View north west across the peatland lochs and machair of South Uist and Benbecula ©Lorne Gill/SNH. For information on reproduction rights contact the Scottish Natural Heritage Image Library on Tel. 01738 444177 or


Soil is a non-renewable natural resource that supports Scotland’s biodiversity, farming and forestry.

Soil performs many roles. But once built upon, it loses its ability to fulfil any other function in the environment.

Planners and developers should think about soil as a resource that supports many ecosystem services. It’s vital to consider the full range of threats to soils and the potential effects – both on-site and beyond – of any development.

To better understand the importance of soils in the wider environmental context, explore the planners and developers area on the Scotland’s soils website. The information here will also help you assess the impact of proposals on soils and on the environmental processes that soils control.

Find out about the likely presence of peatland in areas of Scotland using the Carbon and Peatland 2016 map.

Soils and nature conservation

Our approach to planning and development is that the planning system should seek to protect soils from damage, especially:

  • soils with high organic content
  • soil associated directly with a habitat or key geodiversity features
  • prime agricultural land

To find our more, download:

Explore some of Scotland's most valuable soils using the Scotland soil conservation resources.