Sustainable management and protection of soils is a priority for Scotland. Soils are a valuable but vulnerable natural asset and underpin environmental, economic, and social functions. The importance of soils is mirrored in the wide range of regulations, policy and guidance that have evolved over time.

This report updates the previous ClimateXChange Soil Governance in Scotland report (McKee 2018) to reflect changes in policy and legislation for the conservation and management of soil in Scotland, with extensions to consider soil carbon and biodiversity.

Key findings

  • Since 2018, 29 soil related policies have been updated or introduced across a range of legislative areas, including: agriculture; climate change; forestry; planning; diseases and pest control; plant health and genetically modified organisms.
  • Soil biodiversity is included in legislation either as a part of biodiversity as a whole or as a part of soil health.
  • Soil carbon is explicitly considered in relation to peat, most predominantly in Scotland’s National Peatland Plan. Soil carbon may also be considered within general climate change legislation, although is not explicitly mentioned.
  • There is no single policy for soil conservation and management.
  • No updates to policy regarding policy effectiveness have been made since the 2018 report, resulting in a continued a gap in soil monitoring for policy effectiveness.
  • Specific gaps can be identified in relation to
    • the role of protection and restoration of peat in climate change mitigation legislation, building on current inclusion in land use plans and legislation, and the Climate Change Plan;
    • the recognition of soil biodiversity as a part of biodiversity legislation; and
    • the explicit inclusion of wider soil carbon into land management and agricultural legislation.