As the first bulbs sprout from frosted terrain across the country, the Scottish Government has released a national plant health strategy to protect the country’s ecology.
The strategy is designed to safeguard the vitality of Scotland’s diverse plant-life by preventing threats in the form of diseases from entering the country.
Plants and trees brought home from holidays, as well as purchasing plants from unknown merchants online, can carry pests and diseases that are alien to Scotland’s natural environment.
Approximately £1.8bn of Scotland’s economy is reliant on good plant health and the new strategy will provide a framework for how to best protect agriculture, horticulture, forestry and the wider environment in Scotland.
The Scottish Plant Health Strategy will see the appointment of a Scottish chief plant health officer and the establishment of a centre of expertise for plant health in Scotland.
Confirming the publication, minister for environment, climate change and land reform Dr Aileen McLeod said: “This strategy rightly places healthy plant life firmly at the heart of Scotland’s thriving natural environment, our rural economy and our wellbeing.
“It’s easy to think bringing plants into Scotland from holiday or buying via the internet is consequence-free but in reality this can introduce serious threats to our plant life and rural economy.
“This is particularly pertinent at this time when Xylella fastidiosa, a disease that affects a wide range of plants and trees, has made its presence felt in parts of mainland Europe.
“I’d urge all Scots to act responsibly when sourcing plants, be they for domestic or commercial use. Plant and tree pests do not respect borders and we continue to work closely with those involved with the UK Plant Health Service as well as in the EU and further afield.
Richard Lochead, cabinet secretary for rural affairs, food and the environment, hailed the move as a positive step for Scottish agriculture:
“Our booming food and drink industry is reliant on agriculture, which in turn depends on good plant health. Many in the industry are already following good practices on this issue and I would urge others to take similar care to preserve and protect our valuable plant life.”