Natural resources in Scotland have been valued at one-third of the UK’s total by a groundbreaking new study.
The research, by the Office of National Statistics, examined the value or profit provided by natural resources – such as wind, water, oil and gas – and how they are used.
In 2015, the partial-asset value of Scottish natural capital was estimated to be £273 billion, 34% of the UK as a whole.
The Scottish Natural Capital Accounts report explains: “The benefits we receive from nature are predominantly hidden, partial or missing from the nation’s balance sheet.
“However, by recognising nature as a form of capital and developing accounts of natural capital’s contribution to the economy and our well-being, decision-makers can better include the environment in future policy planning.”
The study found that renewable energy is the fastest-growing natural resource consumed in Scotland, while oil and gas production has more than halved in less than two decades.
Electricity generated from renewable sources was five times higher in 2017 than at the turn of the millennium and now accounts for more than half of all the country’s energy production.
Wind is the largest producer of electricity from renewable sources, overtaking hydropower as the main source of renewable energy in 2010.
It accounted for 67.8% of the electricity generated from renewables up to 2017.
Meanwhile, oil and gas production has steadily declined since 1998, falling 58.3% in less than two decades. In 2017, combined oil and gas production in Scotland was 73.7 million tonnes of oil equivalent, down from 176.6 million tonnes.
The fish caught in Scottish waters has also reached record numbers.
In 2016, the amount of fish captured was more than two-thirds higher than in 2003, a 70% increase from 628.2 thousand tonnes to 1,065.2 thousand tonnes.
The largest annual increases in fish capture occurred in the more recent years, with an annual expansion of nearly 35% in 2014 and an increase of 14% in 2016.
Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham welcomed the publication of the first-ever Scottish Natural Capital Accounts.
Ms Cunningham said: “This is the first time we have produced a detailed set of accounts which puts a monetary value on the significant benefits we get from nature.
“While this work cannot capture all of the benefits of our environment, it is a huge step forward in recognising and emphasising the importance of our natural capital.
“Natural Capital is our stock of waters, land, air, species, minerals and oceans. It brings us clean air and water, food, energy, biodiversity, recreation and protection from hazards.
“It contributes hugely to our health, our landscape and to our wider sense of being and wellbeing.
“It also helps us deliver the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations and drives economic activity.
“For these reasons, we want to grow our natural capital – a key aim in Scotland’s National Performance Framework – and I look forward to this new data helping to drive an even deeper understanding and appreciation of the benefits nature provides.”
Scottish Natural Heritage chief executive Francesca Osowska said: “Our water, air, soils, animals and plants make a vital contribution to our economy and society.
“Scotland’s Natural Capital Accounts provide an exciting opportunity to put value on many of the benefits we get from nature, in a way that everyone can understand.”