Scotland's Natural Capital Pilot Programme

Hawthorn hedge running alongside grassy field
Lisa Paton

The purpose of the Natural Capital Pilots are to inform what future rural support outside of the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) might look like. 

Rural support could be developed to contribute to transformative land use change in Scotland, by restoring nature and reducing our country’s contribution to climate change.  Refocusing future rural support with a stronger emphasis on investing in natural capital can help to make land-based businesses more resilient, support jobs, and strengthen Scotland’s green brand.

There is increasing scope for natural capital to support our economic recovery post-Covid, and to contribute to Scotland’s ambitions for a wellbeing economy that promotes the wellbeing of people and planet.

Natural Capital is another term for the stock of renewable and non-renewable resources (e.g. plants, animals, air, water, soils, minerals) that combine to yield a flow of benefits to people.

The evidence suggests that a natural capital approach can result in greater public benefits, a stronger return on investment for public funds, and help land managers address the twin challenges of a warming climate and biodiversity loss.  Further information on our evidence base and what natural capital in the landscape is can be found on our website page.  NatureScot are developing these pilots with Scottish Government (as part of the wider Scottish Government National Test Programme, and guided by an external Advisory Group. We are actively addressing inequalities in the sector by working with land managers who are female and/or younger.

In 2022 we are expanding our team to deliver this programme. We are seeking 15 new people to focus assessing and advising land managers on current Agri-Environment scheme applications, and testing the biodiversity audit approach. You can view the full job descriptions and application details here and here.

We are piloting a natural capital approach at different spatial levels – work is well established at the field level through our Piloting Outcomes Based Approaches in Scotland (POBAS) project (two vacancies for South Scotland/East Lothian, and the Outer Hebrides were advertised recently); we are testing a Natural Capital Assessment Template at the land holding level with a wide range of farm and crofting businesses; and work is starting to be explored at the landscape level. The Biodiversity Audit is in early stages currently, but we aim to test this with a cross section of farmers and crofters in the next year.  Our final project is the development of an app, collaborating with Civ-Tech, which is currently being tested in the field by our pilot participants in POBAS.

Finally, we are seeking a Natural Capital Tools Manager to work with potential users to design a tool, plan and implement the development of the tool, and support its testing within a local landscape (location to be decided).