The Scottish Soil Framework

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CHAPTER 6 : POLICIES FOR SOIL PROTECTION

6.1 A number of policy instruments are currently in place which provide some aspects of protection to soils (Figure 6.1). However, no one legislative or policy tool has been developed specifically with the protection of soil in mind. Where policy or legislation does relate to soil, it is generally limited to the protection of a specific impact or function of that soil. It can be seen that these current policies are spread across many policy areas.

Figure 6.1 Main policy areas contributing to soil protection

Figure 6.1 Main policy areas contributing to soil protection

6.2 The policies are set out in greater detail in Annex A. In short, current Scottish legislation and policies provide direct and indirect mechanisms for the protection of:

  • soil from erosion, loss of organic matter and structural damage, as a consequence of poor land management practices;
  • soil ecosystem and biochemical functions when used for the recovery of organic materials, including sewage sludge;
  • soil where there is potential for impact from Part A industrial installations (Pollution Prevention and Control (Scotland) Regulations 2000);
  • agricultural soil from nutrient enrichment and pollution;
  • soil from acidification and eutrophication through atmospheric deposition;
  • soil from the deposition of solvents;
  • soil supporting protected species and habitats in designated sites;
  • soil holding archaeological remains;
  • soil subject to pollution that would lead to pollution of water or groundwater.

6.3 In addition, the application of Environmental Impact Assessment and Strategic Environmental Assessment to projects/plans/programmes and strategies also provides a means of assessing the impacts on soils.

6.4 The European Commission adopted in 2006 a Thematic Strategy for Soil Protection ( 3), which sets out the threats to soils in Europe and aims to promote soil protection measures amongst member states. In addition, a Framework Directive for the Protection of European Soil ( 4) to put in place a statutory mechanism to address soil degradation has been proposed. However, EU Environment Ministers have not to date been able to reach agreement on these legislative proposals.

6.5 Although there is a significant quantity of legislation and policy providing a range of protection and conservation tools for soils, the limited co-ordination and often ad hoc manner by which this protection has evolved makes the system in place for soil protection potentially confusing, and therefore limiting its combined effectiveness.

6.6 In conclusion, current policies that include some aspects of soil protection are fragmented and spread across many policy areas and organisations. They do not do not cover all soils and all threats to soils, and so do not constitute a coherent soil protection policy.