‘Biodiversity’ is the variety and variability of life around us and includes every species of plant and animal on the planet - the genetic material that makes them what they are, and the communities that they form. These communities, habitats and natural systems cover every part of the world, with the component parts reflecting the local conditions. Sometimes this leads to the formation of unique ecosystems found in very specific situations whilst, conversely, some habitats and the communities they support are replicated in many different parts of the globe.

All ecosystems are interconnected in some way, and even the most remote habitats can be affected by changes occurring elsewhere on the planet. This has happened repeatedly for over a million years through fluctuating changes in the level of atmospheric gases, the amount of precipitation and the global temperature. In the past, these climate changes have occurred over long periods of time and this has allowed species to adapt and change through processes of natural evolution.

Due to the impacts and ever-growing population levels of the most successful species on Earth – humans – these climatic changes are now occurring at an alarming pace and much faster than the natural world can adapt to keep up. Natural levels of gases such as methane, carbon dioxide and ozone (greenhouse gases) are being greatly increased by emissions from human activities leading to rising global temperatures. This is having a critical impact on climatic conditions, driving rapid changes in the habitats and ecosystems that species all around the world rely on for survival. The result is a dramatic decline in biodiversity across the world including within the UK.

In recognition of the urgent need for action, the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 was introduced to require all public bodies in Scotland to further the conservation of biodiversity when carrying out their responsibilities. Amended legislation in the form of the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 (the WANE Act) requires every public body in Scotland to produce a Biodiversity Duty Report every three years to demonstrate how the organisation is delivering their responsibilities to biodiversity. This is the fourth such reporting cycle.

The Climate Emergency & Biodiversity Decline

The recently published State of Nature 2023 is a comprehensive assessment of the wildlife and habitats across the UK and was prepared by a wide collaboration of both statutory and nature organisations and wildlife charities operating across the UK. It examines changes to biodiversity, including the abundance of species, their distribution, and their risk of extinction. The research also looked at the condition of the UK’s most important habitats – woodlands, wetlands, and wildflower meadows.

The conclusions are dire, with clear evidence of serious and sustained decline and loss of species and continuing threats to the condition and extent of habitats.

The State of Nature Report concludes that the UK is now one of the most nature-depleted countries in the world.

There are many interconnected reasons why biodiversity is in such decline, including habitat loss resulting from land management choices; changes to agricultural practices; increased pollution levels; hydrological change; increases in invasive non-native species; and, crucially, climate change. We have all experienced unusual fluctuations in normal weather patterns, with periods of intense heat alongside excessive rainfall and flooding – 2022 was the UK’s warmest year on record, whilst 2023 has seen severe flooding events in many parts of the country. These are the immediately visible signs of a changing climate – the associated effects are the impacts on our native wildlife, with increasing numbers of species in worrying levels of decline, whilst some have been lost altogether.

The Approach in Scotland

The Scottish Government has declared twin, interlinked crises of Climate Change and Biodiversity Loss. Scottish Ministers have agreed two key milestones:

  • immediate action now to halt biodiversity loss at the latest by 2030; and
  • restore and regenerate biodiversity and reach NetZero emissions by 2045.

The Scottish Government has recognised the urgent need to consider and address the issues of climate change and biodiversity loss together: they are inextricably linked, with the changing climate driving the loss of biodiversity, whilst destruction of ecosystems, and the vital services they provide, significantly affects the ability of nature to mitigate the impacts of, and our vulnerability to climate change through its capacity to regulate greenhouse gases, sequester carbon emissions and protect against extreme weather fluctuations.

The Environment Strategy for Scotland

The Scottish Government published its Environment Strategy for Scotland: Vision and Outcomes in 2020 with a series of commitments aimed at avoiding the worst impacts of climate change and halting the loss of the Earth's biodiversity.

The Environment Strategy sets out the following vision for Scotland:

One Earth. One home. One shared future.

By 2045: By restoring nature and ending Scotland’s contribution to climate change, our country is transformed for the better - helping to secure the wellbeing of our people and planet for generations to come.

The Strategy provides an overarching framework to bring together legislation and regulation to deliver the transformative change needed to tackle the global climate and nature crises. The Strategy encompasses proposals for greenhouse emission reductions; improved waste management; sustainable development; air and water quality enhancements; and crucial targets for biodiversity and habitat recovery and expansion.

The graphic below illustrates how the climate crisis and the nature crisis are interconnected, and the efforts to limit climate change to below 1.5o will also help to protect and restore nature, and vice versa. It shows a cycle chart linking the following stages with arrows:

  1. Climate change limited to 1.5C
  2. Worst impacts on nature avoided
  3. Nature protected and restored
  4. Natural climate solutions - lock in carbon (which links back to 1)

Complementary text next to stage 2: Impacts on biodiversity will be significantly greater if warming exceeds 1.5 oC.

Complementary text next to stage 4: Nature-based solutions could provide over a third of the global effort to deliver the Paris agreement.

The intrinsically linked climate and natural crises, as described in text above.
Figure 4 The intrinsically linked climate and natural crises (source:

In line with Figure 4, the Strategy sets out a series of outcomes, including three aimed specifically at the national approach to collectively tackling nature decline, climate change and sustainable resource-use:

  • Scotland's nature is protected and restored with flourishing biodiversity and clean and healthy air, water, seas and soils.
  • We play our full role in tackling the global climate emergency and limiting temperature rise to 1.5°C.
  • We use and re-use resources wisely and have ended the throw-away culture.

March 2022 saw the publication of the first progress report for the Environment Strategy for Scotland. The report lists a number of associated bills, strategies and plans that have been, or are in the process of being brought forward to meet the vision and objectives of the Environment Strategy.

In respect to the outcome to protect nature, the report identifies commitments made by the Scottish Government and other international governments at COP26 in Glasgow to reverse biodiversity loss and create a ‘nature-positive’ world by 2030. In support of this, the Scottish Government published a new biodiversity strategy in 2022 setting out the transformative approach to protecting and restoring Scotland’s biodiversity, whilst describing how Scotland’s contribution to the goals of the Global Biodiversity Framework will be delivered.

Scotland’s National Biodiversity Strategy

The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy to 2045 published in December 2022 acknowledges the imperative need to accelerate and scale up efforts to drive landscape and seascape scale recovery. This strategy sets out the ambition for Scotland to be Nature Positive by 2030, and to have restored and regenerated biodiversity across the country by 2045. The Scottish Biodiversity Strategy sets out an ambitious Vision for the country’s biodiversity:

“By 2045, Scotland will have restored and regenerated biodiversity across our land, freshwater and seas. Our natural environment, our habitats, ecosystems and species, will be diverse, thriving, resilient and adapting to climate change. Regenerated biodiversity will drive a sustainable economy and support thriving communities, and people will play their part in the stewardship of nature for future generations.”

The Strategy identifies the following six objectives for halting the loss of biodiversity in Scotland and being nature positive by 2030

  • Accelerate restoration and regeneration;
  • Protect nature on land and at sea, across and beyond protected areas;
  • Embed nature-positive farming, fishing and forestry;
  • Protect and support the recovery of vulnerable and important species and habitats;
  • Invest in Nature; and,
  • Take action on the indirect drivers of biodiversity loss.

This Strategy represents the first element in Scotland’s Biodiversity Delivery Framework. This has been developed to ensure that we move beyond ambitious words and a strategy that sits on a shelf to a point where we mobilise actions and investment of sufficient scale and scope to deliver a nature positive future. The Framework comprises five elements:

  • A high-level Strategy setting out a 2045 Vision for biodiversity in Scotland, a set of Outcomes which articulates what ‘success looks like’ and a set of Priority Actions.
  • A Natural Environment Bill which will contain provisions to put in place statutory targets for nature restoration that cover land and sea and a framework for setting, monitoring, enforcing and reporting on those targets. These targets, like our climate targets, will form an important part of our Accountability Framework, driving action across Government.
  • A series of five-year rolling Delivery Plans which will set out in detail the range of actions needed to deliver the outcomes and vision. The delivery plans will incorporate a fundamental programme of mainstreaming biodiversity across Government.
  • An Investment Plan which will set out our assessment of the investment required to deliver a nature positive future and the actions needed to mobilise public, private and philanthropic finance.
  • A Reporting Framework.

Transport Scotland has been part of the process to develop the national strategy – inputting via the Scottish Biodiversity Partnership Stakeholder Group. The Agency is continuing to develop its own bespoke approach to enhancing and protecting biodiversity within our area of operation, using the framework of the national strategy as a basis.

This ensures the actions and plans taken forward by Transport Scotland and its agents are appropriate to our landholdings and remit, whilst remaining integral with adjacent interests and consistent with the national context.