Tackling a Knotty problem
New legislation came into force today to protect Scotland’s biodiversity from the serious threat of invasive non-native species.
The control of non-native species – such as Japanese Knotweed and Signal Crayfish - is estimated to cost Scotland £244 million per year. Scotland is the first country in the UK to protect native species in this way.
The new legislation makes it an offence to:
- Release an animal, or allow it to escape, outwith its native range
- Plant a plant in the wild outwith its native range
- Intentionally or otherwise plant a plant in the wild or cause an animal to be outwith its native range
The changes in the law will not change everything to do with non-native species – pet owners can keep exotic pets responsibly and gardeners will still be able to plant species such as roses and sweet peas in their gardens.
Environment Minister Stewart Stevenson said:
“We have taken an internationally agreed approach to non-native species – based on prevention of introduction as we can’t always predict which species will become a problem – and have become the first country in the UK to translate this into law.
“I am not suggesting that we should be eradicating all the non-native species in Scotland –what these changes will do is help us to stop any further unwanted introductions of invasive species to Scotland. The clear message is – if in doubt, don’t plant and don’t release.”
The Scottish Government has produced a Code of Practice on Non-Native Species to help people understand their responsibilities when dealing with non-native species and to understand which public body has responsibility for which habitats.
Ron Macdonald, SNH’s Head of Policy and Advice, said:
“Non-native species are one of the biggest threats to Scotland’s spectacular native wildlife as well as costing our agriculture, forestry and tourism industries millions each year. These new laws are an important step forward in improving Scotland’s biosecurity and safeguarding our economy and natural environment for future generations.”
SEPA’s Chief Executive, Professor James Curran, also welcomed the new legislation. He said:
“This new regime will help SEPA to deliver the healthier rivers and lochs we all want by allowing us to work more effectively with partners to tackle the real threat to Scotland’s water environment from invasive non-native species, such as North American signal crayfish and Australian swamp stonecrop.”
Native Range - This is the range of locations to which an animal or plant is indigenous. This does not refer to any location to which it has been imported (whether intentionally of otherwise) by any person.
Non-native species legislation is contained in the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011. The new legislation comes into force today (July 2).
A report produced in 2010 “The Economic Cost of Invasive Non-Native Species on Great Britain” estimated that invasive non-native species cost Scotland over £244 million per year. http://bit.ly/GBCostNNS.
The Code of Practice on Non-Native Species can be found at http://bit.ly/ScotCodeNNS.
Marine Scotland, SNH, Forestry Commissioners and SEPA will take responsibility for the strategic approach to non-natives in the habitats that they commonly deal with. In addition, they are being given new powers to require land owners or occupiers to take action in relation to specified invasive species, powers which will be used as a measure of last resort if voluntary agreements fail.