Fossil code

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 was designed to increase the protection of Scotland’s natural heritage, including its rocks, fossils and landforms. The Act strengthens the laws on wildlife crime and modernises the system of designating and protecting Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSIs). The Act makes it an offence for anyone to intentionally or recklessly damage an SSSI. This is an important advance from the previous legislation (Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 [as amended]), which only applied to operations and activities carried out or permitted by the owners and occupiers of an SSSI and not those of third parties undertaken without the owner’s permission. The 2004  Act gave Scottish Natural Heritage the duty of preparing the Scottish Fossil Code.

The Scottish Fossil Code

After two years of preparation, involving a public consultation, the Scottish Fossil Code was launched by Michael Russell the Scottish Government Environment Minister in Cromarty on April 11th 2008. Probably the first national code of its kind, the Scottish Fossil Code aims primarily to help conserve the fossil heritage of Scotland.

Fossil collecting is an essential activity that provides the basic material and data for the science of palaeontology. New finds add to our record of past life and environments on planet Earth. Following the Code will increase the personal interest and satisfaction that can be gained from forming a fossil collection, and help conserve the fossil heritage of Scotland.

The essentials of the Scottish Fossil Code:

  • Seek permissionYou are acting within the law if you obtain permission to extract, collect and retain fossils.
  • Access responsiblyConsult the Scottish Outdoor Access Code prior to accessing land. Be aware that there are restrictions on access and collecting at some locations protected by statute.
  • Collect responsiblyExercise restraint in the amount collected and the equipment used. Be careful not to damage fossils and the fossil resource. Record details of both the location and the rocks from which fossils are collected.
  • Seek adviceIf you find an exceptional or unusual fossil do not try to extract it; but seek advice from an expert. Also seek help to identify fossils or dispose of an old collection.
  • Label and look afterCollected specimens should be labelled and taken good care of.
  • DonateIf you are considering donating a fossil or collection choose an Accredited museum, or one local to the collection area.

The Code and associated leaflet may be viewed and downloaded from