Scotland’s ‘natural capital’ is £273bn – ONS report

The Scottish Government on Friday published the results of a report it commissioned from the UK Government’s Office for National Statistics (ONS) to carry out a “comprehensive assessment” of the monetary value of Scotland’s “natural capital.”

It said the assessment has discovered that in 2015 the asset value of Scottish natural capital was an estimated £273 billion.

Last August, Scotland’s GDP for 2017-18 was estimated at £170.4 billion in total — or £31,367 per person — including a geographical share of UK extra-regio (offshore and overseas) economic activity.

The new Scottish “natural capital” figure equates to 34% of the total UK asset valuation for natural capital.

The Scottish Government said the report was an “Experimental Statistics Publication for Scotland.”

“A quarter of the asset value was attributable to items not directly captured in gross domestic product, namely carbon sequestration, pollutant removal and recreation,” said the Scottish Government.

“The assessment includes information on ten ecosystem services: agricultural biomass, fish capture, timber, water abstraction, mineral production, oil and gas production, renewable energy generation, carbon sequestration, air pollutant removal, and recreation.

“Accounting for natural capital is important as many of the most valuable services it provides are intangible.

This means that they are often not captured in conventional measures of economic activity.”

The Scottish Government said other results include:

  • Fish capture in Scottish waters rose by over two-thirds between 2003 and 2016.
  • Scottish timber production nearly doubled from 1997 to 2017.
  • During 2017 water abstraction for public water supply in Scotland fell to its lowest level in the series history, partly due to less leakage.
  • In 2017 oil and gas production in Scotland more than halved from 1998 levels.
  • In 2017 five times as much energy was produced from renewable sources in Scotland than was produced in 2000.
  • Between 2009 and 2017 annual outdoor recreation time spent per person was 56 hours (65%) higher in Scotland than the UK average.
  • Average spend per visit on outdoor recreation in Scotland was £1.14 between 2009 and 2017, 43% lower than the UK (£1.99).

“The methodology used to develop these estimates remains under development; the estimates reported in this bulletin are experimental and should be interpreted in this context,” added the Scottish Government.

“Experimental Statistics are those that are in the testing phase, are not yet fully developed and have not been submitted for assessment to the UK Statistics Authority.

“Experimental Statistics are published to involve customers and stakeholders in their development and as a means of building in quality at an early stage.

“Further information on Experimental Statistics can be found on the ONS website.”