Independent advisers have raised “serious concern” over a lack of progress in adapting to the impacts of the climate crisis in Scotland – warning the country could be put “at increasing risk of damaging cascading impacts across the economy” when more extreme weather events strike.

In a stark and damning report on Scotland’s progress in climate change adaptation, the Climate Change Committee (CCC), the statutory advisers for the UK and Scottish governments, has told ministers that progress on adaption “remains slow” and that “important gaps remain”.

The annual report to the Scottish Government has stressed that “there is a clear need for further urgent action on adaptation in Scotland”.

The CCC has said that since its last report in 2022, “recent weather extremes have continued to highlight Scotland’s ongoing vulnerability to weather and climate extremes” – with the country not immune to the frontline impacts of the climate crisis.

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Last year was Scotland’s hottest on record with the country’s hottest ever day taking place in July 2022 when temperatures almost reached 35C in the Scottish Borders.

Amid soaring temperatures last summer, heat guidance was issued to the public in order to limit the impact of the conditions on people’s health.

Early last month saw widespread and prolonged rainfall hit parts of Scotland which led to significant flooding.

This was compounded later last month when Storm Babet swept across the UK, bringing record-breaking rainfall totals and river levels in north east Scotland.

The CCC’s report sets out that “ flooding was widespread, leading to several deaths, and hundreds of homes impacted alongside transport and power system disruptions”.

It added: “The recent weather extremes highlight the urgency with which the adaptation delivery and planning gaps identified our report must be addressed.

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“Both heatwaves and heavy rainfall are being made more intense by climate change in Scotland. In future, hotter and drier summers are expected, leading to hotter heatwaves, and warmer and wetter winters, alongside rising sea levels, will continue to increase flood risks.”

But the report warns that “there remain areas where the current state of adaptation policy gives serious concern”.

The analysis points to “insufficient policies and plans” for water supply across Scotland, pointing to “gaps in drought resilience standards and insufficient leakage reduction targets”.

It adds: “Identifying and managing interdependencies across infrastructure sectors remains limited.

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“This lack of action will put Scotland at increasing risk of damaging cascading impacts across the economy when weather extremes occur in future.”

The CCC has warned that “overall progress on adapting to climate change in Scotland remains slow, particularly on delivery and implementation”.

It adds that “for only one out of the 33 outcomes identified by the committee for climate resilience across devolved areas do we find good progress on adaptation delivery”.

The CCC has called for the Scottish Government’s next adaptation plan, which is due to be published next year, to “embed adaptation in upcoming legislation and drive delivery”.

The report adds: “It needs to ensure that there are quantified targets for climate resilience, that there are clear linkages between activities and outcomes, with clear ownership of delivery, and must finally address the long-standing absence of an effective monitoring and evaluation system.

“For it to address the current shortfall in adaptation delivery it must seek to unlock public and private investment in adaptation, and be fully integrated with upcoming legislation and cross-Government objectives on decarbonisation, health and nature.”

Chris Stark, the CEO of the CCC, said: “"Significant flooding just last month demonstrated the impact of more extreme weather in Scotland.

“Yet, we find that progress on adapting to climate change remains too slow.”

He added: “While there have been some notable steps forward on policy, this isn’t being matched in the delivery and implementation of adaptation measures in Scotland.

“Scotland’s next national adaptation plan must embed resilience to climate change in new legislation and drive real improvements that prepare Scotland for the change in the climate.”


SNP Net Zero Secretary, Mairi McAllan, said: “We thank the Climate Change Committee for the latest Adaptation report for Scotland and welcome the committee’s recognition of several important steps forward in Scottish adaptation policy since their previous assessment.

“The report highlights progress in several areas, including the National Planning Framework 4, the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and delivery plans, NHS Scotland’s climate emergency strategy and Transport Scotland’s recently published adaptation strategy.

"I also thank Baroness Brown, chair of the CCC’s adaptation committee for our meeting last week outlining the committee’s key recommendations.

“The committee’s advice is well-timed; in January we will consult on our new adaptation plan and the committee’s recommendations will play an important role in shaping our approach.”

She added: “We know the climate emergency is not a distant threat - it is with us today. Storms have battered Scotland in recent months and 2023 is set to be the hottest year on record.

"The impacts of climate change are affecting families, communities and businesses across Scotland. That is why we are taking action to make Scotland more resilient in the face of a changing climate."