State of Scotland’s environment outlined in new report

  05 June 2014
Issued on behalf of Scotland’s Environment Web Partnership

On the whole, Scotland’s environment is of good quality and there have been many significant improvements in recent years. However, the 2014 State of the Environment Report clearly shows that some habitats and species are under threat, and poor air quality continues to affect some people in our towns and cities.

That is the overall verdict from Scotland’s State of Environment Report published on Scotland’s Environment website today. The report has been written by some of the country’s leading environment and health agencies and provides a comprehensive, impartial assessment of Scotland’s environment and how it is changing, based on the latest data from a wide range of sources.
This is the first major update since The State of the Environment Report was last published in 2011.

The Report’s five main chapter areas are air, land, water, climate and people and the environment. For each topic the report assesses environmental conditions and changes, reasons for these and what is being done to solve any problems.

The report is published on World Environment Day (5 June 2014) as part of the re-launch of a new and improved Scotland’s Environment website - exciting changes have been made to the design and structure, with updated content, improved features and easy to use tools that help users to view, analyse and visualise data which help explain the State of Environment report’s findings.

Environment and Climate Change Minister Paul Wheelhouse said:

Scotland’s Environment Website is a powerful tool; providing a one stop opportunity to find out about our environment and the work the Scottish Government, agencies and a range of partners are doing. The state of the environment report highlights the continued importance of this work to protect and promote the environment and I would encourage people to engage with the recently expanded and updated website to understand Scotland’s environmental issues and how we can all contribute."

David Pirie, Executive Director from the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA) said:

I am very pleased that overall, the State of the Environment Report paints a positive picture for Scotland, highlighting that our environment is generally of good quality. We can’t afford to be complacent; however, as the Report does also show that there remain challenges such as localised air pollution and threats to some habitats and wildlife. Scotland’s environment is a rich resource relied on by all of us and enjoyed by many. But we must use that resource responsibly.

“The challenge is to achieve a sustainable balance between short-term needs and maintaining or improving the quality of our environment for future generations. In particular, the report shows that we need to reduce the environmental impacts created by our demand for goods and services. This is complex, and will only be solved by public bodies, businesses, non-governmental organisations, research and academic bodies agencies and the public working together to protect the many and varied benefits a healthy environment brings.”

Derek Robertson, Chief Executive at independent environmental charity Keep Scotland Beautiful said:

Keep Scotland Beautiful welcomes the launch of the new-look Scotland’s Environment Web, which offers fantastic access to environmental information and action which is useful for all of our supporters in community organisations, schools, the public sector and in business.”

Dr Ron MacDonald, Director of Policy and Advice at Scottish Natural Heritage, said:

In just two or three years, Scotland’s Environment website has grown into a lively and innovative source of information on Scotland’s environment. Reporting electronically on the state of the environment enables the most up-to-date information to be accessed throughout the globe – a fast and environmentally appropriate way of disseminating information.

“The website puts Scotland at the forefront of innovation in mapping and analysis, bringing environmental information to life, so that even the most complex data can be viewed and understood at a glance. And it’s not just for the experts – the website enables everyone to get informed and get involved. This latest stage in the development of Scotland’s Environment website marks a huge advance and, the great thing is that we can expect even better things in future as it continues to develop.”

A summary of each key area within the State of the Environment Report can be found below:


Scotland’s State of Environment Report 2014 emphasises that the world’s climate is changing at an unprecedented rate.

Over the last century, Scotland’s climate has become warmer, while changes in rainfall patterns have led to drier summers and wetter winters. We have also seen more frequent heavy rainfall events.

The Report emphasises the importance of achieving targets set by the Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland by 80 per cent of 1990 levels by 2050.

Reducing our emissions and adapting to a changing climate will require adjustments for everyone – our industries as well as ourselves. Some of these will need to be big; for example, changing the way our electricity is generated, whereas others will be small, such as being more careful in using energy in our homes or the decisions we make about transport.

For more information on Scotland’s climate:

Air quality

Scotland’s State of Environment Report 2014 highlights that the quality of Scotland's air has improved considerably since the 1950s, and in general it is now cleaner than at any time since the Industrial Revolution.

The report emphasises that concentrations of some pollutants have been reduced significantly through tighter controls on emissions, resulting in the majority of pollutants being well below limits set for protecting human health and the environment.

However, the report does indicate that there are still some areas of towns and cities where air quality is of concern and there is still work to be done in addressing air pollution from energy production, industry, agriculture and, in particular, transport. Effective transport policies, therefore, are highlighted as vital as part of the various policy and legislative measures that aim to reduce air pollution.

For more information on Scotland’s air quality:


Scotland’s land is a fundamental asset. We grow food and timber on it; we build our houses and roads over it; much of our water filters through and is purified by it; it stores carbon; and it supports a range of habitats and species, some of which are internationally important.  Wetlands are found all over the country, with around 1,600 million tonnes of carbon stored in their peat soil.

Most of our land is used for more than one purpose. For example, 80% of our land is used for agriculture, but some of this land is rough grazing, which may also support deer and grouse populations and contain areas of water.

Almost all of our land has been shaped by human activity, over many centuries.

For more information on Scotland’s land:


Scotland has around 19,000 km of coastline, which makes up 8 per cent of Europe's coast, and the area from the coast to our‘Exclusive Economic zone’ (460 km2) is around six times the size of the country’s land area. Covering about 2% of Scotland's land area, our rivers and lochs contain 90 per cent of the UK’s surface freshwater.

Scotland’s State of Environment Report 2014 concludes that the states of Scotland’s freshwaters are generally good and that its seas are biologically diverse and relatively unpolluted.

There has been a significant reduction in pollution over the last 25 years with historic pollution problems largely addressed. Most of Scotland’s seas, coasts and estuaries are in good or excellent condition.

There are, however, localised areas of concern including some habitats within Scottish inshore waters which are in a stable or declining condition. Most areas have some species (for example, harbour seals, some species of sharks and rays) that are declining to the point that it is now of concern.

Almost two-thirds of lochs and just over half of rivers were reported as in good or better condition. While the wildlife of rivers and lochs was considered to be in good condition, a number of individual species (for example, water voles) are declining.

The report highlights the importance of delivering management practices as encouraged by The National Marine Plan and River Basin Management Plans.

For more information on Scotland’s water:

People and the environment

Almost 70 per cent of Scotland’s people live in urban areas and the majority rate their neighbourhood as a very good place to live. However, health inequalities in Scotland are stark, and improving the quality of the environment will help to reduce these inequalities.

The report indicates that progress is being made to reduce waste and increase recycling with household waste recycling having doubled since 2004 and the overall amount of waste produced having reduced by 40 per cent since 2005, the latter mainly due to reductions in industrial and commercial waste. Further progress, however, needs to be made in reducing waste and the volume of waste sent to landfill.

For more information on Scotland’s people and the environment:



Notes to editors

Scotland’s State of Environment Report 2014

Scotland’s State of Environment Report 2014 has been produced by Scotland’s Environment Website Partnership which comprises representatives from Scottish Government, local government, public organisations, NGOs, universities and research institutes. The partnership includes the British Geological Survey, The Conservation Volunteers, Forestry Commission Scotland, Health Protection Scotland, Historic Scotland, James Hutton Institute, Keep Scotland Beautiful, Marine Scotland, NHS Scotland, Scottish Environment Protection Agency and Scottish Natural Heritage. In addition, a range of contributing organisations are involved in providing information and supporting the website.

An editorial group and more than 90 contributors, specialists in each topic, were drawn from these organisations. The editorial group steered the production of the report, and aimed for the report to be impartial, trustworthy, evidence driven, engaging, accessible and open to challenge.

A summary assessment of the condition and trend within each topic area has been provided based on a consensus from the specialists who took part. The level of agreement between the specialists is indicated (i.e. high, medium or low agreement) as is the quality of evidence on which their conclusions are based (i.e. high, medium or low quality).

You can download pdf versions of the 2014 State of the Environment Report at

Scotland’s Environment Web

SEPA manages the Scotland's Environment Web project on behalf of a partnership of key environmental organisations in Scotland. 

Scotland’s Environment website, which offers a range of benefits to both the general public and environmental experts by providing:

  • A trusted source of data and information on Scotland’s environment.
  • A gateway to help search, find and access data and information, avoiding the need to search multiple different web sites.
  • Users will get a single and authoritative view of Scotland’s environment in the one place –with the ability to view, analyse and interpret multiple data sets, published by a range of different organisations.
  • The ability to search and view environmental data at different scales – from the whole of Scotland right down to your local authority area and postcode.

SEPA has received funding support from the European Commission LIFE+ funding programme to support the delivery of a range of multi-agency collaborative initiatives that will provide a trusted gateway to data and information about the environment, and involve Scotland's Citizens in discussion, monitoring and action to protect and improve the environment.

More information on Scotland’s Environment Web partners -

European Commission LIFE+ funding programme

The LIFE programme is the European Union's funding instrument for the environment, which contributes to the implementation, updating and development of EU environmental policy and legislation.

For further information about the Scotland's Environment Web LIFE funded project -

United Nations World Environment Day

World Environment Day on 5June is organised by the United Nations to stimulate worldwide awareness of environmental issues and encourage action.

More information on World Environment Day can be found here -