Plant Health

For information on:


SASA provides the following scientific support on plant health to the Scottish Government in support of Scottish and EU plant health legislation. All plant health work is overseen by the Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland (CPHOS).

If you wish to find out more information or contact us about a non-urgent plant health issue, please email Plant Health at SASA. For plant health inspections or urgent enquiries, refer to the section below relating to the Horticulture and Marketing Unit.

Further information on plant health can be found on the Scottish Government's Plant Health webpages or the website.


SASA provides scientific, technical and policy advice to the Scottish Government on:

  • the implementation of plant health legislation;
  • contingency planning for eradication or containment of plant pests or pathogens;
  • risk assessments for plant pests and pathogens moving in or on traded plant material; and
  • all aspects of the technical and scientific services provided (below).

SASA staff also represent the Scottish Government and UK Plant Health Service nationally and internationally on committees, as editors and in consultancy work.


Horticulture and Marketing Unit (HMU)

HMU staff provide technical advice (see above) and undertake inspections to ensure compliance with:

HMU staff also support the implementation of the fruit and vegetable regime in Scotland.

For more information in relation to inspections, or to notify the appearance, or suspected appearance, of a harmful plant pest, please contact HMU.

Pests and pathogen diagnosis and surveillance -

  • Plant pathology - Viral, bacterial and fungal pathogens of plant health concern in Scotland are diagnosed on plants in trade. Surveillance for specific pathogens is also undertaken.
  • Pest identification - Entomological and nematological plant pests are identified in traded plant material, on plant products and on material subject to plant passporting.

Plant health licensing

SASA issues plant health licences on behalf of Scottish Ministers for work with organisms and materials that are normally prohibited under Plant Health legislation.

Plant health research

SASA undertakes research projects in support of plant health functions.

Potato quarantine

SASA runs the Potato Quarantine Unit on behalf of the UK Plant Health Authorities.

Pest and pathogen diagnosis and surveillance

Pest and pathogen diagnosis is an essential part of the plant health support for the Scottish Government and is the basis of much of the plant health advice given.

Quarantine and other pests and pathogens are diagnosed:

  • in traded plants (imported and exported plants and as required for plant passporting ) and plant products. Organisms for which surveillance is done include  Bemisia tabaci on Poinsettia plants, and Meloidogyne chitwoodii on potatoes and Plum pox virus on Prunus;
  • to meet requirements for surveillance by EC Member States in emergency legislation. Examples include Potato spindle tuber viroid (PSTVd, Commission Decision 2007/410/EC) and Phytophthora ramorum on host plants (2002/757/EC);  Pepino mosaic virus on tomato (2004/200/EC); Diabrotica virgifera on maize (2003/736/EC);
  • for potato quarantine testing (see the potato quarantine page);
  • for Scottish Government certification schemes (potatoes, soft fruit and bulbs);
  • on potato as required in the relevant control directives. This includes annual surveys for potato brown rot (Ralstonia solanacearum) and potato ring rot (Clavibacter michiganensis subsp. sepedonicus) as required in the EC Brown Rot Control Directive (98/57/EC as amended) and the EC Ring Rot Control Directive (93,85/EEC as amended). Surveys on ware land for potato cyst nematode (Globodera pallida and Globodera rostochiensis, 2007/33/EC) and other testing in Scotland to meet seed potato certification requirements (See the soil testing page for details of the sampling and testing for PCN);
  • wart (Synchytrium endobioticum) susceptibility testing of potato varieties as required in EC Wart Disease Directive (69/464/EEC);
  • as required for maintenance of protected zone status or to support statements on  pest freedom for example Bemisia tabaci surveillance, freedom from rhizomania (Beet necrotic yellow vein virus)

Samples from Scottish Government inspectors are examined for pests and pathogens using microscopic, microbiological, serological, molecular, electron microscopic and bioassay methods. SASA collaborates internationally to introduce and develop new techniques for the diagnosis of quarantine and other harmful organisms and is involved with EC evaluation of existing and new methods (see the R&D section).

Plant Health Licensing

SASA issues plant health licences on behalf of Scottish Ministers

 for the following activities in Scotland:

  • work with non-indigenous and quarantine plant pests and pathogens;
  • for work on certain imported soils and plant material;
  • for potato quarantine testing.

Licences are issued following inspection of premises and assessment of the risks associated with the activities, in accordance with EC legislation. Particular attention is given to the containment procedures to be used when handling the licensed material and its disposal on completion of the work.  Please see the guidance notes or email Plant Health Licensing for further information.

Download the application form for soil, plant material and prohibited organisms and send the completed form to:

The Plant Health Licensing Officer
Roddinglaw Road
EH12 9FJ

For potato quarantine testing see the Potato Quarantine page or download the PQU Licence Application form.

The Scottish Government issues plant health licences for collection of wild plant material. Contact for further information.

For information on imports of plants and plant material, see the Plant Health Guide for Importers on the Scottish Government website.

SASA also provides advice to the Scottish Government in support of legislation on the contained use of genetically modified organisms.

Potato Quarantine


Entry of stolon- and tuber-forming Solanum material into the EU for further propagation is prohibited ( EC Plant Health Directive (2000/29/EC as amended). Material may, however, enter the EU under a derogation specified in Commission Directive 2008/61/EC. The material must undergo official post-entry quarantine testing.

In the UK potato quarantine testing is done at the UK Potato Quarantine Unit (UKPQU), a purpose-built facility at SASA.

A plant health import licence is required prior to import.

The UKPQU is overseen by a Review Committee  comprising stakeholders including the Scottish Government, the Department for Environment and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), Department of Agriculture and Rural Development for Northern Ireland (DARD-NI), British Society of Plant Breeders and research and commercial interests. The committee meets every several years. A report of the work of the UKPQU is prepared for these meetings and can be viewed here.


Each unit of potato material is established as in vitro microplant cultures, observed over a growing season in the glasshouse for the presence of diseases and tested for specific pathogens. The testing done by the UKPQU exceeds EC requirements. 

Material released by the UKPQU is issued with a plant passport and may be planted without further testing anywhere in the EC. You can obtain a copy of our testing procedures from the Potato Quarantine Unit


Virus elimination and rapid multiplication services are provided for customers.

The UKPQU has been involved in quarantine testing programmes for true potato seed from UK gene banks. Tested seed is held in the Commonwealth Potato Collection at the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

The UKPQU collaborates with other potato quarantine scientists internationally to develop new methods, evaluate existing methods for pathogen diagnosis for potato quarantine purposes and to develop guidelines for the safe movement of potato germplasm.


View the reports of the work of the United Kingdom Potato Quarantine Unit



New Plant Health Regulations

Plant Health elements of the new Official Controls and Plant Health Regulations - GUIDANCE

The new Official Controls Regulation (OCR) and Plant Health Regulation (PHR) will apply to all EU member states from 14 December 2019 and are part of the Smarter Rules for Safer Food (SRSF) package. As the UK will remain a member of the EU at this time these regulations will apply to Scotland. As the outcome of our departure from the EU is still to be negotiated, we will continue to prepare for a no deal which will include becoming a third country to the EU following implementation of the OCR and PHR. No deal preparation guidance will be updated to take into account these changes.

What is Smarter Rules for Safer Food?

The Smarter Rules for Safer Food (SRSF) package is a set of EU regulations for the protection against animal disease and plant pests. The package will modernise, simplify and improve existing health and safety standards for the agri-food chain. It will take a risk-based approach to animal, plant and public health protection, introducing more efficient pest and disease control measures.

The package includes 3 principal EU regulations: 

The 3 principal EU regulations are supported by EU negotiated tertiary legislation that adds the detail to the legislation. The technical detail in the tertiary legislation can be updated quickly in response to changing situations and new technology. The Scottish Government has been working with Defra, the devolved administrations, the European Commission and other EU member states on the content of the tertiary legislation.

In order to ensure a co-ordinated approach to regulatory implementation is made across the UK, the Scottish Government and UK government are working closely with delivery bodies, the devolved administrations and crown dependencies to ensure any new rules protect the UK’s biosecurity without putting any unnecessary burden on industry.

Plant Health Regulation

The Plant Health Regulation (PHR) will apply to EU member states from 14 December 2019 alongside the Official Controls Regulation.

The PHR helps the agricultural, horticultural and forestry sectors remain sustainable and competitive, as well as protecting domestic biodiversity and ecosystems. Globalised trade and climate change now presents a greater risk to these sectors. The new PHR sets out controls and restrictions that will apply to imports and internal movement of certain plants, plant pests, and other materials like soil, to help reduce these risks.

Some of the areas changing include:

  • The use of plant passports is being extended to cover all plants for planting and the format of the plant passport label is changing.  New requirements for authorisation will also be introduced.
  • More goods being imported into the EU will require a phytosanitary certificate.
  • New requirements for the registration of professional operators.
  • Strengthened measures for protected zones.
  • New requirements applying to high risk plants and regulated non-quarantine pests (RNQPs).
  • A more precautionary approach to new trade flows and a commitment to undertake thorough pest risk assessments.
  • A new category of priority pests will be introduced, including annual surveying requirements and outbreak contingency planning.

Please see the plant passporting guidance page for more details.

To receive email alerts when further information on SRSF is shared on the SASA pages: Please email PHP_Mailbox with the subject line ‘Subscribe to SRSF updates’ .


Plant Passporting

If you’re based in the UK and moving plants or plant products in the EU that can host quarantine pests and diseases, they may need plant passports.

The following section looks at guidance for plant passporting under the new Plant Health Regulation (PHR), which comes into force on 14 December 2019. As we will still be in the EU by 14 December 2019, the regulations will apply.

Becoming authorised to issue plant passports

Plant passports may only be issued by businesses who are registered and authorised for the purpose.

If you’re based in Scotland:

If you’re based in England and Wales, either:

Find more [information] on the procedure for England and Wales.

Plant passporting – a step-by-step guide

Defra in consultation with the Scottish Government and other devolved administrations have created the following guidance that introduces the new content and format of the plant passport as well as what the plant passport should be attached to.

Plant Passport Introductory Guide

Examples of a standard plant passport 

Note: The size of the plant passport, the use of a border line, the proportions of the size of their elements, and the fonts used in the models are only examples.

Standard Plant Passport Examples

Plant passport checklist:

  • A visible EU flag
  • Legible text (handwritten clearly allowed as long as in capitals)
  • The words ‘plant passport’1
  • The Botanical names2 (A)
  • Country code of issuer3 (B) e.g.  GB
  • Registration number4 (B) e.g. for Scotland, it will be ‘S’ followed by a 5 digit number
  • Traceability code5 (C)
  • Code of origin code (EU member state or 3rd country) 7 or 8 (D)
  • Barcode or similar (optional)

Please see the guidance for more information, which also includes FAQ.

Other resources

Another tool you may find useful is this video created by the HTA

HTA – Plant Passporting – Get Ready

Any questions

Please contact the Scottish Government’s Horticulture and Marketing Unit:


Issuing plant passports

The Plant Health Regulation (PHR) applies directly to the UK from 14 December 2019. The fact sheet below outlines what will be changing for Plant Passports (PP) and applies to Scottish businesses involved in activities such as the production, manufacture and supply of plants, seeds, timber and plant products.

Importing from third (non-EU) countries

Smarter rules for safer food: how to import from third (non-EU) Countries and High Risk Plants

How to import high risk plants and plant products to the EU from 14 December 2019 under the Smarter Rules for Safer Food Regulations.

Access our factsheet

You must have a phytosanitary certificate for almost all plants and living parts of plants, including fresh fruit and vegetables, and all seeds intended for planting, entering the EU from 14 December 2019. 

There are 5 tropical fruits listed that will not require a phytosanitary certificate for import into the EU:
  • bananas
  • coconut
  • dates
  • durian
  • pineapple
The rules set out in this guide follow the smarter rules for safer food policy which protects individuals and businesses against animal disease and plant pests.

1. Personal baggage allowance

You will need a phytosanitary certificate to import certain plants and plant products in with your personal baggage from third (non EU) countries into the UK and other EU countries. You cannot bring in plants for planting or any high risk plants (see section 4 below for a list).
‘Plant’ means a living plant (including a fungus or tree) or a living part of a plant (including a living part of a fungus or shrub), at any stage of growth.
‘Plant product’ means products of plant origin that has not been processed or has only undergone simple preparation. Wood and bark are not ‘plant products’.
You can import up to 2 kg of plants and plant products, other than plants for planting, from all third (non EU) countries provided that the material is:
  • in your personal luggage;
  • accompanied by a phytosanitary certificate;
  • for your personal use;
  • not diseased or infected with pests.

If you want to bring in more than 2 kg of plants and plant products, other than plants for planting, into Scotland, you will need to notify the Scottish Government’s Horticulture and Marketing Unit. Your plants or plant products may need to be inspected at a Border Control Post by the plant health authority.

2. Prohibitions on ‘high risk’ plant imports

A different category of high risk plants, plant products and other objects will be introduced.
High risk plants and plant products (as listed below) will be prohibited from entering the EU from all third (no EU) countries from 14 December 2019, until a full risk assessment is conducted by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

3. How to apply for an exemption from the ‘high risk’ prohibition

Third country National Plant Protection Organisations (NPPOs) can apply for an exemption from the prohibition on high risk plants and plant products by applying to the European Commission.
EFSA will assess the information provided by the NPPO and complete a full risk assessment on the plant or plant product. If the risk assessment permits the trade it will be removed from the high risk list, subject to specific import requirements including phytosanitary certification.

4. High risk plants

The following plants for planting from all third countries will be prohibited from 14 December 2019:
  • Acacia
  • Acer
  • Albizia
  • Almus
  • Annona
  • Bauhinia
  • Berberis
  • Betula
  • Caesalpinia
  • Cassia
  • Castanea
  • Cornus
  • Corylus
  • Crataegus
  • Diospyros
  • Fagus
  • Ficus carica
  • Fraxinus
  • Hamamelis
  • Jasminum
  • Juglans
  • Ligustrum
  • Lonicera
  • Malus
  • Nerium
  • Persea
  • Populus
  • Prunus
  • Quercus
  • Robinia
  • Salix
  • Sorbus
  • Taxus
  • Tilia
  • Ulmus
The prohibition does not apply to seeds, fruits, leaves, tissue culture material, and naturally or artificially dwarfed woody plants of these species.

5. High risk plant products

These plant products are prohibited from 14 December 2019:
  • plants of Ullucus tuberosus are prohibited from all third countries.
  • fruits of Momordica are prohibited from third countries where Thrips palmi is present and effective mitigation measures are not in place.
  • wood of Ulmus is prohibited from third countries where Saperda tridentata is known to occur.

6.  Border Control Terminology is changing

  • Designated Points of Entry (DPE) will be automatically re-designated as Border Control Posts (BCPs).
  • Plants and plant materials that require plant health controls for entry into the EU will continue to be inspected at the BCPs in line with existing  procedure.
  • A list of ports and airports where you can bring consignments of plants, seeds and produce into the UK.