drinking water and as a resource for use in agriculture and industry[117]. These water resources also support a rich diversity of habitats and species, attract tourism, promote recreation and provide for the sustainable growth of the economy[118].

3.65 In recent decades, significant improvements to water quality in many rivers, canals, and estuaries have been observed alongside significant reductions in pollution[119]. Most of Scotland’s seas, coasts, and estuaries are in good or excellent condition; however, some localised areas of concern remain. Nearly half of rivers in Scotland are now in good condition or better and almost two thirds of lochs surveyed were found to be in good or high condition[120].

3.66 Scotland’s groundwater is a valuable asset for many, particularly rural communities where it provides most of the private drinking water (75%)[121]. Around 80% of Scotland’s groundwater is in good condition, although there are particular regions with widespread problems; for example, in the Central Belt[122]. Agriculture and the legacy of industrial activity are the main causes of regional-scale groundwater problems, whereas inadequate construction of private water supplies and inappropriate management of wastes can create localised problems[123].

3.67 Flooding can have significant and long-lasting impacts on people, communities, and businesses. Flood Risk Management Strategies[124] co-ordinate action to tackle flooding in Scotland, setting out the national direction for flood risk management and helping target investment and coordinate action across public bodies. Flood maps have also been produced which help to show where areas are likely to be at risk of flooding from rivers, seas and surface water[125].

3.68 Scotland's peatlands play an important role in natural flood management. Peatland has the ability to soak up and store vast quantities of water, particularly in pools, hollows and depressions, thereby slowing flow of water through a catchment. This can prevent flooding downstream within catchments, particularly if large areas of peatland are present upstream[126]. Likewise, other habitats such as woodland may also contribute towards natural flood management. Woodland and forestry can help prevent flooding by intercepting precipitation, reducing surface water runoff through increased infiltration, increased use of water through evapotranspiration[127]. Fallen branches and trees may also create natural damns along watercourses, helping to slow the flow of the water.

Evolution of the Baseline – Pressures, Trends and Key Points

3.69 Key pressures on the surface water environment include urbanisation, an increase in invasive non-native species, intensive agriculture/aquaculture and climate change. Rural and urban diffuse pollution remains a concern for water quality, particularly in relation to agriculture, forestry, and urban development[128].

3.70 Airborne pollution can impact upon water bodies. Heightened nitrogen concentrations can cause the acidification and eutrophication of water bodies. Eutrophication occurs when the concentrations of otherwise limiting nutrients increase, allowing aquatic plants and algae to grow unchecked and depleting oxygen levels.

3.71 The predicted effects of climate change such as increased temperatures and changes to rainfall patterns could affect flows in rivers and impact on water resource availability[129]. A changing climate is also expected to have ecological impacts, such as warmer sea temperatures and an increasing risk of non-native species spreading and becoming established in water environments[130].

3.72 The risk of flooding from rivers, surface waters and sea is predicted to increase. This can damage material assets, pose risks to population and human health through the spread of infectious diseases and also lead to a loss of habitats, resulting from erosion.

3.73 The development and operation of new infrastructure has the potential to negatively impact on water quality, either during construction or via pollution run-off. New structures on land can also affect the capacity of flood plains or flood defences.

Related SEA topics: Water quality and quantity can have a direct or indirect impact on other SEA topics such as biodiversity and population and human health.

Biodiversity, Flora and Fauna

Environmental Protection Objectives

3.74 Environmental protection objectives for biodiversity, flora and fauna are largely aimed at protecting habitats and species from damage and disturbance; principally through the identification and conservation of areas of particular value. The policies define a hierarchy of protection and include a range of international conventions, including the development of the Aichi Targets for 2020[131] and the Convention on Biological Diversity[132].

3.75 At European level, the Natura 2000 network of sites affords protection to key natural assets under the European Commission (EC) Habitats Directive[133] and Birds Directive[134]; both of which have been transposed into UK and Scottish regulations. The Natura 2000 network is made up of Special Areas of Conservation (SAC) and Special Protection Areas (SPA). The majority of SPAs and SACs are also underpinned by SSSI legislation[135].

3.76 The designation of European protected species and identification of species and habitats as being the most threatened and requiring conservation action in the UK also demonstrates the prioritisation of conservation ambitions at European and national levels. UK Biodiversity Action Plan,[136] succeeded by the UK Post 2010 Biodiversity Framework[137] is a response to Article 6 of the Biodiversity Convention. It is a national strategy for the conservation of biological diversity, the sustainable use of biological resources and to contribute to the conservation of global biodiversity through all appropriate mechanisms.

3.77 The 2020 Challenge for Scotland’s Biodiversity[138] is Scotland’s response to the 20 Aichi Targets set by the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity, and the European Union’s Biodiversity Strategy for 2020[139]. The 2020 Challenge supplements the 2004 Scottish Biodiversity Strategy[140] and focuses on the importance of healthy ecosystems and an outcome that “Scotland’s ecosystems are restored to good ecological health so that they provide robust ecosystem services and build on our natural capital”.

3.78 Beyond site and species designations there are also longer-term aspirations for enhancing biodiversity, improving landscape-scale ecological networks and addressing the impacts of climate change on the natural environment.

Overview of Baseline

1.1 Biodiversity is commonly used as a measure of the health of an ecosystem, and helps to provide the ecosystems services that are the basis of life including the regulation of air and water, soil formation, nutrient cycling, flood regulation and pollination, amongst many others[141]. Biodiversity, flora, and fauna is also closely linked with other environmental topics, particularly soil and water, which help to support an incredible diversity of life across Scotland and in its surrounding waters.

1.2 As of 2020, Scotland’s protected areas included 251 SACs[142], 153 SPAs[143], 51 Ramsar sites[144] and 2 Biosphere reserves[145], amongst other internationally designated sites. There are further national level designations such as 1,423 SSSIs[146], 231 Marine Protected Areas[147] and 2 National Parks[148]. In addition to these, a recent consultation on proposed SPAs for Scottish Marine birds and site classifications set out additional sites to be designated[149]. In June 2019, a further consultation on proposals to designate four new MPAs in Scottish waters was launched[150].

1.3 The UK Biodiversity Action Plan[151] identified 39 priority habitats and 197 priority species either occurring, or known to have occurred until recently, in Scotland. By May 2019, the proportion of nationally protected nature sites reported as being in a “favourable” condition decreased by 0.8% from 79.7% in 2018 to 78.9%[152]. Despite this decrease, this represents a 2.9% percentage point increase since the current protocols were established in 2007[153].

1.4 Areas of biodiversity value are not only found within this network of designated sites and many undesignated areas of Scotland also contain habitats and species that have important functions and roles. For example, urban greenspace such as public and private gardens, parks, woodlands, recreational grounds, green corridors, allotments and community growing spaces can provide habitats and ecosystems which are valuable to wildlife[154].

Evolution of the Baseline – Pressures, Trends and Key Points

3.79 Biodiversity loss has been well documented over the last 50 years, and today there is a range of pressures with the potential to impact on Scotland’s wildlife and biodiversity. Key issues such as land use intensification and modification, and pollution have been noted[155].

3.80 Climate change in particular has the potential to greatly impact on biodiversity on a global scale[156]. The predicted effects of climate change and the potential for associated impacts on biodiversity, flora and fauna are well documented, with evidence already showing the wide-ranging effects that a changing climate can have on flora and fauna species and their habitats[157]. Indirect impacts may also arise through climate change adaptation and the action taken in sectors such as agriculture, forestry, planning, water and coastal management in the face of a changing climate[158].

3.81 Habitat change, due mainly to increased and more intensive land management, urban development, pollution, nutrient enrichment, and over exploitation of natural resources are other known pressures.

Related SEA topics: Biodiversity, flora, and fauna impacts have direct or indirect effects on other SEA topics such as air, water and soil quality.

Cultural Heritage and Historic Environment

Environmental Protection Objectives

3.82 Existing cultural heritage objectives are set out in legislation including the Historic Environment (Amendment) Scotland Act 2011 [159], Ancient Monuments and Archaeological Areas Act 1979 (as amended) [160] and Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) (Scotland) Act 1997 [161]. These objectives are focused primarily on the protection of valued sites and features, including townscapes (i.e. places, buildings and open spaces), buildings, archaeological sites, battlefields, wrecks and landscapes that have been recognised at the international, national and local levels through a hierarchy of designations.

3.83 Policies such as National Planning Framework (NPF3)[162] and Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)[163] aim to improve the quality of our settlements and built environment with a national level focus. These are complemented by the Historic Environment Strategy for Scotland (2014)[164] and the Historic Environment Scotland Policy Statement[165] which provide an overarching framework for historic environment policy in Scotland. Together, they emphasise the importance of preserving recognised sites, avoiding negative impacts on them and their wider setting, and contributing to their enhancement where appropriate. These key objectives also extend to taking into accounting of, and avoiding damage to or loss of, currently unknown archaeology.

Overview of Baseline

3.84 Scotland’s many and varied historical sites are unique and irreplaceable. These sites and features are regarded as making a valuable contribution to our quality of life, cultural identity, education and economy. While these assets are distributed widely throughout Scotland, there are clusters of sites in and around our settlements and also around our coastlines.

3.85 Some parts of Scotland’s historic environment are protected through a process of designation. The process aims to identify parts of the historic environment for their significance and enhance their protection. As of 2016, it is estimated that around 5-10% of the historic environment is designated[166]. Designated assets currently include World Heritage Sites, Listed Buildings, Scheduled Monuments, Conservation Areas, Designed Gardens and Landscapes, Historic Marine Protected Areas, Scheduled Wrecks and Nationally Important Battlefields[167]. However, whilst most of the historic environment is undesignated (90-95%), these known but undesignated assets provide important contextual information which helps us better understand designated sites[168].

Evolution of the Baseline – Pressures, Trends and Key Points

3.86 Development is a key pressure on the historic environment and cultural heritage, both directly in terms of damage to known and unknown features, and the potential for impacts on setting. Other known pressures include changing land use and land management, tourism/visitors, pollution and climate change.

3.87 It is projected that Scotland will become warmer and wetter as a result of climate change, resulting in the increased weathering of stone, rotting timbers and corrosion of metals. Rising sea levels and increased storm events may increase coastal erosion, endangering our historic landscapes, structures, buildings and archaeology in the coastal zone. Some of Scotland’s unique and special sites, such as Skara Brae in Orkney, are at most risk[169].

3.88 Increased rainfall will mean that historic buildings and assets will be wetter for longer periods of time, and as such may result in the penetration of water, dampness, condensation and fungus growth, ground instability and structural collapse[170]. This can potentially have damaging effects on the fabric of buildings and the health of those using it. This threat will grow in the future, given the future predictions of the likely effects of global warming and climate change for the remainder of this century.

Related SEA topics: The SEA topics of cultural heritage and landscape are closely linked. Climate change can have direct or indirect impacts on cultural heritage and the historic environment.


Environmental Protection Objectives

3.89 Environmental protection objectives reflect the importance of all landscapes and also the need to help to improve those that have become degraded. The European Landscape Convention[171] lays the foundation for these objectives.

3.90 The establishment of key national programmes including the National Scenic Areas Programme[172] demonstrate a continuing commitment to protect the special qualities of nationally important landscapes and seascapes. The protection and enhancement of Scotland’s landscapes are set out at the national level in SPP and are also referenced in relation to several national developments and under a natural, resilient place in NPF3.

3.91 SNH Natural Heritage Futures[173] sets out guidelines for sustainable management and use of Scotland's nature and landscaped until 2025. It aims to ensure utilisation of an integrated approach to work with Scotland's nature and land. It also provides basis for stakeholders' engagement. It consists of 21 documents that cover the whole of Scotland, as each of the areas has its own identity and distinct issues.

3.92 SNH Landscape Policy Framework[174] sets out to safeguard and enhance the distinct identity, the diverse character and the special qualities of Scotland's landscapes to ensure that in the future they will contribute to the quality of life. Its main priorities include promotion of the debate on Scotland's future landscapes, description of Scotland's landscape resources, monitoring of change in Scotland's landscape, landscape planning and management and action for Scotland's special landscapes.

3.93 SNH has undertaken research on areas which are viewed as wild land[175]. This is based on four attributes: perceived naturalness of land cover; ruggedness of the terrain; remoteness from public roads or ferries; and lack of buildings, roads, pylons and modern artefacts. Areas with stronger wild land characteristics are more commonly found in the north and west, particularly areas of higher ground, although additional areas of wild land are present in other areas of Scotland[176].

Overview of Baseline

3.94 Rich in diversity, Scotland's landscapes are internationally renowned. Scotland's distinctive landscapes are a significant part of the country’s natural and cultural heritage and make a significant contribution to both the country’s economic performance and the well-being of its people. Scotland’s landscapes play a key role in attracting tourism, affording opportunities for business and providing the setting for outdoor recreation.

3.95 There are currently two National Parks (Loch Lomond and The Trossachs, and the Cairngorms) and 40 National Scenic Areas in Scotland. Over 13% of Scotland’s land area has been classified as a National Scenic Area[177]. Designations such as Local Landscape Areas, Special Landscape Areas, Regional Scenic Areas and Areas of Great Landscape Value have also been established at a regional and local level by many local authorities[178]. These areas of important nature or landscape value have been designated locally for conservation purposes and are afforded protection from inappropriate development[179].

Evolution of the Baseline – Pressures, Trends and Key Points

3.96 Scotland’s landscapes are constantly changing and evolving in response to both natural processes and the changing demands of society. Changes in landscape tend to occur over long periods of time, and gradual change, as a result of development such as housing, and changes in farming and forestry practice, can be difficult to determine[180].

3.97 Climate change is expected to lead to extensive landscape change across Scotland and is viewed as an increasing pressure on landscape, not only as a result of direct effects but also as a result of indirect impacts[181]. Direct impacts are likely as a result of changing temperatures and patterns of precipitation, weather events and sea level change[182]. Other commitments to adapting to the predicted effects of climate change, for example, the development of renewable energy (such as wind farms and hydro schemes) is seen by many as a pressure on both visual amenity and the character of many rural landscapes. The construction of new transport infrastructure and working towards a national target for increasing forest cover in Scotland also has the potential to affect our landscapes and seascapes.

3.98 The greatest changes are likely to be seen in areas of highest population, such as lowland and coastal areas. Mitigation and adaptation measures are expected to have a greater influence on both Scotland's landscapes and the quality of life than that of the direct effects of climate change[183]. The coast and foreshore are under many pressures particularly from climate change, rising sea level and coastal erosion.

Related SEA topics: Climate change can have direct or indirect impacts on landscape, cultural heritage, and the historic environment.

Material Assets

Environmental Protection Objectives

3.99 While existing policies relating to energy, waste, transportation and land use are wide-ranging, they largely share the aims of contributing to core planning objectives and supporting sustainable development, reducing GHG emissions, and making the best use of Scotland’s resources and existing infrastructure.

3.100 There is a wealth of existing protection objectives and policy at the national and international levels relating to these broad topic areas. These include existing and forthcoming energy policy and climate change commitments in addition to current objectives and commitments set out in relevant policies.

3.101 National Planning Framework 4 (NPF3) Position Statement[184] sets out the Scottish Government's position on issues that will need to be addressed in the draft NPF4. The position statement outlines that the NPF4 is expected to focus on achieving four key outcomes: net-zero emissions, a wellbeing economy, resilient communities, and better, greener places. Scottish Planning Policy (SPP)[185] sets out national planning policies. It promotes the consistency in application of policies across Scotland and it relates to the preparation of development plans, the design of development, and the determination of planning applications and appeals.

3.102 Scotland’s National Transport Strategy 2[186] considers the whole transport system including walking, wheeling, cycling, travelling by bus, train, ferry, car, lorry and aeroplanes/ It sets out the strategic framework within which future decisions on investment will be made.

3.103 Infrastructure Investment Plan 2015[187] sets out priorities for investment and a long-term strategy for the development of public infrastructure in Scotland. It sets out why the Scottish Government invests, how it invests and what it plans to invest in. A new Infrastructure Investment Plan is currently being prepared which will cover the period 2021-2026. A draft version[188] of this plan is currently out for consultation.

3.104 Getting the Best from Our Land: A Land Use Strategy for Scotland 2016-2021[189] builds on the framework set out in 2011 in Scotland's first Land Use Strategy from 2011. The overall aim of this strategy is to continue use Scotland's land with long term objectives in mind and in a well-integrated and sustainable manner. In addition, this strategy focuses on the five-year period (2016 – 2021) and represents a programme of action supported by a suite of policies and proposals.

3.105 Energy Efficient Scotland: Route Map[190] focuses on improving the energy efficiency of Scotland's existing buildings and supporting the deployment of low carbon heat options to achieve the targets of the Climate Change Plan 2018.

3.106 The Scottish Energy Strategy: The future of energy in Scotland[191] guides energy related decisions of the Scottish Government. It directly builds on the Heat Policy Statement of 2015, and it continues to focus on energy and electricity. However, this strategy takes a whole-system view and also includes heat and transport sectors.

3.107 Heat Decarbonisations Strategy[192] - A key objective of the Policy Statement will be to support heat decarbonisation of homes and buildings in Scotland, including the scaling up and acceleration of existing work with the aim to reduce emissions from heating our homes and buildings to levels compatible with net zero by 2045, in line with advice from the Committee on Climate Change and the targets in the 2019 Act.

3.108 Scotland’s Forestry Strategy 2019-2029[193] - The Scottish Forestry Strategy 2019-2029 aims to achieve sustainable development of forests and woodlands, through good management and better integration with other land uses. Priorities include ensuring forests and woodlands are managed sustainably, increasing the adaptability and resilience of forests and woodlands and expanding the area of forests and woodlands, recognising wider land-use objectives. The Strategy sets out a vision of “In 2070, Scotland will have more forests and woodlands, sustainably managed and better integrated with other land uses. These will provide a more resilient, adaptable resource, with greater natural capital value, that supports a strong economy, a thriving environment, and healthy flourishing communities”.

3.109 Making Things Last: A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland[194] sets out priorities for moving towards a more circular economy with a long-term ambition. It articulates Scotland's aspirations and proposes a number of actions to take over the short to medium term and creates conditions for long term change. This strategy builds on the Zero Waste Plan (2010)[195] and the Safeguarding Scotland's Resources (2013)[196].

3.110 Realising Scotland’s full potential in a digital world: A Digital Strategy for Scotland[197] sets out a vision for Scotland as a vibrant, inclusive, open and outward looking digital nation. It sets out plans to ensure that all aspects of life in Scotland will also have its digitalised form, as well as recognition of challenges which such transition brings.

Overview of Baseline

3.111 While existing policies relating to energy, waste, transportation and land use are wide-ranging, they largely share the aims of contributing to core planning objectives, supporting sustainable development, reducing GHG emissions, and making the best use of Scotland’s resources and existing infrastructure.

3.112 Scotland’s natural resources are also material assets. Mineral resources and aggregates are used for purposes such as fuel (e.g. coal), and construction (e.g. sand, gravel and rock). However, the quantity of these resources is finite and once they are used up, they cannot be replaced.

3.113 Waste management, transportation and efficiency in energy generation and land use form key aspects of the draft update and have the potential for environmental impacts. Environmental baseline information relevant to each of these sectors is presented in the following sections.


3.114 Heating makes up approximately half of Scotland’s energy consumption (52%) with transport (24.4%) and electricity (23.5%) making up approximately a quarter each[198]. A breakdown by sector of non-transport energy consumption shows that 58.1% is accounted for by industrial and commercial sectors, with 41.9% consumed domestically[199]. Domestic consumption of electricity and heat dropped by 20.1% in 2016, with energy consumption in transport decreasing by 2.7%. It is estimated that industrial energy consumption has dropped by 31.8% but commercial consumption rose by 17.7% compared to the 2005-2007 baseline[200].

3.115 It is estimated that 20% of Scotland’s total energy consumption in 2017 came from renewable sources; the highest level to date and an increase from 16% in 2016. This is attributed to an increase in installed capacity for renewable electricity and heat in 2016. In 2018, provisional figures indicate that the equivalent of 74.6% of gross electricity consumption was from reviewable sources, rising from 70.3% in 2017. Much of this increase is due to increase in wind capacity[201].

3.116 There have been significant changes to the electricity generation mix in recent years with the vast majority of the electricity that Scotland generated from low carbon sources, 88.3% in 2017, compared to 50.1% in 2010[202]. In turn, fossil fuel generation is at its lowest level, with just 10.5% of all electricity generated from oil and gas, compared to 48.4% in 2010[203].

3.117 In 2018, 71.8% of all renewable electricity generated in Scotland was from wind. Hydro is Scotland’s second highest source of renewable generation, while solar capacity has increased rapidly in the first half of this decade. Bioenergy and energy from waste accounts for 8.3% and whilst the current capacity of wave and tidal is considered to be relatively small, technology is developing[204].

3.118 In 2017, the equivalent of 5.9% of non-renewable heat demand was met by renewable sources, an increase from 4.7% in 2016. A rise in the generation of renewable heat by biomass is attributed to this increase. Thermal energy from waste and heat pumps each make up less than 10% of renewable heat output[205].

3.119 As Scotland’s energy mix changes over the next few years, the electricity transmission network (grid) that supports the balance between energy generation and demand will change significantly. For example, as a result of the increased electrification of the transport and heat network. Infrastructure will play a key role in ensuring security of supply and decarbonising our energy systems in the most cost effective, affordable way[206].

3.120 Since 2000, Scottish renewables have displaced an estimated 124 million tonnes of CO2[207], assuming that the same amount of electricity generation would be generated by fossil fuels[208] In 2007 alone, Scottish renewable electricity has displaced an estimated 11.6 million tonnes of CO2[209].


3.121 Nearly 12 million tonnes of waste was generated in Scotland in 2017; an increase of 5.5% (0.62 million tonnes) from 2016. Most of this increase is due to wastes from construction and demolition which increased by 10.8% (0.6 million tonnes) from 2016[210]. However, the generation of waste from construction and demolition is sensitive to large regional projects which can account for large year on year variations.

3.122 The largest proportions of waste produced in 2017 consisted of soils (37.6%), household and similar wastes (17.4%) and mineral waste from construction and demolition (12.3%)[211]. Of this, around 6.93 million tonnes was recycled, reused or composted, an increase of 2.1% than in 2016[212]. The remaining waste comprised 4.0 million tonnes disposed via incineration or landfill, and 0.76 million tonnes recovered through incineration/co-incineration processes[213].

3.123 There has been a progressive reduction in landfilled waste volumes since 2005 (around 50%)[214]. However, following significant reductions seen between 2005 and 2010, coinciding with the publication and implementation of Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan, there has been increased variation in recycled volumes in recent years. In 2017, around two thirds of recycled wastes were classed as soils and mineral wastes from construction and demolition, with the remainder consisting of vegetal, paper and cardboard, wood, metallic, sludge and other wastes[215]. There has been a steady increase in waste recovered through energy generation at co-incineration or incineration facilities.

3.124 A key driver to waste management has been achieving the aim of ‘moving up’ the waste hierarchy, and promoting the long-term benefits of waste prevention, use minimisation and reuse in preference to disposal options. Much of Scotland’s policy approach to waste management was set out in Scotland’s Zero Waste Plan[216], Safeguarding Scotland’s Resources: Blueprint for a More Resource Efficient and Circular Economy[217] and Making Things Last: A Circular Economy Strategy for Scotland[218].


3.125 Over the last five years there has been an increase in car, air, rail, and ferry passenger numbers, as well as in distance cycled. At the same time, there has been a fall in bus passengers. In 2017, 48.0 billion vehicle kilometres were travelled on Scotland’s roads, the highest recorded level. Cars account for over three quarters (75%) of the total volume of traffic on the roads while the remaining traffic is shared between light goods vehicles (17%) and heavy goods vehicles (5%). More than 99% of road vehicles in Scotland ran on petrol (51%) or diesel (48%) in 2017. As of 2018, there were 56,364 kilometres of public road in Scotland. Overall, there was an increase of 24% in the amount of trunk road that was newly constructed, reconstructed, strengthened, or surface dressed in 2017-18 compared to the previous year. Newly registered cars are becoming more efficient, with average CO2 emissions for new car registrations falling by 26% over the last 10 years, despite a slight 0.1% increase compared to 2016[220]. While there has been a nine-fold increase in the uptake of ultra-low carbon vehicles between 2014 and 2018, and a 31% increase in new registrations in 2018 compared to 2017, this currently represents a very small proportion of new car registrations[221].

3.126 Passenger journeys on Scotrail services increased by 4% in 2017-18, with 97.8 million passenger journeys undertaken and in general, rail patronage has been steadily rising since 1994-95. The total route length of the railway network in Scotland is 2,819km in Scotland which is serviced by 359 stations. Of this total, 709km are electrified. Bus use is generally higher in urban areas compared to rural, however, bus passenger journeys have generally been falling in the long-term.

3.127 A reported 28.8 million air terminal passengers travelled through Scottish airports in 2017, an increase of 7.3% or 2 million people from 2016. Edinburgh had the highest number of terminal passengers, though Glasgow’s share has increased in the last year. A number of smaller airports are also run by Local Authorities in Scotland, such as Oban Airport, and some of these provide connections to more remote areas

3.128 Scotland’s marine areas and coastal waters are utilised by a wide range of vessels and service a variety of industries. Ports and harbours are located all around the Scottish coastline. In addition to being an important means of distributing goods, the shipping sector also helps deliver lifeline ferry services which are vital to island communities. In 2017, 67 million tonnes of freight was handled by ports, accounting for one quarter of Scotland's total freight tonnage[222]. A total of 8.5 million passengers travelled on ferry routes within Scotland in 2017. Larger ports such as Cairnryan support ferry services between Scotland and Northern Ireland, with a further 1.8 million passengers travelling to Northern Ireland in 2017. The Forth (28 million tonnes), Clyde (9 million tonnes) and Glensanda (6 million tonnes) ports accounted for the highest freight traffic in 2017[223].

3.129 Transport emissions, including Scotland’s share of international aviation and shipping, accounted for 37% (14.9 MtCO2e) of Scotland's total emissions in 2017, an increase of 3% on the previous year[224]. Road transport is by far the largest source of these emissions, accounting for 65% of all transport emissions. In 2017, cars alone accounted for nearly half of Scotland’s transport sector emissions (40%) alongside HGVs (13%) and vans (13%). International aviation and shipping emissions contributed around 30% of total transport emissions[225].


3.130 In 2019, Scotland’s woodland and forest cover was estimated at 1.46 million hectares (19% of the land area), with just one quarter of this being native woodland; the remainder is dominated by introduced species[226]. Of this, around one third of which is owned by Scottish Ministers, on behalf of the nation, as part of Scotland’s National Forests and Land[227]. The remainder of Scotland’s woodland area is privately or community[228].

3.131 Around 13,000 hectares of new woodland were created in the UK in 2018-2019, mostly with conifer species which accounted for 60% of the new planting area[229]. Scotland's Forestry Strategy sets out plans to increase woodland cover to 21% by 2032[230]. While Scotland's forests and woodlands occupy just 19% of our land surface, they support a disproportionately high share of our biodiversity[231]. Scotland’s mature native woodlands support a rich variety of species, and some native woodlands and the plants and animals that live there are unique to Scotland and are at the limits of their worldwide distribution. Some areas of native woodland are legally protected as SSSIs or SACs, and as of February 2020, around 79% of designated woodland features were in favourable or recovering condition[232]. This represented an increase from 68% in 2015.

3.132 Most Scottish woodlands are dominated by non-native species, with native woodland covering just 4% of the total land area[233]. Some 8.4 million cubic metres of overbark standing timber was harvested from Scottish forests in 2016, representing a 1% decrease from the previous year[234]. Wood fuel for biomass heating is a growing use of forestry resources[235]. With the exception of a drop in harvesting in 2008/2009 and since 2014, the quantity of timber harvested has increased relatively steadily over the past 35 years and is around seven times the level of the late 1970s[236].

3.133 Woodlands and forests contain substantial carbon in the soil and vegetation, and are hugely important for carbon, water and energy cycles. In the UK, the amount of carbon held in woodlands and forests is estimated at around 880 million tonnes of carbon[237]. In addition, harvesting trees for wood fuel or power generation instead of fossil fuels can result in a net emissions reduction, provided the rate of growth of replacement trees is sufficient to absorb the CO2 released during fuel production and consumption[238].

3.134 Scotland is a net sink of GHG from land use, land use change and forestry activities. The size of this sink increased fifteen-fold between 1990 and 2017, from -347 kt CO2eq to -5,438 kt CO2eq attributed largely to an increase in forest carbon stocks and a reduction in the conversion of grassland and forests to cropland and settlements[239].


3.135 Agriculture is the dominant land use in Scotland, with 75% of Scotland’s land mass under agricultural production[240]. A diverse range of farming takes place across the country including arable farming, crofting, hill farming and lowland livestock and dairy farming[241]. Over half of Scotland’s agricultural land is used for upland sheep farming and mixed sheep and beef cattle farming[242].

3.136 Agricultural land use has a strong influence on the landscape and environment, sustaining important habitats for biodiversity including unimproved grassland, cultivated fields, walls and hedges, watercourses, wetlands, moorland and upland grassland. Changes in land use can have an impact on wildlife habitats and water pollution (e.g. via diffuse pollution). Agriculture also accounts for around 10% of the total GHG emissions in the UK, contributing predominantly Nitrous oxide (N2O) and methane gases, with smaller amounts of CO2[243].

3.137 Intensive land management is one of the main challenges to farmland wildlife and shift toward intensification has resulted in a change in biodiversity which could have major implications for food production[244]. Increased field sizes and use of agricultural chemicals has led to a potentially serious decline in pollinators such as bees, which in turn, can negatively affect crop volumes[245]. Poor land management can also lead to increased soil erosion, which can lead to loss of top soil and reduce soil function[246].

3.138 Climate change is expected to raise further challenges for the agriculture sector. Further changes in temperature and rainfall are expected to change the patterns of Scotland's agricultural land-uses and could lead to increased pressure on the land[247]. Farming has an important role to play in increasing the resilience of biodiversity and assisting adaptation through the management of existing habitats and enhancing connectivity between areas through habitat networks[248]. Conversely, increased connectivity may also result in quicker spread of diseases and pests, including invasive non-native species.

Evolution of the Baseline – Pressures, Trends and Key Points

3.139 Energy storage is likely to be an increasingly important part of the transition to delivering clean, affordable and secure supplies of energy[249]. For example, the continued development of battery storage technologies and hydrogen fuel cells for vehicle use in the transport sector.

3.140 Increasing the use of biological wastes in processes such as anaerobic digestion can increase the production of biogas, a source of renewable fuel and heat[250]. This can help divert waste materials away from landfill, reducing the amount of waste going to landfill and in turn, lead to a reduction of sequestered gases that would otherwise be released into the atmosphere.

3.141 Forestry and farming will need to adapt to cope with the impacts of climate change, such as flooding, drought, unseasonable weather and increased risk of pests and diseases. Further, changes in temperature and rainfall are expected to change the patterns of Scotland's agricultural land-use placing increased pressure on the land[251].

3.142 The demand for the services provided by the natural environment, such as food, water, fuel and materials for development, is likely to grow in line with population growth.

3.143 Some material assets including road and rail transport are generally more vulnerable to a changing climate than air and water transport and flooding is anticipated to be the most significant impact on these networks, as well as those arising from extreme weather conditions and landslides[252].

3.144 The network support services underlying energy, transport, water, and information and communications technology are vital to health and wellbeing and economic prosperity. The effect of climate change on these infrastructure systems will be varied but is likely to include an increase in disruptive events such as flooding, landslides, drought, and heatwaves. Further, this infrastructure is closely inter-linked and failure in any area can lead to wider disruption across these networks[253].

Related SEA topics: Changes made to material assets can directly or indirectly impact on other topic areas, such as air quality and population and human health.



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