Nature-based employment is making a significant contribution to the Scottish economy, amounting to at least 195,000 jobs or 7.5 per cent of Scotland’s workforce in 2019.
A new study from NatureScot also shows the huge opportunity for the blossoming sector to help Scotland secure a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and support the transition towards a net-zero economy.
NatureScot’s analysis of nature-based jobs across Scotland identifies for the first time the opportunities and barriers facing the sector, looking at the historic picture as well as forecasting future trends.
The sector grew at more than five times the rate of all jobs in Scotland in the period 2015-19, accounting for one-third of all job growth in Scotland over the period.
Significant further growth in nature-based jobs is anticipated, as efforts to meet Scotland’s net-zero targets increase.
A five-fold increase in peatland restoration, near doubling of tree planting and additional investment in the Woodland and Peatland Carbon Codes, along with other mechanisms for carbon off-setting, all point to an expansion of employment.
Nature-based roles are also expected to develop quickly in emerging areas such as urban green infrastructure and green finance.
The report reveals the great potential for rural and island economies, where most nature-based jobs are located.
Almost a third (30.2 per cent) of new nature-based jobs could arise in island and remote areas, and 62.2 per cent in mainly rural areas – offering potential solutions to the challenges of depopulation and out-migration of working-age people.
A number of barriers to the expansion of nature-based jobs are identified, including skills shortages, access to training opportunities and a need for more stability in the sector.
Diversity in the workforce is another challenge – with low female employment in many fields, an ageing workforce in some sectors and a lack of data on ethnic minority employment.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said: “Green skills are wide ranging and will be vital to delivering our ambitions across a variety of sectors – from nature-based tourism to land and environmental management, forestry, green finance, peatland restoration and low-carbon farming.
“Supporting and encouraging these new jobs will provide Scotland with the skills and expertise to be at the forefront of tackling the twin crises of climate change and ecological decline and I strongly welcome this report.”
Francesca Osowska, NatureScot chief executive, said: “This report is a vital step in demonstrating the potential for nature-based jobs to help us build back better as we emerge from this pandemic – ensuring a green recovery and securing a longer-term transition towards a net-zero economy.
“To be blunt. Scotland will not achieve its climate goals without major investment in nature-based solutions, and many of those investments will not happen unless we have a big enough and skilled nature-based workforce in place. This report sets out the potential green jobs powerhouse in the nature-based sector driving growth in the Scottish economy, and what an alliance of organisations need to do to deliver that potential.”
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