‘Natural economy’ worth £29bn and 290,000 jobs

A new report carried out for Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) has “defined and detailed” for the first time the value of the “natural economy” to Scotland’s overall economic output — finding it represents more than 20% of the nation’s economy.

The report said that in 2018, the natural economy contributed £29.1 billion gross value added (GVA) to the Scottish economy – more than a fifth of its total – and employed 290,100 people.

This equates to 11% of all employment across Scotland.

The natural economy is defined as comprising six sub-sectors that either directly use, rely or contribute to conserving natural resources, namely: tourism, food and drink, fishing and aquaculture, agriculture, energy (including renewables), and forestry, logging and manufacture of wood.

Undertaken by BiGGAR Economics, a leading independent economic consultancy, the report argues that the natural economy is an area of comparative advantage for Scotland, which can also be a critical plank of the national recovery and renewal strategy supported by the best of Scotland’s universities and research institutes.

Whereas most of the GVA generated by the natural economy is due to energy, employment is more evenly distributed across tourism, agriculture, energy, and food and drink.

Nature-related tourism made the largest contribution with over 87,000 jobs.

Wayne Powell, Chief Executive and Principal of SRUC, said: “This would be an important report at any time, but in showing how we can build on the comparative advantage that Scotland has in the area of natural economy, it is a vital contribution to our economic, social and environmental recovery from the Covid-19 crisis.

“Focusing on the natural economy is a key part of SRUC’s transformation to becoming Scotland’s enterprise university.

“As this report makes clear, a more integrated approach to developing the sectors that make up the natural economy can and will enhance Scotland’s overall performance, not least by driving up productivity and boosting resilience.

“Such an approach will require a new model of collaboration to deliver the education, research and innovation needs of the natural economy.

“SRUC stands ready to play our full part in such a collaborative effort, and we look forward to publishing further research for wide debate and discussion about how this exciting vision can be realised.”

About the Author

Mark McSherry
Dalriada Media LLC sites are edited by veteran news journalist Mark McSherry, a former staff editor and reporter with Reuters, Bloomberg and major newspapers including the South China Morning Post, London's Sunday Times and The Scotsman. McSherry's journalism has also appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Independent, The New York Times, London's Evening Standard and Forbes. McSherry is also a professor of journalism and communication arts in universities and colleges in New York City. Scottish-born McSherry has an MBA from the University of Edinburgh and a Certificate in Global Affairs from New York University.