Scotland’s rocks and landforms provide a range of benefits and help us to understand how the Earth has evolved. They provide us with valuable economic resources and naturally regulate hazards and flooding.
Siccar Point on the South-East coast of Scotland is world-renowned in geological science, famous for outcrops that reveal 'Hutton's Unconformity', and is a location rightly regarded by many as the birthplace of modern geology.
YouTube: Siccar Point – the birthplace of modern geology – British Geological Survey
Rocks and landforms in Rum – © Laurie Campbell, – NatureScot
These rocks contain;
The rocks beneath our feet affect the environment in many ways.
The British Geological Survey (BGS) is the UK's premier provider of objective and authoritative geoscientific data, information and knowledge to help society to use its natural resources responsibly, manage environmental change and be resilient to environmental hazards. It provides impartial and independent geoscientific advice to governments, local authorities, companies and people.
BGS data can be viewed and accessed in different ways.
The Open Geoscience Portal provides general geoscientific information
Specific enquiries (for Scotland) can be directed to BGS Edinburgh Enquiry Service, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Location-specific BGS reports can be provided for specific purposes, such as radon risk, subsidence, or borehole prognosis for water boreholes or ground source heat pump boreholes.
The results of NatureScot's site condition monitoring programme can now be searched live through the Protected Nature Sites data analysis application. Here you can find the number of Earth science features that have been assessed as favourable, unfavourable or recovering due to management, as well as searching by area, or using more detailed selection tools to find how many Earth science features have a record of irreversible damage (‘partially destroyed’) at their last assessment. Data on pressures impacting features can also be searched.
Statutory protection and monitoring. There are around 895 nationally and internationally important rock and landform sites in Scotland (identified by the Geological Conservation Review (GCR)). Around 75 % of these are protected as notified Earth science features in Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI), and their condition is monitored under NatureScot's Site condition Monitoring programme. Monitoring results are available through the Protected Nature Sites data analysis application.
Scottish Geology Trust. Founded as a charitable organisation in 2020, the Scottish Geology Trust aims to inspire people everywhere to understand, love and care for Scotland's incredible geological heritage and its role creating a sustainable future. Projects include: 51 Best Places to see Scotland's Geology, Geology does ... and Scotland's geosites.
Local Geoconservation. Local groups work with local authorities to designate Local Geodiversity Sites and work to raise awareness of sites and geodiversity through publicity such as leaflets, booklets, posters, interpretation boards and websites, and by developing access and educational usage of sites and trails.
Scotland's Geoparks. Celebrate our outstanding geological heritage and its links to culture, education and sustainable economic development.
Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) are the principal method for protecting nationally and internationally important rock and landform (geology and geomorphology) sites in Scotland. Important 'GCR' sites, identified by the Geological Conservation Review are notified as protected Earth Science interest features in SSSIs, which is a statutory designation made by NatureScot under the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004. Under Section 19 (1) of this Act any person (whether owner, public body or third party) who intentionally or recklessly damages any notified feature of and SSSI, may be guilty of an offence. Where damage to an SSSI is an offence, including damage to Earth science (rock and landform) features, Police Scotland class the offence as a wildlife crime.
Local Geodiversity sites (LGS) are part of the Local Nature Conservation Sites (LNCS) system in Scotland. LGS, which are selected by Local Authorities, are the most important places for rocks and landform outside statutorily protected Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). Many, but not all Local Authority areas in Scotland now have Local Geodiversity Sites, which are listed in the Local Development Plan. Local Authorities may also develop Local Geodiversity Action Plans, sometimes as part of their Local Biodiversity Action Plan, and most commonly centred around LGS.
National Planning Framework 4 - Policy 4 (Natural Places) gives SSSIs, NNRs, National Park and LNCS (including Local Geodiversity Sites) protection in the planning system. Developments affecting an SSSI, National Park or NNR will only be supported where site integrity will not be compromised, or adverse effects are outweighed by social, environmental or economic benefits of national importance. Developments affecting an LNCS will only be supported where they will not have significant adverse effects on site integrity, or adverse effects are clearly outweighed by social, environmental, or economic benefits of at least local importance.
National Planning Framework 4 - Policy 33 (Minerals) supports the sustainable management of mineral resources and minimising the impacts of extraction of minerals on communities and the environment.
Scotland's Geodiversity Charter encourages everyone to work together to raise awareness of, and manage, Scotland’s geodiversity; and to ensure its better integration into policy and guidance to meet Scotland’s economic, social, cultural and environmental needs.
Scottish Fossil Code aims to help protect Scotland's fossils while encouraging public interest and responsible use.
Scottish Core Code (2011) combats the growing problem of core holes defacing rock outcrops, provides guidance on responsible and environmentally acceptable rock coring.
This page was updated on 29 Jun 2023
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British Geological Survey - a world-leading geological survey. It is Scotland’s premier provider of objective and authoritative geoscientific data, information and knowledge to help society to use its natural resources responsibly, manage environmental change and be resilient to environmental hazards.
Understanding Scotland’s geology is increasingly important as the legacy of past industrial development, future land use and resource and energy pressures combine to create a highly sensitive subsurface environment. This presents major challenges for sustainable development and potentially conflicting uses, particularly beneath our cities. We are also active in applied geomorphological research. The upland environments of Scotland provide valuable ecosystem services, many of which are closely linked with geomorphology.
Scottish Geodiversity Forum - aims to promote Scotland’s geodiversity, and seeks to widen the profile of geodiversity and influence national and local policies.