The two most influential pieces of European legislation relating to nature conservation are commonly referred to as the Birds and Habitats Directives:
- The Conservation of Wild Birds Directive (79/409/EEC)
- The Conservation of Natural Habitats and of Wild Fauna and Flora Directive (92/43/EEC)
The Birds Directive provides a framework for the conservation and management of, and human interactions with, wild birds in Europe. It gives member states the power to classify Special Protection Areas (SPA) for the protection of bird species which are rare or vulnerable, as well as of all regularly occurring migratory species, paying particular attention to the protection of wetlands of international importance.
The Habitats Directive builds on the Birds Directive by protecting natural habitats and certain species of wild plants and animals. It gives member states the power to set up Special Areas of Conservation (SAC).
Together the SPAs and SACs make up the Natura 2000 sites.
The main legislation relating to nature conservation in the United Kingdom is
- The Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981.
This Act is supplemented by:
- The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) Regulations 1994 (as amended);
- The Conservation (Natural Habitats, & c.) (Scotland) Regulations 2004 (as amended); and
- The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004.
The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 places a duty on public bodies to further the conservation of biodiversity and increases protection for Sites of Special Scientific Interest.
In 2003, an ambitious piece of European environmental legislation called the Water Framework Directive (WFD) resulted in the Water Environment and Water Services (Scotland) Act 2003 (WEWS Act) becoming law in Scotland.
The WEWS Act gave Scottish ministers powers to introduce regulatory controls over water activities, in order to protect, improve and promote sustainable use of Scotland’s water environment. This includes wetlands, rivers, lochs, transitional waters (estuaries), coastal waters and groundwater.
The Marine (Scotland) Act received Royal Assent on 10 March 2010. The purpose of the Marine (Scotland) Act is to make provision in relation to functions and activities in the Scottish marine area, including provision about marine plans, licensing of marine activities, the protection of the area and its wildlife including seals and regulation of sea fisheries.
Further information on Nature Conservation legislation can be found on the websites of both Scottish Natural Heritage and the Joint Nature Conservation Committee, available through Related Sites on the left of this web page.