SCOTLAND’S mountains, rivers, glens and other natural treasures are worth hundreds of billions of pounds to its economy, a new study has found.

Official Scottish Government figures placed the partial asset value of Scotland's "natural capital" at around £273 billion – 34 per cent of the overall UK total.

This takes in everything from oil and gas to timber production and renewable energy, as well as cash generated from outdoor recreation and fishing.

A quarter of the value was attributed to “non-material benefits” not directly captured in other economic measurements, such as gross domestic product (GDP).

Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the publication marked “the first time we have produced a detailed set of accounts which puts a monetary value on the significant benefits we get from nature”.

She said: “While this work cannot capture all of the benefits of our environment, it is a huge step forward in recognising and emphasising the importance of our natural capital.

“Natural capital is our stock of waters, land, air, species, minerals and oceans. It brings us clean air and water, food, energy, biodiversity, recreation and protection from hazards.

“It contributes hugely to our health, our landscape and to our wider sense of being and wellbeing. It also helps us deliver the Sustainable Development Goals set out by the United Nations and drives economic activity.

“For these reasons we want to grow our natural capital - a key aim in Scotland's National Performance Framework – and I look forward to this new data helping to drive an even deeper understanding and appreciation of the benefits nature provides.”

The new figures are contained in an experimental statistical report entitled Scottish Natural Capital: Ecosystem Service Accounts, 2019.

It said the overall value of Scotland's natural assets fluctuated between 2007 and 2015, the last year for which full data sets are available.

Asset values reached a low of £257,937 million in 2007 and a peak of £318,127 million in 2012.

In 2015, they were measured at £273,363 million. This is expected to have fallen in recent years due to a further decline in the oil and gas sectors.

The statistics show oil and gas production in Scotland more than halved between 1998 and 2017.

However, the number of fish being caught has risen and timber production nearly doubled from 1997 to 2017.

Meanwhile, in 2017 five times as much energy was produced from renewable sources than in 2000.

Between 2009 and 2017, annual outdoor recreation time per person was 56 hours (65%) higher in Scotland than the UK average.

But average spend per visit on outdoor recreation in Scotland was £1.14 between 2009 and 2017, which was 43% lower than the UK (£1.99).

Plants have also boosted the economy by removing harmful pollution from the atmosphere – leading to an overall reduction in health costs worth almost £60 million during 2017, the study found.

Francesca Osowska, chief executive of Scottish Natural Heritage, said: “Our water, air, soils, animals and plants make a vital contribution to our economy and society.

"Scotland’s natural capital accounts provide an exciting opportunity to put value on many of the benefits we get from nature, in a way that everyone can understand.

“These new accounts will complement the annual Natural Capital Asset Index, which tracks changes in the potential benefits Scotland’s nature provides for our health and wellbeing.

"Both the NCAI and Scottish accounts show the huge contribution our natural environment makes to our wellbeing and to the economy. SNH is working to ensure it continues to improve.”