Biodiversity Highlights & Challenges

Actions taken in support of biodiversity

Action to protect and enhance biodiversity is a common theme across our transport schemes and operations, with a particular focus on our road and rail activities. Examples of actions we have taken, and outcomes we have delivered, are shown below, with the examples sub-divided across the five objectives highlighted in the biodiversity duty format guidance.

Species & Habitat: To halt the loss biodiversity and continue to reverse previous losses through targeted action for species and habitat

As highlighted in the main body of the report, all Transport Scotland schemes are carefully planned, designed and delivered to fit into the landscape as far as practicable, limiting any negative impact on the natural environment and seeking to enhance opportunities for habitat creation and the protection of wildlife. The following schemes constructed within the last three years are provided as examples of this approach.

M80 Stepps – Haggs improvements

The scheme was developed a few years ago to improve connectivity and reliability of the network by removing traffic from the local villages such as Stepps, Muirhead and Moodiesburn to a purpose-built motorway to the north west. A major part of the proposals was to ensure the scheme design reflected the character and enhanced the quality of the surrounding landscape.

The adjacent rolling pastures were seen to be notable in the vicinity and, in response, the scheme featured extensive areas of species-rich grass mixes as well as naturalistic Sustainable Drainage Systems (SuDS) with diverse wildflowers and emergent species. The attached images demonstrate the success of the approach.

In addition to the intended planting design, the team involved located examples of naturally-growing lesser water-plantain or Baldellia ranunculoides. It is a native perennial herb that usually grows as an emergent or on damp ground at the edge of water bodies such as lakes and pools, marshes, fens.

However, B. ranunculoides has been in long-term decline, in Scotland and throughout its European range, for a number of reasons including habitat destruction, succession following reduced disturbance or grazing, and eutrophication.

It is really encouraging that the site team was able to locate and recognise this threatened species, and it is now subject to careful, albeit discrete, monitoring to encourage its survival and expansion in this location.

M9 10-11 65 Knockhill overbridge – concrete repairs and bat protection

This is a good example of the level of ecological input that accompanies all works where there is a potential to impact wildlife, especially protected species.

Concrete investigation and subsequent repair works were carried out on the Knockhill M9 overbridge in autumn 2021. Prior to carrying out repairs and maintenance, walkover surveys such as a Preliminary Roost Assessment (PRA) and a Preliminary Ecological Appraisal (PEA) were conducted. During the inspections, large cracks were noticed to develop vertically between the abutment and the southwest wingwall as well as the presence of small gaps at the level where the wingwall meets with the north abutment. Both locations were assessed as having roosting potential.

Bat Dusk Emergence and Dawn Re-entry surveys were therefore undertaken on 5th July 2021 and 4th August 2021 respectively, and a pipistrelle bat (Pipistrellus pipistrellus) roost was identified approximately 18 metres away from the area of proposed works. The limited size of the colony and its location relevant to the works meant no site-specific licence was required, and the works were permitted to proceed under a Bat Low Impact Licence (BLIMP) via NatureScot.

A Bat Protection Plan (BPP) was prepared to identify appropriate mitigation measures to ensure compliance with Consent Conditions inherent with the BLIMP licence.

The mitigation measures detailed within the BPP include:

  • Provision of a roost (e.g. bat box) to a suitable nearby tree.
  • A recommendation that works are undertaken outwith the hibernation period (i.e. November to March) due to the bat hibernation potential of the bridge.
  • The level of activity within the roost’s vicinity should be kept to a minimum by the contractors.
  • Toolbox Talk TTN 008 ‘Working with Bats’ must be briefed to all site personnel prior to works commencing.

Works should be carried out in daylight hours wherever possible to avoid disturbance to emerging or foraging bats.

The Operating Company, BEAR Scotland, appointed an Environmental Clerk of Works (EnvCoW) to visit the site during the mobilisation period to deliver toolbox talks and the BPP, as well as to brief all site personnel on the bat roost location.

The EnvCoW was also appointed to undertake further site visits during the construction period to ensure that all the environmental mitigation measures are maintained and delivered, including those specific to common pipistrelle bats (e.g. roost/roost features are not inadvertently damaged).

Network-wide Biodiversity Enhancements

During the 2021/22 annual period, a trial reduction of the number of cuts was introduced along stretches at Spean Bridge and in Glen Coe on the A82. Ecologists were appointed to monitor the effectiveness of the change in the cutting regime along pre-identified sections of the road. In August 2021, HED Ecology carried out an initial assessment identifying the vegetation present on site. A follow up assessment, completed in September 2022, established the baseline for monitoring the uncut verges. It was indicated the frequency of flowering already indicates a beneficial change for biodiversity, particularly for pollinating insects.

The efforts to protect wildflowers of note, such as these Northern March Orchids, have drawn occasional favourable responses from the public, as shown in Figure 39.

An extract from a social media post acknowledging efforts to protect wildflowers
Figure 39 social media post acknowledging efforts to protect wildflowers

Network A887 Bridge over Allt na H-Innse Beag, Glenmoriston

The ageing bridge was sub-standard ad required to be replaced. The project was scheduled for 2021 and the programme included of a temporary road diversion and crossing to maintain traffic flow along the route.

The works required a range of environmental surveys and assessments to be undertaken. The bat surveys concluded that the bridge was not an active bat roost, but three nearby structures were all identified as having roosting bats in very large numbers, with one structure determined to be of high conservation value due to the presence of a large multi-species maternity colony for soprano pipistrelles (Pipistrellus pygmaeus), Daubenton’s (Myotis daubentoniid) and brown long-eared bats (Piecotus auratus).

Further summer and winter bat surveys, combined with the use of passive bat monitoring equipment and infrared cameras, have been conducted to inform bat licensing requirements for the works and to inform the mitigation approach.

This included the installation of bat boxes in the nearby trees to supplement the colony, which was protected against any disturbance from the temporary and permanent works. A monitoring plan was also agreed for both during and post construction.

As well as the three bat species, otter (Lutra lutra) activity was detected within the site area, including prints and spraints. Two potential couches were identified by surveys, both within the footprint of the proposed works.

Camera traps were set up to determine how the otters were using the area and what mitigation would be suitable during construction. Both the temporary culverts and the newly proposed bridge have been designed to allow safe passage under the road.

A82 Altrua, Invergloy

Bear Scotland were appointed by Transport Scotland to undertake a package of maintenance works on the A82 Altrua Bridge near Invergloy. During the preliminary ecological appraisal, signs of red squirrel (Sciurus vulgaris) and pine marten (Martes martes) were noted near the bridge structure. The adjacent dense larch woodland area surrounding the bridge was highly suitable for these species with feeding signs, scats, and squirrel dreys observed within 50 metres of the bridge.


To increase awareness, understanding and enjoyment of biodiversity, and engage many more people in conservation and enhancement.

To generate a greater engagement in biodiversity conservation and fully understand the benefits it brings to the health, quality and economic sector, it is fundamental to raise awareness amongst the public and all stakeholders and take new initiatives through which biodiversity can be conserved and enriched. Such engagement can take many forms, from public bulletins and project update posted on local internet forums and websites, to face-to-face dialogues and wider presentations.

Trunk not Junk

In support of Keep Scotland Beautiful Spring Clean 2022, BEAR Scotland, which manages the trunk roads in the South East of Scotland on behalf of Transport Scotland, organised the Trunk not Junk Schools Litter Campaign Design Competition. The initiative involved over 650 primary schools across the South East area and pupils were invited to submit a poster, slogan or song to encourage people not to litter on Scotland’s trunk roads.

Figure 43 What a sin, not to bin’ winner poster from a P6 pupil at Roslin Primary School
Figure 43 What a sin, not to bin’ winner poster from a P6 pupil at Roslin Primary School

The activity raised awareness amongst the young pupils of the importance to keep the environment clean. In fact, BEAR Scotland collected over 5,000 large black bags of litter and 2,200 large objects found in the trunk roads during 2021. The competition had a great success with 45 finalists, which highlights the impact on new generations about preserving the local wildlife and the environment.

Royal Horticultural Society Award – Hawick High School

BEAR Scotland has implemented community benefits that support Transport Scotland in delivering the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy post 2020 – A Statement of Intent.

In an effort to strengthen the link between biodiversity and community, a donation was raised to help Hawick High School achieve the Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) Schools Gardening Award Level 4.

The donation helped the school to create easy access in the garden to wheelchair-users by purchasing raised bed. Thanks to the fund, students and staff were also able to purchase new planters for the sensory garden, climbing plants, wildflower seeds for a meadow in the school’s car park and many more.

Environmental Training

In 2021, the Scottish Government adopted new measures to promote the expansion of the beaver (Castor fiber) population and to restore biodiversity in Scotland via the ‘Protecting Scotland’s beaver population’ news released in November 2021. In response to this, Transport Scotland adopted, through their operating companies, an approach aimed to increase awareness of the multitude of benefits that beavers can bring about to the environment, including converting depleted landscapes into thriving habitats which, in turns, have implications for the communities’ connection to nature. To increase awareness, environmental related training including Beaver Ecology and Beaver Management has been delivered through online courses.

Environmental Training

Volunteer employees from Amey, the operating company that manages the South West trunk road unit, took advantage of their Social Impact Day to complete a beach clean at Lunderston Bay, Inverclyde.

On the day, the team recovered 50 bags full of rubbish, including cast aside toys (at least we hope so!) and a full oil drum! The effort will help many marine mammals and other sea species avoid the serious and often lethal effects of ocean pollution.

Landscape and Ecosystems:

To restore and enhance biodiversity in all our urban, rural & marine environments through better planning, design & practice

Carbon Sequestration projects

As part of the actions to help deliver the obligations and targets of the CMP4, Transport Scotland is engaging in the development of a number of projects to plant trees within Scottish Ministers’ land for carbon sequestration (insetting). Whilst clearly not an immediate solution, tree planting is widely recognised as delivering multiple environmental and social benefits, including increased potential for habitat connectivity and biodiversity enhancement.

Current insetting projects underway are included in the following Sections

A83 Rest and be Thankful (phases 1 and 2)

The agency is involved in a challenging project to develop a native broadleaved woodland on the steep ground above the A83 trunk road through Glen Croe. The woodland will cover approximately 80 Ha which has all been registered through the Woodland Carbon Code and will help offset a considerable amount of the agency’s corporate carbon emissions.

The hillside is well-known for the various slips and landslides that have affected the road below over the years. The new planting is being delivered in two concurrent phases in partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland, who are also developing native woodland on the adjacent land. This will result in enhanced biodiversity for an area that has long only supported bracken, rough grass, and sheep.

It will also provide important habitat connectivity between the head of the glen and the more wooded areas to the east around Arrochar.

By the end of 2023 both phases will be complete, including over 10km deer fencing, and monitoring and maintenance will begin.

M74 Blacklaw

When the M74 motorway was developed it required various areas of land adjacent to the route for construction purposes. Some of these areas were sold back to the original owners but some areas remained in Scottish Ministers’ ownership. One such area is a landlocked piece of land of about 8 Ha in size which has been left undisturbed for many years. Transport Scotland identified this land for the development of a native woodland to sequester carbon and add to the local biodiversity of the area, which is largely surrounded by commercial forestry interests. Due to the local situation, a new access needed to be formed to get materials, labour and machinery from an existing commercial forest road to the site.

Due to the need to protect an area of ground water dependent terrestrial ecosystem, GWDTE, the final area of planting was reduced to 5 Ha. The planting was undertaken in 2022 and the first year’s beat up maintenance is currently underway.

M80 Mollinsburn

A further surplus land site in Scottish Ministers’ ownership has been identified near to junction 9 of the M74, at Mollinsburn. This is another area that was purchase to facilitate the construction of a motorway and was used for a borrow pit prior to being backfilled and topped.

A project is currently underway to introduce a small (5 Ha) native woodland that will, in time contribute to the agency’s carbon emissions reduction targets, whilst also increasing the general tree cover and helping to link the motorways planting with outlying areas of woodland, in support of the aims of the Clyde Climate Forest.

Management of tree diseases

Phytophthora ramorum
The spread of the Phytophthora ramorum pathogen across Scotland is a cause for concern despite the efforts to contain outbreaks to within the Management Zone. The disease is still largely concentrated in the wetter south west of the country, but there are increasing numbers of infections found in the central area and further north, and Transport Scotland has received a number of Statutory Plant Health Notices (SPHN) in respect of diseased larch within the trunk road verge.

The Notices require all larch within the 250m buffer area to be removed and this can have a significant effect on the local environment. To compensate for the loss of the trees the agency has a policy of replanting other species wherever possible, even though this is not a requirement of the Notice. The number of replacement trees depends on the local situation – the number and size of the felled trees; the availability and suitability of land for the replacements; the objectives of the site, etc.

However, in some cases the lost larch trees can actually have a beneficial impact on local biodiversity. One such example was pm the M8 at junction 3 where the forced removal of 940 larch trees has acted as form of unintentional woodland thinning management that has opened up the area.

This helped to increase light levels and improving the immediate diversity of habitat. The former SPHN site now represents a more native and natural mosaic of woodland and essential habitats that are important for improving and enhancing local biodiversity.

Ash Dieback Disease

The management of Ash dieback disease continues to be a major undertaking on the trunk road network with all four operating companies heavily involved in surveying, planning and delivering felling works in their areas.

On behalf of Transport Scotland, Amey’s ecology team have been working with Amey’s landscape team to carry out Preliminary Ground Level Roost Assessments (PGLRA) on a number of trees known to have ash dieback.

Ash dieback is caused by a wind-borne fungus (Hymenoscyphus fraxineus) with spores that can be dispersed far and wide, making it the most significant tree disease in the UK at the present time. According to the ‘Ash dieback: An Action Plan Toolkit for Scotland’, ash dieback will cause the decline and death of 50-75% of ash trees in Scotland over the next two decades.

The environmental impacts bound to it include:

  • long-term change to the cultural and historic landscape;
  • impact on biodiversity – many species rely on ash, and;
  • impact on stored carbon and sequestration of emitted carbon.

All the trunk road operating companies have been surveying their management areas to ascertain the local ash resource and to assess the condition of the trees using the national guidance developed by the Tree Council for the UK and endorsed by Scottish Forestry.

Over the past two seasons, the operating companies have managed rolling programmes to target and remove those ash trees assessed as being of the greatest risk to the trunk road network, its infrastructure, and its users. The work is resource-intensive, both in terms of operatives, technology and machinery. The nature of the disease and its impact on the species results in a particular challenge for felling – the trees can become very brittle and this poses a significant risk for operatives. To combat the problem, the operating companies have made good use of specialist contractors and machinery, such as modern grapple-saws more commonly seen in forestry operations.

The operating companies are using sophisticated GIS mapping software to accurately record the presence and condition of the ash resource on the network.

This work is set to continue over the next few years until the safety impacts of the disease are appropriately mitigated. Work is also underway to engage with adjacent landowners with diseased ash trees on their property that are close enough to the trunk road network to be considered a potential hazard. At the same time, the recovery planning is underway, with plans and programmes to replace the felled ash with suitable alternative native species.

A887 Allt na H-Innse Beag Bridge

A new £1.5M bridge was opened to traffic in November 2021 on the A887, nine miles west of Invermoriston, following seven months of construction commenced in mid-March 2021 funded by Transport Scotland. The new precast concrete box-culvert structure has a widened single carriageway to 6 metres, with 1 metre hard strips at either side of the road, specifically designed to last for 120 years and to accommodate significantly higher flows in the Allt Na H-Innse Beag.

Construction works were carefully programmed to coincide with the summer months, in order to avoid the fish-spawning season. Rock armour and coir rolls were installed around the new structure to protect the foundation and the riverbanks from the effects of scour and to provide resilience for climate change. Mammal walkways were also incorporated into the design to allow wildlife to pass through the structure in all flow conditions. As part of the landscape reinstatement works, over 800 trees were planted in October following the completion of the new bridge.

A9 Dualling: Luncarty to Pass of Birnam – East Mains planting 2022

Following the opening of the new A9 dual carriageway at the end of August 2021, a great level of attention was focussed on the landscaping works, which progressed during the autumn season. Part of these finishing works comprised grass cutting, landscape preparation and planting of new vegetation. Particularly, the latter was carried out in November, which marks the start of the planting season, to offer the best opportunity for the new plants/shrubs to flourish.

Following completion of the construction phase, landscaping operations continued throughout January 2022. The contractor, Balfour Beatty, will continue to oversee the planting and landscaping maintenance until December 2026.

Furthermore, to comply with the best practices to reduce the environmental impacts from the use of plastic tree shelters and ensuring to the community that a sustainable approach is adopted, Transport Scotland introduced a trial of 5,000 biodegradable tree shelters at four locations with diverse micro-climates across the A9 Dualling, Luncarty to Pass of Birnam project.

The trial has involved a number of different types of shelter with regular inspection and reporting on the performance of each – both in terms of its objective to protect the plants, and how long it retains its structural integrity. The results are being used to inform future transport infrastructure planting contracts.

A83 Rest and Be Thankful, Old Military Road: Emergency Bund

Transport Scotland commissioned BEAR Scotland to carry out emergency works to address identified landslide risk on the A83 trunk road at the RabT and the Old Military Road (OMR), that is used as an alternative route during closures and periods of high hazard.

The landslide risk was high to such an extent that the A83 could be closed, and the OMR only deemed safe for use in daylight hours during prolonged periods of dry weather. At night and at periods of heightened risk, e.g. forecast rainfall, traffic was subject to lengthy diversions between Tarbet and Inveraray via the A82, A85 and A819.

Due to the challenging and urgent nature of this work a temporary bund for the OMR was developed. The bund was created with the use of HESCO geo-textile boxes and is approximately 177m long, 8.4m wide at the base, and up to 9m high.

The structure was filled with material from a recent landslide, avoiding the need for removal and import of heavy material and therefore presenting a more sustainable option through avoiding increased resource use and reduced carbon emissions.

This is adjacent to the site where that agency, in partnership with Forestry and Land Scotland, are currently establishing a native woodland on the hillside above the RabT. The Minister for Transport (at the time), Jenny Gilruth, MSP, endorsed this work:

“Using nature-based solutions like woodland creation is a win-win solution. It will help protect this important trunk road that is a vital lifeline for many people, will help capture more carbon and help increase the habitat in which wildlife can flourish.”

Integration & Co-ordination:

To develop an effective management framework that ensures biodiversity is taken into account in all decision making

Recycling of Tar-Bound Materials

Road tar is processed from coal tar and was commonly used as a binder for road materials up until the mid-1980s. Coal tar became out-dated and subsequently it has been shown that tar can contain carcinogenic compounds and is highly toxic to aquatic life. As a result, tar bound road planings are classified as special waste. Currently the only options for processing this material are unsustainable and involve either hauling the material to Huddersfield for disposal at a landfill site, or to Hull where the material is loaded onto a ship and transported to Holland for incineration.

BEAR Scotland has been involved in a working group aiming to create guidance on cold recycling of bitumen and tar-bound roads in order to ensure a consistent approach is applied to in situ and ex situ recycling processes.

BEAR Scotland developed a pro-forma document to ensure key environmental information is collected and provided to SEPA for scheme approval. This was trialled in the recent A92 Ladybank South resurfacing works and a final guidance document was issued in February 2021.

The application of this process is an excellent example of a sustainable approach which significantly reduces road haulage emissions and waste generation.

Disposal of large volumes of tar bound material is expensive and has a large associated carbon footprint with transportation to distant disposal facilities. Two schemes on the A702 at Silverburn and Lamington utilised the cold recycling process, allowing reuse of the material, encapsulating it safely so it can be incorporated back into the road surface.

The use of this process and material allowed us to recycle over 1100t of tar bound arising which would traditionally have been sent to landfill. As well as reducing waste, there are energy and resource savings.

A90 Kinfauns Ditching Maintenance

A common problem for road drainage is the restriction to flow caused by the build-up of vegetation, silt and other debris. This can compromise the safety of those using the road, but also cause a backup along connecting ditch systems leading to impacts on local biodiversity and habitats. Removal of the accumulated material ensures the carriageway continues to drain effectively whilst reducing flood risk in the locale.

In this case, the principle environmental consideration during the works was to avoid water pollution as a result of mobilising silt and other debris. The road drainage in the works area discharges to two different small watercourses which enter the river Tay a short distance later. The river Tay is designated as a Special Area of Conservation (SAC). In order to minimise the risk to the environment the following steps were taken:

  • Operatives were fully briefed in silt management procedures and on their responsibilities. This was achieved through delivery of a silt management Toolbox Talk (TTN-012) prior to works commencing.
  • Ditch works were carried out in accordance with BEAR Procedure 112 (SUDS Feature Maintenance Operations).
  • Drainage ditch inlets and outlets were blocked with straw bales during the course of the work to filter out any mobilised silt before it could enter the water environment and to avoid blocking up any other drainage infrastructure.

The work has ensured the effective drainage of this area of road for the foreseeable future, reducing flood risk and the possibility of any associated damage or liability.


To ensure that the best new and existing knowledge on biodiversity is available to all policy makers and practitioners

Public engagement through website interactive map on active travel improvements on A82 at Inverness

Members of the public were invited to share their views through a unique interactive map available through the BEAR Scotland website. Users could add their comments to the map and have their say on what changes they would like to see to improve road safety and active travel on this section of the A82.

School Engagement

Amey Operatives spent 2 hours at a primary school with a CAT Scan & hand tools making trial holes to ensure the installation of a garden was safe and free from utilities (October 2021).

Mearns Primary School hosted their Values Day. This is a day where the pupils take part in activities which give the opportunity for them to celebrate and practise their school values. Two of the activities were a silent disco and also an outdoor concert. Due to Covid restrictions pupils were required to take part within their class bubbles. To support the health and safety of around 800 pupils on the day, Amey donated 200 traffic cones, 4 operatives for the set up and hazard tape which was used to mark out these areas for the pupils. Seven large areas for the silent disco were set up on their outdoor football pitch as well as 16 smaller seating areas for the concert. Amey delivered the cones in the morning of the event, along with four staff who set up the areas for the school (June 21).

The Winter Ready logo competition launched with 850 primary and ACT schools in SE. Winner was announced during November as part of our winter launch. The winning logo and slogan was designed by a P7 pupil from Holy Cross PS, North Lanarkshire.