Scottish Natural Heritage

Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH; Scottish Gaelic: Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba) is the public body responsible for Scotland's natural heritage, especially its natural, genetic and scenic diversity. It advises the Scottish Government and acts as a government agent in the delivery of conservation designations, i.e. national nature reserves, local nature reserves, long distance routes, national parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and the national scenic area.

SNH is also a member of SEARS (Scotland's Environmental and Rural Services). The body has offices in most parts of Scotland including the main islands. The protected areas in Scotland account for 20% of the total area, SSSIs alone 13%. SNH receives annual funding from the Government in the form of Grant in Aid to deliver Government priorities for the natural heritage. SNH programmes and priorities have a strong focus on helping to deliver the Scottish Government's National Outcomes and Targets which comprise the National Performance Framework.

The Government's adviser on all aspects of nature, wildlife management and landscape across Scotland, SNH also helps the Scottish Government meet its responsibilities under European environmental laws, particularly in relation to the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives. The agency currently employs in the region of 680 people, but much of SNH's work is carried out in partnership with others including local authorities, Government bodies, voluntary environmental bodies, community groups, farmers and land managers. SNH works closely with the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the equivalent bodies for England, Wales, and Northern Ireland to ensure a consistent approach to nature conservation throughout the United Kingdom and towards fulfilling its international obligations.

Scottish Natural Heritage
Scottish Natural Heritage logo
MottoAll of nature for all of Scotland
Legal statusExecutive non-departmental public body of the Scottish Government
HeadquartersInverness, Scotland
  • Scotland
Chief Executive
Francesca Osowska
Budget (2015)
£53 million
Staff (2015)

Roles and responsibilities

The general aims of SNH as established in the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991 are to:[1]

  • Secure the conservation and enhancement of Scotland's natural heritage;
  • Foster understanding and facilitate the enjoyment of Scotland's natural heritage;

For the purposes of the Act, Scotland's natural heritage is defined as the flora and fauna of Scotland, its geological and physiographical features and its natural beauty and amenity. Specific responsibilities of SNH include:

  • Providing advice to the Scottish government on the development and implementation of policies relevant to the natural heritage of Scotland;
  • Disseminating information and advice relating to the natural heritage of Scotland to the public;
  • Carrying out and commissioning research relating to the natural heritage of Scotland;
  • Establishing, maintaining and managing designated areas of conservation in Scotland;

Protected areas

Caerlaverock SNH
Caerlaverock is a National Nature Reserve managed by SNH

SNH has responsibility for the delivery of conservation designations in Scotland, i.e. national nature reserves, local nature reserves, long distance routes, national parks, Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs), Special Areas of Conservation, Special Protection Areas and the national scenic area. The conservation designations overlap considerably with many protected areas covered by multiple designations.

National nature reserves

National nature reserves (NNRs) are areas of land or water designated under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 to contain habitats and species of national importance. NNRs can be owned by public, private, community or voluntary organisations but must be managed to conserve their important habitats and species, as well as providing opportunities for the public to enjoy and engage with nature. There are currently 43 NNRs in Scotland, which cover 154,250 hectares (1,542.5 km2).[2]

SNH is responsible for designating NNRs in Scotland and for overseeing their maintenance and management. The majority of NNRs are directly managed by SNH; however, some are managed by, or in co-operation with other bodies, including the National Trust for Scotland (7 NNRs), Forestry and Land Scotland (5 NNRs), the RSPB (5 NNRs), the Scottish Wildlife Trust (1 NNR), South Lanarkshire Council (1 NNR), and the Woodland Trust (1 NNR).[2]

All NNRs in Scotland are also designated as Sites of Special Scientific Interest. Many also form part of the Natura 2000 network, which covers Special Protection Areas and Special Areas of Conservation. Additionally, some of the NNRs are designated as Ramsar sites.[2]

National scenic areas

There are 40 national scenic areas (NSAs) in Scotland, covering 13% of the land area of Scotland. The 40 NSAs were originally identified in 1978 by the Countryside Commission for Scotland in 1978 as areas of "national scenic significance... of unsurpassed attractiveness which must be conserved as part of our national heritage".[3]

Protected species

Red deer stag 2009 denmark
SNH issues licences to cull Red deer following its merger with the Deer Commission for Scotland

Vulnerable plant and animal species in Scotland are protected under various legislation. In many cases it is an offence to kill or capture members of a protected animal species, or to uproot plants. SNH's primary role in regard to protected species is to license activities that would otherwise be an offence.[4]


SNH is governed by the SNH board. As of April 2016, the board is made up of seven members and is chaired by Mike Cantlay. Board members are appointed by Scottish Government ministers for an initial term of 3 years and normally serve a maximum of two terms. The primary roles of the SNH board are to determine the objectives, strategies and policies of SNH in respect to its statutory obligations and guidance from the Scottish Government.

Day-to-day operations of SNH are led by its management team consisting of a chief executive appointed by the board and three directors covering Policy and Advice, Operations and Corporate Services. The current chief executive is Francesca Osowska.

Supporting the Board are a Scientific Advisory Committee (SAC), a Protected Areas Committee (PAC) and an Audit & Risk Management Committee (ARMC). Members of these Committees are appointed by the SNH Board. There are sessions at meetings of the SNH Board, the SAC and the PAC which are open to the public to attend as observers.


SNH was formed in 1992 from the amalgamation of the Nature Conservancy Council for Scotland and the Countryside Commission for Scotland to “secure the conservation and enhancement of, and to foster understanding and facilitate the enjoyment of the natural heritage of Scotland”.[1]

In March 2003, Scottish Ministers announced their decision to transfer SNH's headquarters from Edinburgh to Inverness, with around 270 jobs to be transferred.[5] Prior to the move, relocation costs were variously estimated at between £22 million and £40 million.[6] The decision to transfer SNH's headquarters was heavily criticized by MSPs, unions, Edinburgh civic leaders and staff.[7] Criticism focused on the cost of the move, the disruption to staff and the risk of compromising the effectiveness of SNH's work. Up to 75% of headquarters staff were reported to be against the move.[7] Relocation took place between 2003 and 2006, many staff left at this point as they did not wish to, or were unable to transfer location.

In 2006, SNH headquarters staff moved into Great Glen House, a £15 million purpose-built headquarters building in Inverness. Great Glen House was built by Robertson Property, working with Keppie Design. As part of the tendering process, SNH set seven environmental and sustainability criteria for the design including achieving an 'Excellent' rating under the BREEAM system. The final design met all criteria and achieved the highest ever BREEAM rating for a public building in the UK.[8]

On 1 August 2010, the functions of the Deer Commission for Scotland were transferred to SNH by section 1 of the Public Services (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2010 and the Commission was dissolved.[9][10]

See also


  1. ^ a b "Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991". 1991. Retrieved 17 April 2016.
  2. ^ a b c "About NNRs". Scottish Natural Heritage. Retrieved 14 May 2018.
  3. ^ "Scotland's Scenic Heritage" (PDF). Countryside Commission for Scotland. April 1978. Archived from the original (PDF) on 13 October 2012.
  4. ^ "Species licensing - Scottish Natural Heritage". Retrieved 23 April 2016.
  5. ^ "Scottish Natural Heritage HQ will move to Inverness". Herald Scotland. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  6. ^ "SNH staff move 'could top £40m'". BBC. 16 October 2003. Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  7. ^ a b "Inverness ready for Scottish Natural Heritage's First Fifteen". Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  8. ^ "About SNH - Press Releases". Retrieved 19 April 2016.
  9. ^ Section 1 of the 2010 Act on the Statute Law Database
  10. ^ The Public Services (Reform) (Scotland) Act 2010 (Commencement No.1) Order 2010 (SSI 2010/221)

External links

Beinn Eighe

Beinn Eighe is a complex mountain massif in the Torridon area of Wester Ross in the Highlands of Scotland. Lying to the south of Loch Maree, it forms a long ridge with many spurs and summits, two of which are classified as Munros. The name Beinn Eighe comes from the Scottish Gaelic meaning File Mountain. Unlike most other hills in the area it has a cap of Cambrian basal quartzite which gives the peaks of Beinn Eighe a distinctive light colour. Its complex topography has made it popular with both hillwalkers and climbers and the national nature reserve on its northern side makes it an accessible mountain for all visitors.

Ben Wyvis

Ben Wyvis (Scottish Gaelic: Beinn Uais, meaning "hill of terror") is a mountain located in Easter Ross, north-west of Dingwall in northern Scotland. It lies in the council area of Highland, and the county of Ross and Cromarty. The mountain is prominent in views of the area, presenting a whale-back shape above the farmland of Strathconon. Geologically, the ridge is composed of Moine pelitic gneiss.

It forms an undulating ridge running roughly north-south for about 5 km, the highest summit of which is Glas Leathad Mòr. To the south lies the Corbett of Little Wyvis, which is separated from Ben Wyvis by the Bealach Mòr. The A835 road between Dingwall and Ullapool runs to the west and south of these mountains, whilst the Kyle of Lochalsh railway line passes to the south, following a route between Dingwall and Kyle of Lochalsh. Loch Glass lies to the northeast, whilst the land to the northwest is mountainous and largely uninhabited, and crossed by no roads until the A837, some 30 km to the north.Ben Wyvis is an important habitat for several species of plants and birds, and is designated as a National Nature Reserve (NNR), a Special Protection Area (SPA), a Special Area of Conservation (SAC), and a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Of particular importance is the woolly hair-moss that covers the summit plateau. This springy moss provides ideal nesting territory for dotterel that breed here each summer: Ben Wyvis represents at least 2.4% of the breeding population in Great Britain.

Blawhorn Moss

Blawhorn Moss is a raised bog located to the northwest of the village of Blackridge, about 6 kilometres (3.7 mi) west of Armadale in the council area of West Lothian in central Scotland. A large part of Blawhorn Moss, extending to around 69 hectares, has been managed as a National Nature Reserve by SNH since 1980. In 2001, SNH purchased a further 40 hectares, which was declared as an extension to the existing National Nature Reserve in 2008. It is the largest and least disturbed raised bog in the Lothians.The NNR is classified as a Category IV protected area by the International Union for Conservation of Nature, and is also designated as both a Special Area of Conservation and a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The reserve is owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH).

Caerlaverock National Nature Reserve

Caerlaverock is a national nature reserve (NNR) covering parts of the mudflats and shoreline of the Solway Firth about 10 km south of Dumfries, in Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. It lies between the River Nith and the Lochar Water, and consists of a variety of wetland habitats including bare mud and sand, merse and marshes, and is fringed by neutral grassland on the landward side. A nature reserve was designated in 1957 at the instigation of the Duke of Norfolk. The NNR covers an area of 82 square kilometres (32 sq mi) and is an internationally important wintering site for waterfowl and wading birds.

The NNR is now managed by Scottish Natural Heritage, but remains under private ownership, being managed by SNH under lease agreements. As much of the reserve is intertidal, Crown Estate Scotland are one of the major landowners. Management of the site seeks to balance the human activities (fishing, wildfowling and farming interests) with those of nature.

Cairngorms National Park

Cairngorms National Park (Scottish Gaelic Pàirc Nàiseanta a' Mhonaidh Ruaidh) is a national park in north east Scotland, established in 2003. It was the second of two national parks established by the Scottish Parliament, after Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park, set up in 2002. The park covers the Cairngorms range of mountains, and surrounding hills. Already the largest national park in the British Isles, in 2010 it expanded into Perth and Kinross.As of 2018 it was estimated that the national park received 1.8 million visitors each year. The majority of visitors are domestic, with 25 % coming from elsewhere in the UK, and 21 % being from other countries.

Corrie Fee

Corrie Fee is a glacier-carved corrie situated at the head of Glen Clova in the Angus Glens of Scotland. It forms part of Corrie Fee National Nature Reserve (NNR), which is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and lies within the Cairngorms National Park. The adjoining Corrie Sharroch and the slopes of Craig Rennet are also included in the NNR.The corrie is considered to be one of the finest examples of a glacial corrie in the British Isles, with its steep cliffs forming a natural amphitheatre. The wider reserve hosts many rare arctic-alpine plants, including the largest area of montane willow scrub in Scotland, which is found at Corrie Sharroch. The importance of the area's flora has been recognised by botanists since the 18th Century, and the site is now protected by numerous national and international conservation designations.

Dornoch Firth

The Dornoch Firth (Scottish Gaelic: Caolas Dhòrnaich, pronounced [ˈkɯːl̪ˠəs̪ ˈɣɔːrˠn̪ˠɪç]) is a firth on the east coast of Highland, in northern Scotland. It forms part of the boundary between Ross and Cromarty, to the south, and Sutherland, to the north. The firth is designated as a national scenic area, one of 40 such areas in Scotland. The national scenic area covers 15,782 ha in total, of which 4,240 ha is the marine area of the firth below low tide. A review of the national scenic areas by Scottish Natural Heritage in 2010 commented:

By comparison with other east coast firths the Dornoch Firth is narrow and sinuous, yet it

exhibits within its compass a surprising variety of landscapes. It is enclosed by abrupt rounded granitic hills clad in heather moor and scree, their Gaelic names of cnoc, meall and creag giving the clue to their character. Their lower slopes are frequently wooded, oakwoods being a noticeable feature of the area, but with other deciduous and coniferous species represented in plantations which vary from the policy plantings of Skibo Castle to the pines of the Struie Forest.

Together with Loch Fleet it is a designated as a Special Protection Area (SPA) for wildlife conservation purposes. Additionally, together with Morrich More, it has the designation of Special Area of Conservation (SAC).The total SPA hosts significant populations of the following birds:

Breeding season: osprey (Pandion haliaetus)

Overwintering: bar-tailed godwit (Limosa lapponica), greylag goose (Anser anser), wigeon (Anas penelope), curlew (Numenius arquata), dunlin (Calidris alpina alpina), oystercatcher (Haematopus ostralegus), and teal (Anas crecca).The SAC protects a variety of habitats, including salt meadows and coastal dune heathland and grassland. The site is of importance for otters (Lutra lutra) and harbour seals (Phoca vitulina)

Flanders Moss

Flanders Moss (Scottish Gaelic: A’ Mhòine Fhlànrasach) is an area of raised bog lying in the Carse of Forth in west Stirlingshire, Scotland. The villages of Thornhill and Port of Menteith lie to the north with the villages of Kippen and Buchlyvie lying to the south. The moss is a National Nature Reserve, managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. Formed on the Carse of Stirling over 8000 years ago, it is an internationally important habitat currently undergoing active restoration.

The eastern part of Flanders Moss is the largest raised bog in Europe to remain in a predominantly near-natural state.As well as being an important habitat for wildlife, Flanders Moss also plays a key role for carbon sequestration acting as a carbon sink.

Forvie National Nature Reserve

The Forvie National Nature Reserve is a national nature reserve that is owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage. It located is north of Newburgh in Aberdeenshire, in the northeast of Scotland. The reserve includes the Sands of Forvie, which are the fifth largest sand dune system in Britain, and the least disturbed by human activity. The dune system is an integral part of the Ythan Estuary, which also forms part of the reserve, and separates the sands from Balmedie beach.

The reserve contains the largest breeding colony of eider duck in Britain, and an internationally important ternery. Off the coast there are commons seals and harbour porpoises.The area is designated as a both a Special Protection Area and a Special Area of Conservation under the Natura 2000 scheme, as well as being a Site of Special Scientific Interest. The site is designated a Category II protected area by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. The reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage.

The sands were the site of the village of Forvie that was abandoned due to drifting sands.

Geopark Shetland

Geopark Shetland is the name used by the Geopark formally established in September 2009 on its entry into the European Geoparks Network. The Geopark extends across the entire Shetland archipelago off the north coast of mainland Scotland. It is administered by the Shetland Amenity Trust in partnership with organisations such as Scottish Natural Heritage, the Shetland Islands Council, Highlands and Islands Enterprise and various community and tourism associations.

Glasdrum Wood National Nature Reserve

Glasdrum Wood (Scottish Gaelic: Coille a’ Ghlasdroma) is national nature reserve (NNR) at the head of Loch Creran in Argyll and Bute on the west coast of Scotland. Managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), the wood is renowned for its diverse flora and fauna, including sessile oak and ash trees, mosses, liverworts and rare invertebrates, like the chequered skipper butterfly. The NNR covers an area of around 169 hectares, encompassing woodland and hillside on the lower slopes of Beinn Churlain. SNH have provided a carpark, and constructed a 1 km-long waymarked trail for visitors. Since 2004 the reserve has received approximately 2800 visitors each year.

Glen Affric

Glen Affric (Scottish Gaelic: Gleann Afraig) is a glen south-west of the village of Cannich in the Highland region of Scotland, some 15 miles (24 km) to the west of Loch Ness. The River Affric runs along its length, passing through Loch Affric and Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin. A minor public road reaches as far as the end of Loch Beinn a' Mheadhoin, but beyond that point only rough tracks and footpaths continue along the glen.Often described as the most beautiful glen in Scotland, Glen Affric contains the third largest area of ancient Caledonian pinewoods in Scotland, as well as lochs, moorland and mountains.

The area is a Caledonian Forest Reserve, a national scenic area and a national nature reserve, as well as holding several other conservation designations.The forests and open landscapes of the glen, and the mountains on either side, are a popular destination for hikers, climbers and mountain bikers.


Hermaness is the northernmost headland of Unst, the most northerly inhabited island of Shetland, Scotland. It consists of huge sea cliffs and moorland, making it an ideal habitat for a variety of birds. Hermaness was designated a national nature reserve (NNR) in 1955. The NNR extends over 965 hectares, including the whole of the Hermaness peninsula and the outlying Muckle Flugga and Out Stack. The reserve includes a visitor centre at Burrafirth, in the old lighthouse shore station, as well as a boardwalk that extends out onto the moorland. The reserve is managed by Scottish Natural Heritage, though it remains in private ownership, with most being owned by the Buness Estate, although the stacks and skerries around Muckle Flugga are owned by the Northern Lighthouse Board.Hermaness is renowned for its internationally important seabird colonies, including the world's third largest great skua colony, fulmars, gannets, shags, puffins and guillemots. The blanket bog further inland also provides a good habitat for breeding waders, such as golden plover, dunlin and snipe.Hermaness is said to have once been home to a giant named Herman who fought with another giant, named Saxa, over a mermaid. During the fight the two giants threw rocks at each other, and the legend claims that this is the origin of the rocks and stacks that surround the headland.

National Trails

National Trails are long distance footpaths and bridleways in England and Wales. They are administered by Natural England, a statutory agency of the UK government, and Natural Resources Wales (successor body to the Countryside Council for Wales), a Welsh Government-sponsored body.

National Trails are marked with an acorn symbol along the route.

In Scotland, the equivalent trails are called Scotland's Great Trails and are administered by Scottish Natural Heritage.

Protected areas of Scotland

Many parts of Scotland are protected in accordance with a number of national and international designations because of their environmental, historical or cultural value. Protected areas can be divided according to the type of resource which each seeks to protect. Scottish Natural Heritage has various roles in the delivery of many environmental designations in Scotland, i.e. those aimed at protecting flora and fauna, scenic qualities and geological features. Historic Environment Scotland is responsible for designations that protect sites of historic and cultural importance. Some international designations, such as World Heritage Sites, can cover both categories of site.The various designations overlap considerably with many protected areas being covered by multiple designations with different boundaries.

Small Isles

The Small Isles (Scottish Gaelic: Na h-Eileanan Tarsainn) are a small archipelago of islands in the Inner Hebrides, off the west coast of Scotland. They lie south of Skye and north of Mull and Ardnamurchan – the most westerly point of mainland Scotland.

The islands form part of the Lochaber area of the Highland council area. Until 1891 Canna, Rùm and Muck were historically part of the shire of Argyll; Eigg was historically part of Inverness-shire. All of the Small Isles were in Inverness-shire between 1891 and 1975, and remain part of the registration county of Inverness for land registration and statistical purposes. A single community council covers the islands.The islands and surrounding sea area together form the Small Isles National Scenic Area, one of the forty such areas in Scotland, which are defined so as to identify areas of exceptional scenery and to ensure its protection from inappropriate development. The designated area covers 47,235 ha in total, of which 16,271 ha is on land, with a further 30,964 ha being marine (i.e. below low tide level).

St Abb's Head

St Abb's Head is a rocky promontory by the village of St Abbs in Berwickshire, Scotland, and a national nature reserve administered by the National Trust for Scotland. St Abb's Head Lighthouse was designed and built by the brothers David Stevenson and Thomas Stevenson and began service on 24 February 1862.

Taynish National Nature Reserve

Taynish National Nature Reserve (Scottish Gaelic: Tèarmann Nàdair

Nàiseanta Taighnis) is situated southwest of the village of Tayvallich in the council area of Argyll and Bute on the west coast of Scotland. The reserve encompasses almost all of the Taynish peninsula, which is around 5 km long and 1 km wide. The woodlands at Taynish are often described as a 'temperate rainforest', benefiting from the mild and moist climate brought about by the Gulf Stream. Taynish is owned and managed by Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and was declared a national nature reserve (NNR) in 1977. The reserve was formerly also a biosphere reserve, but this status was withdrawn in 2014.SNH provide a carpark and three waymarked trails for visitors, the Barr Mòr Trail, Woodland Trail and the Coastal Trail. SNH estimate that around 9500 people visit the reserve each year.

West Highland Way

The West Highland Way (Scottish Gaelic: Slighe na Gàidhealtachd an Iar) is a linear long distance footpath in Scotland. It is 154 km (96 miles) long, running from Milngavie north of Glasgow to Fort William in the Scottish Highlands, with an element of hill walking in the route. The trail, which opened in 1980, was Scotland's first officially designated Long Distance Route, and is now designated by Scottish Natural Heritage as one of Scotland's Great Trails. It is primarily intended as a long distance walking route, and whilst many sections are suitable for mountain biking and horseriding there are obstacles and surfaces that will require these users to dismount in places.It is managed by the West Highland Way Management Group (WHWMG) consisting of the local authorities for East Dunbartonshire, Stirling, Argyll and Bute and Highland, alongside the Loch Lomond and The Trossachs National Park Authority and Scottish Natural Heritage. About 120,000 people use the path every year, of whom about 36,000 walk the entire route. The path is estimated to generate £5.5 million each year for the local economy.Notable wildlife that may be seen includes feral goats (descendants of those left from the Highland Clearances), red deer, and around the peaks sometimes golden eagles.

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