Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland: Professor Gerry Saddler

Working across forestry, crops and the natural environment to improve Scotland’s plant health resilience

Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland - Professor Gerry SaddlerProfessor Gerry Saddler was appointed as the Scottish Government’s first Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland (CPHOS) in April 2017.  The CPHOS is responsible for providing strategic and tactical leadership, across forestry, crops and the natural environment, to minimise the risk and impact of plant health threats in Scotland.

With over 1,000 plant health threats already listed on the UK plant health risk register, the pest and disease risks are ever growing due to trade and tourism globalisation and the challenges associated with climate change.  Plants are vitally important to our environment, biodiversity, diet and wellbeing and are currently valued at £19.2billion/annum* to the Scottish economy.  The appointment of the CPHOS and the creation of Plant Health Centre of Expertise to provide rapid call down evidence to inform policy decisions, demonstrates the Scottish Government’s drive to improve our plant health resilience.

Working closely with UK plant health service colleagues, the CPHOS is responsible for co-ordinating the Scottish Government’s plant health response in terms of policy, inspections and surveillance activities.  In the event of a plant health outbreak, it is the CPHOS who will lead and coordinate the Scottish Government’s response and provide stakeholder guidance.

For more information please contact: or follow @plantchiefscot.  

* Comprising crops (£822m), natural environment (£17.2bn) , forestry (£1bn) taken from these sources:

  • Scottish Government. 2016. Economic Report on Scottish Agriculture: 2016 Edition. Available on the Scottish Government website.
  • RPA & Cambridge Econometrics. 2008. The Economic Impact of Scotland’s Natural Environment. Scottish Natural Heritage Commissioned Report No.304 (ROAME No. R07AA106).  Available on the SNH website.
  • CJC Consulting. 2015 The economic contribution of the forestry sector in Scotland : Final report.  Available on the Scottish Forestry website.


Don't Risk It!

Don't Risk it! image


Just like humans and animals, plants can get sick too. They can suffer from diseases caused by viruses, bacteria and fungi, and be attacked by pests which may even be invisible to the naked eye. Recently, we have seen an increase in the number of new pests and diseases being introduced into areas which were previously free of them. Many of these recent introductions can be traced to the rapidly increasing levels of international trade and travel.

Pests and diseases can hitch a ride on plants, seeds, flowers, fruit and vegetables, even if they look healthy. They can even stowaway on soil clinging to roots or hide in untreated wood products. In this way, when we move plants between different parts of the world, we can inadvertently move pests and disease with them. Once introduced into a new environment, some of these alien pests and diseases can cause severe economic losses to agriculture, horticulture and forestry, and threaten biodiversity.

Citrus longhorn beetle   Colorado beetle

Citrus longhorn beetle (Anoplophora chinenis) is a harmful pest which can be concealed in wood products as an adult, pupa or in its larval stage. This pest would be extremely damaging to a wide range of trees and shrubs if it was introduced into the UK.


The UK is free of Colorado beetle (Leptinotarsa decemlineata). This pest has however been intercepted on a range of leafy vegetables being imported into the country.


Plant health laws are in place to protect agriculture, horticulture, forestry and the environment, and many plants and plant products are not allowed to be transported without official authorisation. But to help protect our nation’s plants and trees we ask you to avoid unnecessary risks by not bringing back any plants or seeds, flowers, fruit or vegetables to the UK. In this way you can play your part, alongside the actions of government and industry, by avoiding, unwittingly, bringing back something which may be infested or diseased.

If you have enjoyed seeing a certain plant or tree on your travels and want to enjoy it in your own garden then always buy from a UK garden centre or supplier. This is the best way you can be sure that they have been sourced responsibly and gone through the necessary processes to ensure they are free from pests and disease.

How You Can Help

  • Do not bring home flowers, fruit, plants, seeds, or vegetables from your travels.
  • If you do wish to import plants, please contact to find out what you can do legally.
  • If you are carrying any flowers, fruit, plants, seeds or vegetables, declare them to Customs officials


Don’t Risk It! is a European and Mediterranean Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO)-led campaign.



International Year of Plant Health 2020

The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) of the United Nations have designated 2020 as the International Year of Plant Health (IYPH). IYPH is a tremendous opportunity to raise the profile of plant health on the global stage, highlighting the importance of healthy plants to a wide audience. The aim of IYPH is to raise awareness of how protecting plant health provides a multitude of benefits to us as humans and to our environment, biodiversity and economy. For this reason, the Scottish Government have included IYPH amongst our Programme for Government commitments.

Throughout 2020 Scottish Government will collaborate with the Plant Health Centre, other stakeholders and the UK Plant Heath Authorities  to:

  • Promote the benefits of healthy plants to Scotland and beyond
  • Increase awareness of the threat from plant pests and diseases from trade and travel globalisation.
  • Spread the biosecurity message, making people aware what good biosecurity looks like and what they can do to practice it.
  • Raise awareness of the activities that Scottish stakeholders do to protect Scotland’s plants.

In Scotland, we are planning a series of events and activities to raise the profile of plant health and biosecurity during IYPH.

IYPH activities

Due to the current public health situation a number of our events have been cancelled or postponed. If you would like further information please contact  

Parliamentary reception
Ms Gillian Martin will host our IYPH reception at the Parliament. The Minister, Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland and David Knott from RBGE will speak at this event. We are inviting a range of stakeholders from the forestry, agriculture, horticulture and natural environment sectors.

Ministerial round tables
Round tables will be held with industry to allow stakeholders to raise key issues with the Minister and Scottish Government Officials.

Scotland’s Plant Health Conference
Thursday 12th March, Novotel Edinburgh Park
A conference for stakeholders from across the horticulture, forestry, agriculture and natural environment sectors. It is a great opportunity for organisations and individuals to share and discuss their plant health issues and catch up on the latest policies relevant to Scotland.

Exhibition at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
A IYPH/biosecurity exhibition & associated leaflets is on display in the RBGE John Hope Gateway. This space attracts almost 1 million visitors a year.
We will also have a smaller touring version of this display which will visit the regional gardens.

Bug hunts
Look out for our children’s trail activity at various sites across Scotland to raise awareness of plant pests & encourage a new generation of bug hunters.

IYPH Science Festival activities
We have developed a range of plant health themed activities and plan to take them to several science festivals across Scotland during 2020.

Gardening Scotland Front Garden and biosecurity stall
29th- 31st May
We are working with SRUC Garden Design students to develop a plant health/ biosecurity themed front garden for the horticulture show Gardening Scotland.
This garden is in addition to the regular Scottish Government/SASA stall which will be bigger than we’ve had in previous years & include some craft activities for children.

Royal Highland Show
18-21st June
In collaboration with our stakeholders we intend to use the RHS to raise the profile of plant health in IYHP.

Dundee Flower and Food Festival
4th- 6th September
After the success of our stall at this event last year we will attend again with a plant health/biosecurity themed stall with our IYPH themed display.

Plus more still to come!  We will add further details of our events to this website in due course, or why not follow @plantchiefscot on Twitter to hear more about our IYPH plans.


Ongoing controls to protect against the tree pest oak processionary moth (Thaumetopoea processionea)

The UK Plant Health Services are currently dealing with findings of oak processionary moth (OPM) caterpillars on recently imported oak trees. To reduce the chance of further interceptions, strengthened measures on the import of most species of oak into Scotland were introduced on Tuesday 16 July 2019. Such measures have also been introduced in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

The majority of the UK is designated as a Protected Zone for OPM meaning that the pest is known to be absent. As Scotland is part of the Protected Zone for OPM, officials are working to ensure that any interceptions are eradicated, by spraying the nest with the pesticide Deltamethrin.

Anyone who has received oak trees imported from the continent has been asked to urgently check their trees for OPM, and nurseries holding imported oak trees have also been asked to spray them as a precautionary measure to stop this pest spreading. It is vital that imported oak trees are checked and sprayed now to minimise the spread of this damaging tree pest and protect the health of our oak trees.

Spotting OPM

Further information on OPM, including pictures of caterpillars and nests can be found on the Forest Research website. If you spot OPM caterpillars or nests on your trees, please report it via the online portal Tree Alert.


If you suspect OPM, you should not attempt to touch or move infected material yourself as the nests and caterpillars can pose some risks to human health.

Further information



In Scotland, can be contacted with any OPM enquiries.

Useful sources of plant health information