Scotland’s natural economy has been valued at over £29 billion a year.

A new report, commissioned by Scotland’s Rural College and undertaken by BiGGAR Economics, has for the first time totted up the net worth of the six commercial sectors that either directly use, rely or contribute to conserving natural resources.

The report's key conclusion is that nature, as harnessed by tourism, food and drink, fishing and aquaculture, agriculture, energy (including renewables), and forestry, logging and manufacture of wood, accounts for more than a fifth of the nation’s total economy, contributing £29.1 billion gross value added and employing 290,100 people – 11% of all employment across Scotland.

It also argues that this natural economy is an area of 'comparative advantage' for the country, which could and should be a critical plank of the national recovery and renewal strategy.

Looking deeper into the figures, most of the GVA currently generated by the natural economy is due to energy, while the employment it creates is more evenly distributed across tourism, agriculture, energy, and food and drink. Nature-related tourism made the largest employment contribution, with over 87,000 jobs.

At the start of July, SRUC published a refreshed vision and mission for itself, which included a commitment to focus on the natural economy – spanning both rural and urban activity – and to partner locally and globally to benefit Scotland’s natural economy.

Chief Executive and Principal of Scotland’s Rural College, Professor Wayne Powell, 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," promised Prof Powell.

“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.”