Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 received Royal Assent in June 2004, with the majority of its provisions
 coming into force on 29 November 2004.  Containing five Parts and seven Schedules, the Act places duties on public bodies in relation  to the conservation of biodiversity, increases protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), amends legislation on Nature Conservation Orders, provides for Land Management Orders for SSSIs and associated land, strengthens wildlife enforcement legislation, and requires the preparation of a Scottish Fossil Code. The Act is compliant with the provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, requiring consultation where the rights of the individual may be affected by these measures.


The Act places a duty on every public body to further the conservation of biodiversity consistent with the proper exercise of their functions.  It requires Scottish Ministers to designate one or more strategies for the conservation of biodiversity as the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy, and to publish lists of species of flora and fauna and habitats of principal importance.

Conservation and Enhancement of Natural Features

Chapter 1 of Part 2, and Schedules 1 and 5, of the Act repeals the SSSI provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 (as amended), providing for the enhanced protection and management of SSSIs, requiring the preparation of site management statements and amending notification procedures.  The provisions place a duty on public bodies for the further conservation and enhancement of SSSIs, provide a new offence whereby third parties can be convicted for damaging SSSIs, and enable the making of byelaws for the protection of SSSIs.  Penalties for conviction where the provisions are breached are amended from those previously applying.  Appeal processes are introduced with regard to the notification, management and protection of SSSIs.
Chapter 2 of Part 2, and Schedules 2 and 5, of the Act enable Scottish Ministers to make a Nature Conservation Order to protect a nature conservation feature which is of special interest, or which is contiguous with land containing such a feature, to ensure its protection.
Chapter 3 of Part 2 provides for Scottish Ministers to make a Land Management Order to require operations to be carried out on land in, or contiguous with, an SSSI where this is necessary to conserve, restore or enhance a natural feature specified in the SSSI notification.  An appeal process is introduced in relation to the making of such Orders.

Protection of Wildlife

Part 3 and Schedule 6 of the Act make amendments to the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, strengthening the legal protection for threatened species.  The species protection afforded to wild birds, animals and plants is extended to include 'reckless' acts.  The protection afforded to the nests of certain, threatened, bird species is extended to all times of the year, and the disturbance of certain bird species at their lek sites is prohibited.  The Act makes it an offence to intentionally or recklessly disturb a dolphin, whale or basking shark, and also to sell a self-locking snare, or to possess one without reasonable excuse.  Powers are provided to Scottish Ministers to prohibit the sale of certain non-native species.  The Act amends and enhances the provisions for enforcement.  The Protection of Badgers Act 1992 is also amended.

Scottish Fossil Code

Part 4 of the Act requires Scottish Natural Heritage to prepare and issue a Scottish Fossil Code setting out recommendations, advice and information relating to fossils.
 April 2010

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