2 July 2012

Tackling a Knotty Problem

Scotland leads the way in battle against non-native plants and animals

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.”

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