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Last edited: Mar 8, 2022, 10:15 AM

Please note, some of the guidance in this section of the website is out of date and currently under review.

EU Regulation (1141/2014) on invasive alien (non-native) species

This imposes restrictions on a list of species known as ‘species of Union concern', published in Commission Implementing Regulation 2016/1141 (external link). These are species whose potential adverse effects across the European Union are such that concerted action across Europe is required. The list is drawn up by the European Commission and managed with Member States using risk assessments and scientific evidence. For more information and FAQs visit the Commission website (external link) or the Europe pages.

The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) (external link))

As amended by the Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act (2004) (external link) and the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011 (external link)
The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) (Sections 14 to 14P ) is the principal legislation dealing with non-native species in Scotland. Section 14(1) of the Act makes it illegal to release, allow to escape, or cause an animal to be at a place outwith its native range. Section 14(2) makes it illegal to plant or otherwise cause a plant to grow in the wild at a place outwith its native range. Offences under section 14 carry a maximum penalty of a £40,000 fine and/or 12 months imprisonment on summary conviction and an unlimited fine (i.e. whatever the court feels to be commensurate with the offence) and/or 2 years imprisonment on indictment. A Code of Practice on Non-Native Species (external link) was approved by Parliament in 2011. It aims to help anyone who might need information on non-native species, such as land mangers or those who keep non-native species, to understand their legal responsibilities. It includes guidance on terms like ‘native range’, ‘the wild’ and ‘release’.

The 1981 Act also allows for exceptions to be made to the release and planting offences. These exceptions are created in secondary legislation, except for the release of common pheasant and red-legged partridge which are exempt in Section 14(2A). Read more on the secondary legislation that lists these exceptions (external link). In some circumstances licences may be issued for releases or planting of species outwith their native range, for example during reintroduction projects. Scottish Natural Heritage (external link) are the licensing authority.

The 1981 Act also provides powers for further restrictions to be set out in secondary legislation. Restrictions on the keeping/possession or the sale/advertising for sale of invasive species can be created and further information on existing restrictions can be found on the Scottish Government website (external link). Requirements to report certain invasive species are also set out in secondary legislation and further information can be found on the Scottish Government website (external link).

Plant Health Act (1967) (external link) ; Plant Health (England) Order (2005) (external link) ; Plant Health (Wales) Order (2006) (external link) ; Plant Health (Scotland) Order (2005) (external link) ; Plant Health (Forestry) Order (2005) (external link)

These pieces of legislation provide protective measures against the introduction of organisms harmful to plants and plant products. The Orders implement EC Directive 77/93/EEC, now consolidated into Directive 2000/29/EC, and are implemented by Defra in England, the Natural Resources Body for Wales in Wales and Scottish Government in Scotland. The Plant Health (Forestry) Order 2005 is implemented by the Forestry Commission.

Dangerous Wild Animals Act (1976) (external link)

This Act was introduced in response to public concern about the keeping of dangerous animals as pets by private individuals, and the possibility that they might escape into the wild. Licences are required for any animal which appears on a schedule to the Act. These are issued by the relevant local authority, and can only be granted if the authority is satisfied that it would not be contrary to public interest on the grounds of safety or nuisance; that the applicant is a suitable person; and that the animal is kept in adequate and secure accommodation. The local authority is entitled to specify where and how an animal is kept.

Environmental Protection Act (1990) (external link)

This Act has very limited provisions for non-native species, but is included here due to the potential classification of soil and other waste containing viable propagules of invasive non-native plant species as controlled waste. This has been applied to Japanese Knotweed Fallopia japonica, with the result that waste containing this species must be disposed of in accordance with official Environment Agency guidance designed to prevent the further spread of the plant.

Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003 (external link)

In Scotland, Section 33A of the Salmon and Freshwater Fisheries (Consolidation) (Scotland) Act 2003 prohibits the introduction of live fish and live fish spawn into inland waters without consent. District Salmon Fishery Boards (where they exist) are the consenting authority for salmon and salmon spawn. For all other species, and salmon and salmon spawn in areas without Boards, the consenting authority is Marine Scotland Science.

Bees Act (1980) (external link)

This Act gives Ministers the power to make Orders to prevent the introduction into Great Britain (or their spread within the country) of pests and diseases affecting bees. Measures include prohibiting or licensing the importation of bees and combs, bee products, hives, containers and other appliances used in connection with the keeping or transporting of bees that have or may have been exposed to infection with any pest or disease to which an Order applies.

Zoo Licensing Act (1981) (external link)

This Act requires the inspection and licensing of all zoos, and requires suitable precautions to be taken against the escape of any captive species.

Pet Animals Act (1951) (external link)

This Act provides for the licensing of pet shops, and other premises from which a similar trade is carried out, by local authorities. To obtain a licence, they must comply with reasonable standards of animal husbandry, and the local authority may empower their officers to check the condition of premises.

Animal Welfare Act 2006 (external link)

The Animal Welfare Act makes owners and keepers responsible for ensuring that the welfare needs of their animals are met. These include the need:

  • for a suitable environment (place to live)
  • for a suitable diet
  • to exhibit normal behaviour patterns
  • to be housed with, or apart from, other animals (if applicable)
  • to be protected from pain, injury, suffering and disease

Anyone who is cruel to an animal, or does not provide for its welfare needs, may be banned from owning animals, fined up to £20,000 and/or sent to prison.

Animals (Scientific Procedures) Act (1986) (external link)

This Act requires the inspection or licensing of premises where experiments falling within the scope of the Act are being carried out. Premises must conform to high standards, and are inspected regularly by Home Office inspectors.