Non-native species (NNS) are those that have been introduced, either intentionally or unintentionally, outside of their native range.

In Scotland, it is an offence to:

  • release an animal to a location outside its native range
  • allow an animal to escape from captivity to a location outside its native range
  • otherwise cause an animal not in the control of any person to be at a location outside its native range
  • plant, or otherwise cause to grow, a plant in the wild at a location outside its native range

Native Range

An animal or plants ‘native range’ is the area where it occurs naturally.

A species is considered to be out with its native range if it’s been imported to another location by human action, whether on purpose or not.

What you must do

If you have non-native species on your premises you have a responsibility to prevent them spreading into the wild. For those species that are known to be invasive, you should take steps to avoid them causing damage or becoming a nuisance.

  • if you allow invasive species to spread onto adjacent land, the owner of that land may decide to take action against you for causing a nuisance or damage; and,
  • causing non-native species to spread into the wild is an offence.

The Non-Native Species Code of Practice provides explanation on offences and definitions and provides guidance on how to act responsibly within the law.

Moving soil contaminated with non-native species, or incorrectly handling and transporting contaminated material and plant cuttings, can cause NNS to spread into the wild.

If you are controlling non-native species on land that you own or occupy, you must comply with specific legal responsibilities, including:

You can support the efforts being made to map the extent of invasions by reporting non-native species. Read the Reporting non-native species page in this guideline.

Injurious weeds in Scotland

Injurious weeds are those that are considered able to cause harm to agricultural pasture. The five species of 'injurious weed' are:

  • common ragwort
  • spear thistle
  • creeping or field thistle
  • curled dock
  • broadleaved dock.

If you have any injurious species on your land, you can be required to control them, if:

  • they are spreading onto agricultural land and causing a nuisance, and
  • you have been served with a notice on behalf of Scottish Ministers.

Scottish Government: Preventing the spread of Ragwort

Further information

Return to the menu of the Japanese knotweed, giant hogweed and other invasive weeds environmental topic