Social and economic benefits of nature

Nature plays a major part in Scotland’s economic growth and quality of life. It supports sustainable tourism, the food and drink sector, aquaculture and more

Nature is essential for human life. Nature provides us with water, clean air and food, and raw materials for medicines, industry and buildings. Our crops rely on insect pollination and the complex biological processes that create soil. Enjoying parks, landscapes and wildlife improves our health and well-being.

If we’re to continue to reap these economic and social rewards, it’s vital that we look after the natural environment as an investment for the future.

Industries reliant on nature

Sustainable tourism is one of seven growth industries in Scotland – it brings in more than £4 billion each year. Tourists consistently say that our landscapes, wildlife and outdoor activities are the top reasons they visit the country

The food and drink sector is worth more than £14 billion annually to our economy.  The Scottish ‘brand’ is based on high environmental quality and high standards of environmental stewardship. Nature provides the raw ingredients for many food and drink businesses, and natural processes support the production of quality food.

Scotland's fisheries both marine and freshwater are world renowned and make a substantial contribution to local economies.

Natural Capital

Natural capital is a term for the habitats and ecosystems that provide social, environmental and economic benefits to humans. Scotland has a wide range of these habitats and ecosystems - each of which makes a unique contribution to the wellbeing of those who live and work in Scotland.

Ecosystem services

All of the benefits we get from nature, which are sometimes known as ecosystem services, depend on a healthy environment.

The Natural Capital Asset Index analyses the quality and quantity of terrestrial habitats, according to their potential to deliver ecosystem services now and in the future.

Economic impact

The natural environment is one of Scotland's greatest assets. It attracts businesses and individuals to live and work in Scotland. 

Sustainable use of our environment contributes over £17 billion a year to Scotland's economy.

Our Valuing our Environment report reveals the economic value of the environment. Its sustainable use supports 11% of Scotland’s total economic output – worth £17.2 billion a year – and one in seven full-time jobs.

The full research report below underpins the key information in the above publication.

Read The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Natural Environment: NatureScot Commissioned Report No. 304

Public opinion

Our 2011 survey reveals the Scottish public’s strong affection for our native wildlife and landscapes. It also shows clear public support for the continued protection of these natural assets: What the Scottish public value about the natural heritage.

Additional analysis shows what aspects of nature people think are important in the different regions of Scotland: Regional environmental preferences.

You can also view the datasets for the survey fieldwork: Public Attitudes datasets.

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