For information on Pesticide Regulations and Brexit see the Pesticides EU Exit guidance page


Pesticides are substances that are used to control pests. Pesticides include synthetic and naturally occurring chemicals as well as biological agents.  Current legislation requires the generation of extensive data packages to demonstrate that pesticides, when used correctly, will not give rise to unacceptable risks to users, consumers and the environment.  Post-registration surveillance provides a means of confirming that pesticides are being used correctly and that the pre-registration risk assessments are providing the required levels of safety. SASA has a key role in supporting the UK and EU regulatory process through statutory:

  • Monitoring for pesticides and their metabolites that could remain in or on our food,
  • Monitoring the impact on non-target animals e.g. wildlife, pets, livestock and honeybees following the legal and illegal use of pesticides (see our Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) page), 
  • Collection of usage information on agricultural and horticultural crops.

Scientists at SASA also provide information and expertise to a wide range of stakeholders inside and outside government in relation to biocides and pesticides. 

What to do if you think people, animals or the environment have been harmed by accidental or deliberate exposure to pesticides, biocides or veterinary medicines

Health & Safety Executive guidance regarding pesticide exposure can be found on the Chemicals Regulation Directorate's Reporting Incidents webpage.

Pesticide & Chemical Analysis


The presence of pesticides that could remain in or on the UK’s food & drink supply is monitored continuously by testing  various foodstuffs on sale to the general public. This is extremely exacting work requiring the ability to detect 100s of different chemicals at concentrations of parts per billion (i.e. 1 part in 1000,000,000 parts).  UK and EU surveillance programmes include both imported and home-produced food and covers staples such as bread, milk, babyfood, meat and fruit & vegetables.  SASA has experience across the range of commodities, but currently focuses on the fruit and vegetable sector.


The Wildlife Incident Investigation Scheme (WIIS) provides a channel for monitoring the impact of legitimate pesticide and biocide use on wildlife, domestic animals, livestock and honeybees. 

Exposure to pesticides and biocides can occur following:

  • Approved Use (according to the specified instruction);
  • Misuse (careless, accidental or wilful failure to adhere to the correct practice);
  • Abuse (the deliberate and illegal attempt to poison animals);
  • Veterinary Use (where subsequent investigations reveal that the pesticide detected was formulated as a veterinary medicine); or
  • Unspecified Use (where the cause could not be assigned to one of the above categories).


SASA Pesticides & Wildlife Branch provides analytical chemistry support  to the investigation of suspected wildlife crimes and enforcement of various laws.  The support provided involves:

  1. The detection, identification and quantitation of a wide range of chemicals used as poisons and that may remain in or on suspected victims or baits,
  2. Identification of suspicious substances e.g. unknown chemicals, material collected from a crime scene, vehicle or a suspect’s possessions
  3. The detection, identification and quantitation of chemical residues that remain in or on suspected poisoning paraphernalia e.g. knives, syringes or containers.

Pesticide Residues in Food

One of the principal functions of the Pesticides Branch at SASA is participation in annual UK and EU surveillance programme aimed at the monitoring of multiple pesticide residues in food & drink. A rolling programme, covering the main food groups of fruit and vegetables, cereals and cereal products and products of animal and fish origin, is implemented via specific commodity surveys on samples collected within calendar years. The work is carried out under the auspices of the Defra Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF), and is commissioned by the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD).

Provision of this service is facilitated by application of a variety of analytical methods that necessitate the use of state-of-the-art instrumentation and a comprehensive quality control system. An integrated analytical approach is required in order to detect, identify, quantify and confirm the presence (or absence) of a wide range of pesticide residues in a variety of matrices, often at sub part per billion levels. 

Find out more on the analytical techniques currently available.

Research Activities

A primary objective is to provide a high quality trace analytical facility at SASA on behalf of the Scottish Government. Consequently, it is an ongoing requirement to develop and adapt analytical methodologies and maintain a critical awareness of technical developments for the following reasons:

  • the continuous introduction of new agricultural pesticides
  • an increased variety and complexity of pesticide/foodstuff combinations
  • greater consumption of imported foods, particularly from countries with different regulations for the application and registration of pesticides
  • reduction in Maximum Residue Levels (MRL)
  • continued improvement in the effectiveness and efficiency of analytical procedures
  • developments in analytical instrumentation and procedures.

See also the list of Pesticide & Chemical Analysis papers and poster presentations.

Analytical Techniques Currently Available

The following analytical techniques are currently available at SASA:

  • Gel Permeation Chromatography (GPC
  • Gas Chromatography Mass Spectrometry (GCMS)
  • Gas Chromatography tandem Mass Spectrometry (GCMSMS)
  • Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography tandem Mass Spectrometry (UPLC MSMS)
  • Ultra Performance Liquid Chromatography Photodiode Array Detection (UPLC PDA)
  • Ultra High Performance Liquid Chromatography - QTRAP (UHPLC/MS/MS).

Analytical methods and procedures are accredited to the ISO 17025 standard for testing laboratories by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) and are additionally supported by rigorous in-house quality control practices.  View the UKAS testing laboratories and schedules.

Our accreditation is limited to those activities described on our UKAS schedule of accreditation, see our [QA page].

Pesticide Usage

The regulation of pesticides and biocides in the UK is undertaken by the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD) in York and the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) in Bootle respectively. Pesticides and biocides are carefully assessed prior to approval under the EU Thematic Strategy for Pesticides and the Biocidal Products Directive respectively. These have been transposed into UK law by the Plant Protection Products regulations and the Biocidal Products regulations.

SASA is a division of the Scottish Government which provides expert advice and services regarding the implementation of these regulations both within Scotland, and in the wider UK context to CRD and HSE. A number of SASA staff participate as Scottish representatives in the various interdepartmental committees that coordinate the regulation of pesticides and biocides throughout the UK.


Information on the use of pesticides is collected and published annually by the Pesticide Survey Unit at SASA.  Surveyors from SASA interview a representative sample of Scottish farmers and horticulturists about their use of agrochemicals and from this sample an overall estimate of use in Scotland is obtained.  The Scottish survey data are also incorporated with England, Wales and Northern Ireland data to provide estimates of annual UK-wide pesticide use.  Information on all aspects of pesticide usage in the United Kingdom as a whole may be obtained from the Pesticide Usage Survey Team at FERA Science Ltd, Sand Hutton, York.

A 4-year cycle of surveys ensures that the main crops grown in Scotland are covered at least once.  Arable, soft fruit, vegetable, orchard and protected edible crops are surveyed biennially with grass and fodder crops surveyed every four years.  The reports detail pesticide usage on each crop in terms of weight, area and percentage treated with specific active substances.  In Scotland, rodenticide use surveys are also conducted alongside the arable and fodder surveys.  This is not part of the UK Survey cycle and rodenticide reports are only produced in Scotland.

The latest survey reports, covering each survey type in Scotland, are downloadable from this site or from the Scottish Government website.

Pesticide usage data is also available from an interactive database of Scottish Pesticide Use (SCOPES), which displays estimated active ingredient use on Scottish arable crops.

Official Statistics

These are statistics that have been produced following the Code of Practice for Official Statistics.  This Code sets out standards to ensure integrity, objectivity and impartiality.

The Pesticide Survey Unit (PSU) at SASA gained ministerial approval as a provider of Official Statistics in August 2012.  In October 2014 following assessed by The United Kingdom Statistics Authority (UKSA), the PSU were found to be compliant with the Code of Practice and are now designated as National Statistics.  As a producer of national statistics, PSU are required to follow the Code of Practice for Official Statistics and to meet the requirements of the Pre-release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland Order 2008). 

All PSU reports are produced according to a published timetable.  Release dates are pre-announced via the Office of the Chief Statistician and Performance (OCSP) within the Scottish Government (SG).  The forthcoming publication schedule is published on the SG statistics website on a monthly basis.

For full information on the Scottish Government's statistics policy please visit the Scottish Government website.

Publication timetable

Name Release Date Frequency SASA Contact
Pesticide Usage in Scotland:
Outdoor Vegetable Crops 2019
October 2020 Biennial 0131 244 8909
Local Authority Rodenticide Use October 2020 Every 4 years 0131 244 8909
Local Authority IPM Survey October 2020 Every 4 years 0131 244 8909

Compliance Statement

Statement of Compliance with Code of Practice for Official Statistics

Useful Documents

• Pesticide Survey Unit - Methods and Quality Assurance
• Example of Uses of the Pesticide Usage Dataset
• Pesticide Survey Unit - User Feedback
• Pesticide Survey Unit - Revisions Policy
• Pesticide Survey Unit - Letter of Confirmation as National Statistics

Breaches of Code of Practice and Pre-release Order

Any breaches which contravene elements of the Code of Practice and the Pre-Release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Order will be reported here and on the Scottish Government website.

There are currently no breaches to report.

Related Links

• Code of Practice for Official Statistics
• Statistics Publications Schedule for the forthcoming year
• UK Statistics Authority
• Scottish Government Statistics
• Statistics and Registration Service Act 2007
• Pre-release Access to Official Statistics (Scotland) Order 2008
• National Statistics Hub 
• Privacy Policy




Pesticide Usage Survey Reports

Scottish Pesticide Usage reports are available to download below. Please contact us at if you require any further information.

All reports from 2011 onwards are also available on the Scottish Government website in both PDF and HTML formats.

Please note protected edible crop reports will no longer be published for Scotland.  These reports were the smallest in the series published by Pesticide Survey Unit.   The 2015 report was a short summary report as the area of protected edible crops recorded in the June Agricultural Census has declined for a number of years to only 11 hectares.  Such a small area no-longer justifies a separate report, however SASA will continue to collect the data biennially for inclusion in the UK report and for advice provision.

For upcoming publication dates please see our official statistics page.

We welcome feedback on our reports and would be grateful if you could spare a few moments to complete our online Pesticide Usage Feedback Survey.

If you would like to be notified when reports are published, please subscribe to the RSS feed or email your contact details to .  If you are interested in finding out more about Scottish Government Statistics or getting involved in consultations please see the Scottish Government ScotStat webpage.

See also the list of Pesticide & Chemical Analysis papers and poster presentations.

Scottish Pesticide Surveys Database (SCOPES)

Scottish Pesticide Surveys Database (SCOPES)

Search the Scottish Pesticide Surveys (SCOPES) database


This search facility currently allows you to search the Scottish Pesticide Surveys (SCOPES) database for arable crops by active substance or active substance group. Arable crops include cereals, oilseeds, potatoes, peas, beans and set-aside (EU abolished compulsory set-aside in 2009).

The results are shown as a table displaying the total area of crop grown in Scotland and the estimated pesticide usage figures for basic area, treated area, weight applied and the percentage of crop treated for a selected active substance (see notes).

The data displayed are for the year selected plus the previous 2 survey years.

These figures are also displayed as a chart and you can choose to display a graph showing the proportion of total use of pesticide by month of application for the selected active substance and year.

At present only Arable Survey data from 2000 onwards are available.  If you require data from earlier arable surveys or from other survey types, please visit our pesticide usage survey reports page or contact us at

Arable surveys are carried out every 2 years.

Search the Scottish Pesticide Surveys (SCOPES) database


Pesticide is a broad term covering a range of commercial formulations containing active substances used as herbicides (weed killers), fungicides (mould & fungi killers), growth regulators, insecticides (insect killers) and molluscicides (slug pellets).

Group areas, for example fungicides, are the summed area of all fungicide formulations applied (a formulation is the combination of active substances which are formulated together in a product).

Basic area (ha) is the area of crop which was treated with a given active substance, irrespective of the number of times it was applied to that area.  Basic area values are used to calculate the percentage of crop treated with a given active substance.

Treated area (ha) is the basic area of a crop treated with a given active substance multiplied by the number of applications that area received.  For example, if a ten hectare field is treated with an active substance twice then the basic area for that active substance is 10 hectares and the treated area is 20 hectares.

Weight (kg) is the quantity in kilograms of the selected active substance applied to the crop.

Percentage treated is the percentage area of crop treated with the selected active ingredient.  This is calculated using the basic area.

Please note in the 2012 Arable survey the spring oilseed rape area grown also includes linseed.

Pesticide usage data for spring oilseed rape has not been published in the 2008, 2014, 2016 and 2018 surveys due to the limited number of crops sampled.  This also applies to field bean data in 2018.  Triticale data is only available for 2010 and 2012.

Please note from January 2018, SCOPES no longer includes the active substance Sulphur in the fungicides totals.  This is in keeping with the published reports.

In the published survey reports some seed treatments were recorded as ‘no information seed treatment’.  This description was used for occasions where the grower was unable to confirm whether the seed had received a treatment.  Please note ‘no information seed treatment’ records have been excluded from SCOPES.  

Unspecified pesticide treatments are included in SCOPES.  Unspecified treatments describe those where a particular treatment was reported by the grower, but they were unable to provide the details of the product used.  For these treatments, we are able to provide and area treated but no quantity of pesticide used since the exact pesticide is unknown.

Pesticides - Useful Links