Environmental guidance for your business in Northern Ireland & Scotland

Your legal responsibilities in Scotland

Non-native plants in Scotland - your legal responsibilities

Non-native plants are those species that have been brought into Scotland. Some of these become invasive - with the ability to spread, causing damage to the environment, the economy, our health and the way we live.

Moving soil contaminated with non-native species from one place to another, or incorrectly handling and transporting contaminated material and plant cuttings, can cause these plants to spread into the wild. In Scotland it is forbidden to plant or cause to grown in the wild, any non-native plant.

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

  • You do not have to remove non-native plants on your land, but
  • if you allow invasive plants 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 plants to spread into the wild is an offence.

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

You do not have to report any plant species in Scotland. However you can support the efforts being made to map the extent of invasions by reporting non-native species. 

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

Non-native Species Secretariat: Information on non-native invasive species

NatureScot: Non-native species

In this Guideline

Your legal responsibilities in Northern Ireland

Your legal responsibilities in Scotland

Identifying invasive plants

Reporting non-native species

How invasive plants spread

Handling and working with invasive plants

Spraying invasive plants with herbicide

Digging up invasive plants

Cutting and burning invasive plants

Burying invasive plant material on site

Disposing of invasive plants and contaminated soils off-site

Non-native and invasive plants environmental legislation

Environmental News Blog

NetRegs on NetRegs on youTube

View our latest videos & subscribe to our channel.

NetRegs Update Newsletter

Free monthly email newsletter with environmental updates for Northern Ireland and Scotland

Sign up for free today!


NIEA - Apply online

SEPA - Application forms