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Non-native and former native species licensing

The law and licensing

It is an offence to release or allow to escape from captivity or otherwise cause any animal to be at a place outwith its native range. Further, it is an offence to plant or otherwise cause to grow any plant outwith its native range. However, you may not commit an offence if you hold a licence to release an animal or plant a plant. There is more information about non-native species and the law in the non-native species section of the website.

It is also an offence to keep types of invasive animals or plants specified in an Order external site  made by Scottish Ministers.   Any species that are listed in such an Order external site  are prohibited from being kept except under a licence from Scottish Natural Heritage.

Exempted (non-wild) areas

'In the wild' is most easily defined by exception. Arable and horticultural land; improved pasture; settlements; private and public gardens are not generally considered to be 'in the wild' - just about everywhere else is. This means that plantation woodlands, hedgerows, water margins and road verges in the countryside are all considered as being 'in the wild'.

Exempted species

Releasing common pheasant and red-legged partridge for shooting is exempted.  Planting certain non-native trees, shrubs and annual flowers in the wild is permitted by Exemption Order.  Releasing rod caught fish, at the same location and on the same day, is also exempted.

The following documents provide lists of species approved for planting in the wild:

More information about exempted animals:

  • Domesticated livestock, farmed and stocked fish, ferrets, birds of prey and domestic cats and dogs are exempted under specific circumstances. For further details see -Circumstances in which a type of animal is not considered to be released  PDF document
  • Honey bees - Honey bees are not considered to be released because the colony can be contained in an enclosed area for husbandry purposes. Bee keepers should take reasonable steps to prevent swarms escaping.
  • Insects as biocontrol agents - Non-native varieties of bumblebee and insects released as biocontrol agents are not considered to be released where they are introduced to properly secured enclosures. Glass-house managers should put in place adequate biosecurity measures to prevent the escape of insects capable of breeding in the wild.

Conservation translocation

Conservation translocation proposals may also involve moving species, including former native species, outwith their native range. In such cases you should apply the Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations. 

Licence application to register a non-native species for use in the control of crop pests and diseases

General Licence GL/NNS permits the release of certain non-native species as biological control agents in 'Approved Products' that can be clearly demonstrated to pose no significant threat to native species and the environment. A producer, supplier or distributor wanting to register a non-native biological control agent as an Approved Product on General Licence GL/NNS must complete an application form. Once a product is registered this means that users of an Approved Product can ensure that they stay within the law. Users of Approved Products do not need to apply use GL/NNS.

Application form - To register a non-native biological control agent as an 'Approved Product' on General Licence GL/NNS  Word document

GL/NNS: To release certain non-native species outwith their native range for use in the control of crop pests and diseases  PDF document

Licence application for other non-native species (non-forestry related)

If you think you need a non-native species licence, please contact or telephone 01463 725364.

In order to assess your non-native licence, we will consider the following:

  • what is the reason for your licence application i.e. what is the need that you are aiming to address?
  • what alternative solutions are available to address this need that would not require a licence. Why are these not possible?
  • what are the potential impacts of the licensed activity. What is the risk of the species spreading into the wild and what are the consequences if it does? How will you minimise this risk or make it manageable?

Licence application for forestry related proposals

You may be planning to plant or allow natural regeneration in a wild area as part of a woodland creation or restocking scheme. Scottish Natural Heritage is the licensing authority, but we will work closely with Forestry Commission Scotland to ensure your proposal is assessed appropriately and as quickly as possible.

If you wish to apply for a licence please contact  or telephone 01463 725364.

More information

Take a look at the Code of Practice on Non-native species external site for a more detailed summary of the law concerning non-native species and your responsibilities under the legislation.

If you think you may need a non-native species licence, or for further information or advice please email or telephone 01463 725364.

Last updated on Monday 13th March 2017 at 11:08 AM. Click here to comment on this page