Soil governance in Scotland

Soil is a fundamental resource for Scotland, underpinning our society, economy and environment and we were asked to explore the mechanisms currently in place for its management.

This project aimed to understand the extent of the different legislative and policy mechanisms for the conservation and management of soil in Scotland, and how they relate to key national institutions.

Key findings:

  • Policy relating to soil is wide-ranging and on multiple scales, and close reading of the original texts indicate key relationships between different instruments. However, we confirmed the existing understanding of no single policy designed specifically for the protection of soil.
  • Policy instruments can be categorised into three broad areas:
    • Regulatory – environmental protection and regulation
    • Framing – principles and standards
    • Enabling – shaping and encouraging direction of travel.
  • Soil protection and management is a feature of a range of policy areas, including environmental protection (such as habitat, biodiversity, landscape, heritage protection, etc.), water, climate change, pollution, waste, land use & planning and land ownership; it may not however be directly mentioned in the primary legislation, but in supporting ‘instruments’ for delivery.
  • It is clear that understanding of soil policy is held within the knowledge and experience of the responsible institutions, and the Scottish Government, although this is not well-documented.
  • Gaps arise in policies specifically focused on land – for example, the Land Rights and Responsibilities Statement, or planning policy and legislation in Scotland (e.g. Planning (Scotland) Bill); soil protection is an implicit rather than explicit outcome.

Read the Scottish Soil Framework