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Policies and Legislation

Interest in the Scottish soil resource is shared between farmers, foresters and urban soil users, and those who are responsible for management or regulation of the activities that impinge on it. Adderley et al. (2001) recommended SEERAD should appoint an Advisory Committee on Scottish Soils with members drawn from government bodies and soil scientists. Its main tasks would be to review available data and monitor soil.

A wide variety of legislation and guidelines directly and indirectly pertain to the management of soils in Scotland . In the rural setting these are principally concerned with the protection or conservation of other environmental elements such as water quality and natural heritage: The Control of Pollution Act 1974; The Food and Environmental Protection Act 1985; The Control of Pesticides Regulations 1986; The Plant Protection Products (Basic Conditions) Regulations 1997 and The Pesticides (Maximum Levels in Crops, Food and Feeding stuffs) (Scotland) Regulations 2000, all provide legislation on the use of pesticides on soil albeit within a set of wider environmental issues.

The Sludge (Use in Agriculture) Regulations 1989 and The Sludge (Use in Agriculture) (Amendment) Regulations 1990 establish maximum annual applications for metals contained in sludge and set maximum permitted metal concentrations in agricultural soil treated with sludge.

Soil protection is not specifically addressed by current environmental protection legislation (SEPA, 2001). However, many agri-environment schemes have soil protection implications. Under the Arable Area Payments Scheme set-aside is subject to different management regimes which may be beneficial to soil structure; under the LFA scheme, the switch from headage to area payments is likely to lessen erosion risk from livestock; Suckler Cow Premium and Sheep Annual Premium may have increased erosion risk due to overgrazing. (For other schemes see under subject, e.g. woodlands, OAS, RSS, SSSI etc) (Adderley et al., 2001). The definition of Good Agricultural and Environmental Condition (GAEC), for the purposes of cross-compliance for receiving the new Single Farm Payment, has a number of soil protection measures including erosion protection and organic matter. The EU Thematic Framework for Soil Protection has not been ratified and there is no legal requirement for Scotland to develop a Soil Protection Strategy although other parts of the UK have.

No single piece of Scottish legislation addresses the management and protection of soils alone. However, the quality of soil is directly and indirectly addressed by a wide variety of environmental guidelines and regulations.


  • Adderley, W.P.; Davidson, D.A.; Grieve, I.C.; Hopkins , D.W.; Salt , C.A. (2001): Issues associated with the development of a Soil Protection Strategy for Scotland . A report to Scottish Executive Environment & Rural Affairs Department; External Website
  • Dargie, T.C.D. and Briggs, D.J. (1991): State of the Scottish Environment 1991. Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link
  • Lilly , A.; Hudson, G.; Birnie, R.V and Horne, P.L. (2002): The inherent geomorphological risk of soil erosion by overland flow in Scotland . SNH, Research, Survey and Monitoring Report No. 183;
  • SEPA (2001): State of the Environment; Soil Quality Report; External Website
  • SEPA (2002): SEPA View, Farming Special, External Website
  • SNH (1995): The natural heritage of Scotland . SNH, Perth
  • Scottish Executive (2005): Prevention of Environmental Pollution from Agricultural Activity; A Code of Good Practice, Chapter 3: Soil Protection and Sustainability. External Website
  • The Macaulay Land Use Research Institute : Soils Database; Soil map of Scotland ; Explore Scotland

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