Scottish Natural Heritage
Dualchas Nàdair na h-Alba

About SNH

What does Scottish Natural Heritage do?

What is Scottish Natural Heritage?
What is the natural heritage?
Why is the natural heritage important?
Our starting point: statutory duties and Ministerial priorities

What is Scottish Natural Heritage?

The natural heritage is one of Scotland’s biggest assets. The role of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) is to look after the natural heritage, help people to enjoy and value it, and encourage people to use it sustainably.

SNH was established in 1992 through the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991.SNH is a Government body responsible to Scottish Government Ministers and through them to the Scottish Parliament.

Much of our work is done in partnership with others – local authorities, Government bodies, businesses, community groups, farmers and other land managers, and a wide range of representative bodies.

We work nationally and locally through a number of “units”, with much of our day-to-day work being done through 11 Area teams.  We have offices throughout Scotland.

Our priorities are set out in a corporate strategy, which is currently under review. In working for people and the natural heritage, we develop policy, provide grants, carry out research, provide advice and information, handle a wide range of casework, look after designated sites, produce publications, provide licences and support interpretation.

We also help to implement a number of national strategies, such as the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy which is seeks to reverse biodiversity loss in Scotland.

What is the natural heritage?

Wildlife, habitats, rocks, landscapes and natural beauty make up the natural heritage of Scotland The natural heritage can be found throughout Scotland: from the parks and open spaces in our towns to the remote and wild areas of the Highlands and Islands and to the seas around our shores. It is a nationally and internationally renowned part of Scotland’s national identity. It contributes greatly to our well-being and quality of life.

Why is the natural heritage important?

Scotland’s natural heritage is unique and makes a big contribution to national and local character.The natural heritage has great intrinsic value, it enriches our lives, is a foundation for economic and social activity, and provides huge opportunities for leisure and learning.To continue doing this, the natural heritage needs to be looked after, improved and used sustainably.

The natural heritage is important for many reasons, including:

For further information contact 01738 458635

Our starting point: statutory duties and Ministerial priorities

SNHs work is mainly determined by a range of statutory duties and Ministers’ priorities. 

Our statutory purposes are set out in the Natural Heritage (Scotland) Act 1991.  They are to:

In carrying our work, when it is appropriate to do so, we have to consider:

We also have duties under other legislation, including the Wildlife & Countryside Act 1981, the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003 and the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004.  These duties include:

We also play a key role in helping the Scottish Government meet its responsibilities under European environmental laws, particularly in relation to the Habitats and Wild Birds Directives.

We also deliver a range of Ministerial priorities.  These are usually set out, each year, in a “grant-in-aid” letter from the Scottish Government. 

To fulfil our role, we act as an advisory body to Ministers, particularly in contributing to policy development, and more widely in providing strategic advice.  We also support delivery on the ground through practical action and influencing land management.

We regularly report to the Scottish Government on our progress in meeting a set of agreed high-level targets and in implementing our Corporate Plan. 

For further information contact
01463 725185


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