1.1. Our distinctive plants and animals are part of Scotland's character and underpin many of our lives and livelihoods. Increasingly, we value the role that nature plays in supporting our lives. From fungi breaking down organic matter to red kites supporting a growing wildlife tourism industry, our lives depend on nature and the services it provides.
1.2. These plants and animals, and the habitats within which they live, have developed over thousands of years. Today, they are under pressure from development, changing climate, pollution and land management practices. A further threat comes from the release of non-native animals and plants; the impacts they can have are described later in the document.
The Code of Practice
1.3. The legislation in Scotland which governs invasive and non-native species has recently been updated and amended. The aim of this Code is to help people who manage land containing non-native plants and animals or are involved in the keeping of non-native plants and animals to understand their legal responsibilities. It is not however a replacement for legal advice where appropriate. Those parts of the code that outline legal requirements are highlighted in red text.
1.4. The Code is relevant to a wide range of people, including farmers, landowners, crofters, managers of amenity land and burial grounds, gardeners and keepers of pets and other animals. It is also aimed at businesses, particularly those involved in horticulture, fishing, construction and transport, and public bodies.
1.5. This Code sets out how you can play your part in preventing non-native species from being released into the wild. It describes where plants and animals from other parts of the world can be kept as pets and farm animals or grown as garden plants and crops. The Code also defines (in chapter 5) what is meant by "in the wild"; this is the area where these non-native plants and animals should not be allowed to establish and create problems.
1.6. The Code sets out guidance on how you can act responsibly within the law to ensure that non-native species under your ownership, care and management do not cause harm to our environment. The release of any non-native animal, or the planting of any non-native plant in the wild, is an offence (unless permitted under the Act). Guidance on how to find out if any plant or animal is a native species, and whether your location lies in part of the native range of that species, can also be found in the Code.
The status of the Code
1.7. [This Code has been approved by Ministers. It has been issued by the Scottish Government under section 14C of the Wildlife and Countryside 1981 Act (the 1981 Act) 1. This Code of Practice comes into effect on x and applies in Scotland only.]
1.8. Failure to comply with the Code is not, of itself, an offence. However, whether or not a person complied with this Code could be used in court as evidence by either the prosecution or the defence if a prosecution is taken.
Some key terms
1.9. The 1981 Act controls "types" of animals or plants. Some provisions relate to animals and plants outwith their native range, some relate to invasive plants and animals, and some relate to native animals for the purpose of conserving native populations. These terms are explained below. The legal definitions for "native range" and "invasive" are found in sections 14P(2) and 14P(3) of the 1981 Act respectively.
- Animal. This term includes mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, invertebrates and zooplankton. This includes the semen or ova of an animal.
- Plant. This term includes marine plants, higher (vascular) and lower plants (including trees), and macro algae, fungi, and lichen. This includes any propagule of a species encompassed in that definition, including (but not limited to) the bulb, corm, rhizome, seed or spore of a plant 2.
- Native range. This is the location in which an animal or plant (or type of animal or plant) is indigenous - where it occurs naturally. Chapter 3 describes this term in more detail and provides the legal definition.
- Non-native. Animals and plants that have been moved to a location by human action, whether intentionally or not, are considered to be outwith their native range. The terms "native" and "non-native" are used in this Code to describe plants and animals that are within or outwith their native range. The term is explained more fully in Chapter 2.
- Invasive non-native species. These are animals and plants which, if not under control of any person, would be likely to have a significant adverse impact on biodiversity, other environmental interests or social or economic interests. This definition is broadly the same as defined by the GB Strategy and by the Convention on Biological Diversity.
- Translocated native species. This term applies to species that are native to a part of the British Isles or to parts of Scotland but are not native to the area which they have been moved to by human action. These can be just as damaging as species from another country when they are moved into areas that they are not native to. They are therefore also considered to be non-native species.
1.10. The definitions of "animal" and "plant" in the 1981 Act do not include smaller organisms such as bacteria and viruses. The risks posed by such organisms are generally considered in terms of their ability to cause disease in plants or animals. Separate plant health and animal health legislation is in place to manage disease risks, and therefore they are not addressed by the 1981 Act. There is some overlap in the legislation in relation to invasive non-native invertebrate species, which may also be regarded as pests.