(Redirected from Scottish Natural Heritage)

NatureScot (Scottish Gaelic: NàdarAlba), which was formerly known as Scottish Natural Heritage, is an executive non-departmental public body[1] of the Scottish Government responsible for the country's natural heritage, especially its natural, genetic and scenic diversity. It advises the Scottish Government on nature conservation, and acts as a government agent in the delivery of conservation designations, i.e. national nature reserves, local nature reserves, national parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and the national scenic areas. It receives annual funding from the Government in the form of Grant in Aid to deliver Government priorities for the natural heritage.

NatureScot logo.PNG
Great Glen House Inverness.jpg
Great Glen House in Inverness, headquarters of NatureScot
Organisation overview
Formed1992; 30 years ago (1992) (as Scottish Natural Heritage)
Preceding agencies
TypeExecutive non-departmental public body
HeadquartersGreat Glen House, Inverness
Employees736 (Q1 2022)[1]
Annual budget£56.3m (2020-21)[2]
Organisation executives
Parent departmentScottish Government (Environment and Forestry Directorate) Edit this at Wikidata

NatureScot is the Scottish Government's adviser on all aspects of nature, wildlife management and landscape across Scotland, and also helps the Scottish Government meet its responsibilities under European environmental laws, particularly in relation to the Habitats Directive and the Birds Directive.[3] The agency currently employs in the region of 700 people, but much of NatureScot's work is carried out in partnership with others including local authorities, Government bodies, voluntary environmental bodies, community groups, farmers and land managers. The body has offices in most parts of Scotland including the main islands. NatureScot works closely with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the equivalent bodies for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to ensure a consistent approach to nature conservation throughout the United Kingdom and towards fulfilling its international obligations.

The agency was formed in 1992 as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).[4] In November 2019 it was announced that SNH would be re-branded as NatureScot, however its legal persona and statutory functions would remain unchanged.[5] The change took effect on 24 August 2020.[6]

Roles and responsibilitiesEdit

The general aims of NatureScot as established in the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991 are to:[4]

  • Secure the conservation and enhancement of Scotland's natural heritage;
  • Foster understanding and facilitate the enjoyment of Scotland's natural heritage;

For the purposes of the Act, Scotland's natural heritage is defined as the flora and fauna of Scotland, its geological and physiographical features and its natural beauty and amenity. Specific responsibilities of NatureScot include:

  • Providing advice to the Scottish government on the development and implementation of policies relevant to the natural heritage of Scotland;
  • Disseminating information and advice relating to the natural heritage of Scotland to the public;
  • Carrying out and commissioning research relating to the natural heritage of Scotland;
  • Establishing, maintaining and managing designated areas of conservation in Scotland;

Protected areasEdit

Caerlaverock is a National Nature Reserve managed by NatureScot

NatureScot has responsibility for the delivery of conservation designations in Scotland, i.e. national nature reserves, local nature reserves, long distance routes, national parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and the national scenic areas. The conservation designations overlap considerably with many protected areas covered by multiple designations. In total around 20% of the area of Scotland is covered by some form of protected area designation, with SSSIs alone covering 13%.[citation needed]

National nature reservesEdit

National nature reserves (NNRs) are areas of land or water designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to contain habitats and species of national importance. NNRs can be owned by public, private, community or voluntary organisations but must be managed to conserve their important habitats and species, as well as providing opportunities for the public to enjoy and engage with nature. There are currently 43 NNRs in Scotland, which cover 154,250 hectares (1,542.5 km2).[7]

NatureScot is responsible for designating NNRs in Scotland and for overseeing their maintenance and management. The majority of NNRs are directly managed by NatureScot; however, some are managed by, or in co-operation with other bodies, including the National Trust for Scotland (7 NNRs), Forestry and Land Scotland (5 NNRs), the RSPB (5 NNRs), the Scottish Wildlife Trust (1 NNR), South Lanarkshire Council (1 NNR), and the Woodland Trust (1 NNR).[7]

All NNRs in Scotland are also designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Many also form part of the Natura 2000 network, which covers Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation. Additionally, some of the NNRs are designated as Ramsar sites.[7]

National scenic areasEdit

There are 40 national scenic areas (NSAs) in Scotland, covering 13% of the land area of Scotland. The 40 NSAs were originally identified in 1978 by the Countryside Commission for Scotland in 1978 as areas of "national scenic significance... of unsurpassed attractiveness which must be conserved as part of our national heritage".[8]

Protected speciesEdit

NatureScot issues licences to cull red deer following its merger with the Deer Commission for Scotland

Vulnerable plant and animal species in Scotland are protected under various legislation. In many cases it is an offence to kill or capture members of a protected animal species, or to uproot plants. NatureScot's primary role in regard to protected species is to license activities that would otherwise be an offence.[9]

Enjoying the outdoorsEdit

NatureScot is responsible for promoting public access and enjoyment of the outdoors. It created and updates the Scottish Outdoor Access Code, which provides detailed guidance on the exercise of the ancient tradition of universal access to land in Scotland, which was formally codified by the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003.[10] It also hosts the National Access Forum, which brings together all bodies with an interest in land access issues.[11]

NatureScot also support the management of the three regional parks.[12] It acts as the "custodian" of Scotland's Great Trails, maintaining the official list and providing some finance and publicity to the trails, although responsibility for creating and maintaining each route lies with the local authorities through which a route passes.[13]


NatureScot is governed by its board. As of August 2022, the board is made up of twelve members and is chaired by Mike Cantlay. Board members are appointed by Scottish Government ministers for an initial term of 4 years and normally serve a maximum of two terms. The primary roles of the board are to determine the objectives, strategies and policies of NatureScot in respect to its statutory obligations and guidance from the Scottish Government. Meetings of the NatureScot Board are open to the public to attend as observers.[14][15]

Day-to-day operations are led by the Senior Leadership Team, consisting of a chief executive, who is appointed by the board, and a number of directors and deputy directors. As of August 2022 the Senior Leadership Team comprised:[16]

  • Chief Executive and Accountable Officer: Francesca Osowska
  • Director of Business Services and Transformation: Jane Macdonald
  • Director of Green Economy: Robbie Kernahan
  • Director of Nature and Climate Change: Nick Halfhide
  • Deputy Director of Green Economy: Claudia Rowse
  • Deputy Director of Nature and Climate Change: Eileen Stuart
  • Head of External Affairs: Jason Ormiston
  • Deputy Director of Business Services and Transformation: Stuart MacQuarrie

Supporting the Board are three committee, the Scientific Advisory Committee, the Protected Areas Committee, and the Audit and Risk Committee.[17]

NatureScot programmes and priorities have a strong focus on helping to deliver the Scottish Government's National Outcomes and Targets which comprise the National Performance Framework.[18] NatureScot is also a member of SEARS (Scotland's Environmental and Rural Services).


Former logo of Scottish Natural Heritage

The agency was formed as Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) in 1992 from the amalgamation of the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland and the Countryside Commission for Scotland to “secure the conservation and enhancement of, and to foster understanding and facilitate the enjoyment of the natural heritage of Scotland”.[4]

In March 2003, Scottish Ministers announced their decision to transfer SNH's headquarters from Edinburgh to Inverness, with around 270 jobs to be transferred.[19] Prior to the move, relocation costs were variously estimated at between £22 million and £40 million.[20] The decision to transfer SNH's headquarters was heavily criticized by MSPs, unions, Edinburgh civic leaders and staff.[21] Criticism focused on the cost of the move, the disruption to staff and the risk of compromising the effectiveness of SNH's work. Up to 75% of headquarters staff were reported to be against the move.[21] Relocation took place between 2003 and 2006, many staff left at this point as they did not wish to, or were unable to transfer location.

In 2006, SNH headquarters staff moved into Great Glen House, a £15 million purpose-built headquarters building in Inverness. Great Glen House was built by Robertson Property, working with Keppie Design. As part of the tendering process, SNH set seven environmental and sustainability criteria for the design including achieving an 'Excellent' rating under the BREEAM system. The final design met all criteria and achieved the highest ever BREEAM rating for a public building in the UK.[22]

On 1 August 2010, the functions of the Deer Commission for Scotland were transferred to SNH by section 1 of the Public Services (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Commission was dissolved.[23][24]

In 2020 SNH was re-branded as NatureScot.[6]


In support of its statutory duties, NatureScot undertakes many individual projects across Scotland, often in collaboration with land managers, charities and local communities.[25]

Stoat eradication projectEdit

The introduction of alien stoats since 2010 has created serious problems for native species in Orkney:

The introduction of a ground predator like the stoat to islands such as Orkney, where there are no native ground predators, is very bad news for Orkney’s native species. Stoats are accomplished predators and pose a very serious threat to Orkney’s wildlife, including: the native Orkney vole, hen harrier, short-eared owl and many ground nesting birds

— NatureScot[26]

In 2018, a stoat eradication project was presented by NatureScot to be applied "across Orkney Mainland, South Ronaldsay, Burray, Glimps Holm, Lamb Holm and Hunda, and the biosecurity activities delivered on the non-linked islands of the archipelago". The project, which is run by a partnership including NatureScot, RSPB Scotland and Orkney Islands Council,[26] uses "humane DOC150 and DOC200 traps".[27] A report issued in October 2020 stated that over 5,000 traps had been deployed. Specifics were provided as to the locations.[28]

Not all was going well as of 15 January 2021, according to The Times which stated that the project "has been hit by alleged sabotage after the destruction and theft of traps that have also killed and injured household pets and other animals" but added that the £6 million programme was supported by most islanders.[29] Another news item stated that some of the traps had "caught and killed family pets as well as hundreds of other animals".[30] A subsequent report confirmed that "Police Scotland is investigating a number of incidents involving damage to and the theft of stoat traps in Orkney".[31]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "National public bodies directory - Executive non-departmental public bodies". Scottish Government. 26 July 2022. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  2. ^ "SNH Annual Report and Accounts 2020-21" (PDF). NatureScot. Retrieved 20 October 2022.
  3. ^ "European Reporting". JNCC. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  4. ^ a b c "Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991". 1991. Retrieved 17 April 2016. {{cite journal}}: Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  5. ^ "National nature agency to become 'NatureScot'". Scottish Natural Heritage. 19 November 2019. Retrieved 19 November 2019.
  6. ^ a b "NatureScot Brand". NatureScot. Retrieved 2 September 2020.
  7. ^ a b c "About NNRs". Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  8. ^ "Scotland's Scenic Heritage" (PDF). Countryside Commission for Scotland. April 1978. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2012.
  9. ^ "Species licensing - Scottish Natural Heritage". Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  10. ^ "Who has duties and powers". NatureScot. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  11. ^ "National Access Forum". NatureScot. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  12. ^ "Regional parks". NatureScot. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  13. ^ "About Scotland's Great Trails". Scotland's Great Trails. Retrieved 30 September 2020.
  14. ^ "Our Board". NatureScot. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  15. ^ "Board Members". NatureScot. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  16. ^ "Senior Leadership Team". NatureScot. Retrieved 10 August 2022.
  17. ^ "Board, Directors and Committees". NatureScot. Retrieved 3 September 2020.
  18. ^ "National Performance Framework". Scottish Government.
  19. ^ "Scottish Natural Heritage HQ will move to Inverness". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  20. ^ "SNH staff move 'could top £40m'". BBC. 16 October 2003. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  21. ^ a b "Inverness ready for Scottish Natural Heritage's First Fifteen". Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  22. ^ "About SNH - Press Releases". Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  23. ^ Section 1 of the 2010 Act on the Statute Law Database
  24. ^ The Public Services (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2010 (Commencement No.1) Order 2010 (SSI 2010/221)
  25. ^ "Funding and Projects". NatureScot. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  26. ^ a b "Orkney Native Wildlife Project". NatureScot. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  27. ^ "The Orkney Native Wildlife Project" (PDF). NatureScot. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  28. ^ "Orkney Native Wildlife Project". RSPB. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  29. ^ Watson, Jeremy. "Stoats of Orkney weasel out of cull thanks to saboteurs". The Times. Retrieved 8 February 2021.
  30. ^ "Row over stoat cull after mass deaths of animals". The Herald. Retrieved 2 February 2021.
  31. ^ "Police Investigate Stoat Trap Damage". The Orcadian. 11 January 2021. Retrieved 8 February 2021.

External linksEdit