Plant Health

For information on Plant Health and Brexit see the Plant Health EU Exit guidance page


SASA provides the following scientific support on plant health to the Scottish Government in support of Scottish and EU plant health legislation.

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