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Legal framework

Most of Scotland’s protected animals and plants are protected under two main pieces of legislation.

In many cases, it’s an offence to kill or capture animals, including birds, or to uproot plants. The law also protects some wild animals from disturbance or harassment, or disturbance of their breeding sites or resting places. It is also against the law to pick some plants.

You can explore our summary of wildlife law in Scotland in this guide. Or view our summaries of the offences in relation to each protected species. For the definitive list of offences, you should consult the actual legislation.

For most species, the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 or the Habitats Directive and Habitats Regulations apply.

The Offshore Marine Regulations 2007 apply more than 12 nautical miles from land.

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Read about: Scotland’s Wildlife: The Law and You