Conservation in Scotland

This page gives an overview of the structure of environmental and cultural conservation in Scotland, a constituent country of the United Kingdom.

Upon the introduction of devolved government the environment and built heritage were not listed as reserved issues, and so for the most part conservation is the responsibility of the Scottish Parliament, the Scottish Government, and the public bodies that report to them. Although originally reserved, responsibility for all planning and nature conservation matters at sea up to 200 miles from the Scottish coast was transferred to the Scottish Government in 2008.[1] Some matters related to conservation, such as international treaties and border controls on prohibited species, remain the responsibility of the UK Government.

Much environment legislation in Scotland is based on the adoption in Scots law of European Union directives, such as the Habitats Directive. As such there may be changes to the structure and nature of conservation activities in Scotland following the UK's expected departure from the European Union.

Scottish Government

Scottish Government directorates

Conservation matters are dealt with across a number of directorates of the Scottish Government:

  • Environmental protection, forestry and biodiversity are the responsibility of the Environment and Forestry Directorate.[2]
  • The Marine Scotland Directorate is responsible for the integrated management of Scotland's seas.[3]
  • The Energy and Climate Change Directorate covers measures to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.[4]
  • Cultural Heritage is the responsibility of the Culture, Tourism and Major Events Directorate.[5]

Scottish ministers

Three Cabinet Secretaries hold portfolios with responsibility for conservation issues:

Public bodies

The following are public bodies of the Scottish Government, with notes on their areas of responsibility.

Executive agencies

Executive non-departmental public bodies[11]

Public corporations[16]

United Kingdom Government

Within the UK Government, environmental protection is the responsibility of the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA). Two UK-wide executive agencies with responsibility for conservation matters include Scotland within their remit:

Non-governmental organisations

Many non-governmental organisations are active in conservation issues in Scotland. The following list provides some examples.

Protected areas

National environmental designations

National designations for historic and cultural sites

International designations

Local designations

Non-statutory protected areas

Objects of conservation

See also


  1. Scotland handed sea planning role BBC News, 27 November 2008
  2. "Environment and Forestry Directorate". Scottish Government. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  3. "Marine Scotland Directorate". Scottish Government. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  4. "Environment and Forestry Directorate". Scottish Government. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  5. "Culture, Tourism and Major Events Directorate". Scottish Government. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  6. "Cabinet Secretary for Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform". Scottish Government. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  7. "Cabinet Secretary for the Rural Economy". Scottish Government. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  8. "Cabinet Secretary for Culture, Tourism and External Affairs". Scottish Government. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  9. "Forestry devolution: resource list". Scottish Government. 1 April 2019. Retrieved 2 April 2019.
  10. "Report setting out the administrative arrangements that the Scottish Ministers intend to make for the carrying out of their functions under the Forestry and Land Management (Scotland) Act 2018". March 2019. pp. 3–4. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  11. "Executive non-departmental public bodies". Scottish Government. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  12. "About Us". Historic Environment Scotland. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  13. "Science and Conservation". Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  14. "FAQs". Scottish Environment Protection Agency. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  15. "About SNH". Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  16. "Public corporations". Scottish Government. Retrieved 8 August 2019.
  17. "About Us". Crown Estate Scotland. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  18. "About Us". Scottish Canals. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
  19. "The UK". Joint Nature Conservation Committee. Retrieved 7 August 2019.
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