Law on non-native species

Legislation in Scotland

The aim of the legislation related to invasive non-native species (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, as amended by the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011) is to prevent the spread of non-native species into the wild. 


The regulations state that it is an offence to:

  • release or allow to escape from captivity any animal to a place outwith its native range 
  • cause any animal outwith the control of any person to be at place outwith its native range
  • plant or otherwise cause to grow any plant in the wild outwith its native range.

Put simply, it is an offence to:

  • release (accidently or on purpose) a non-native animal (e.g. grey squirrel, American mink etc) into the wild. 
  • plant non-native plants in the wild (or release seeds etc.)
  • allow non-native plants to spread into the wild (e.g. by allowing it spread from your land through inactivity, by dumping garden waste into the wild, by moving contaminated soil etc.).


The term “wild” is taken to be woodlands, scrub, rough grassland, road verges or river corridors in the countryside, however it does not include agricultural land, and private and public gardens.

Although the legislation does not include a legal requirement to control invasive non-native species that are already established, it is an offence to allow non-native species to spread into the wild. Therefore management of non-native species maybe required to prevent spreading. 

NatureScot has some powers to enforce action where a landowner’s inactivity may be allowing the spread of non-native species into the wild or is preventing the success of a co-ordinated eradication program.  However, voluntary action by landowners to remove invasive species is the preferred course of action.

The legislation also allows for a ban on the sale of certain types of animals or plants (except under licence).

Read more about the law on non-native species in Scotland

The Scottish Government’s Code of Practice on Non-Native Species contains detailed guidance about the legislation.


    Action and Advice

    If you need further advice about non-native species or licencing you can contact your local NatureScot area office

    Plantlife have produced a guidance leaflet for gardeners about what to do if you have invasive non-native plants in your garden and how to remove them. 

    The GB non-native species secretariat has collated number of documents and links relating to the management of invasive non-native species.

    If you are in northern Scotland and in the project area of the Scottish Invasive Species Initiative you may be able to volunteer with our project, gain training and help remove invasive non-native species. Find our more about volunteer opportunities.

    If you've seen a non-native species you can help map the spread of non-native species by reporting your sighting.  Read more about reporting a sighting.


    You might also be interested in

    You've seen a non-native species in the wild - how do you go about reporting it? Find out here.
    Find out about who co-ordinates invasive species management at a UK and worldwide scale
    What is an invasive species? What does non-native mean? Why are invasive species a problem?
    Our invasive species page has the answers.


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