Safeguarding Scotland’s biodiversity is a key role of the government agency NatureScot, known formerly as Scottish Natural Heritage. NatureScot sets out its ambitions below and hopefully this will generate discussion as to how the Scottish arboriculture sector fits into its next phase. Those managing trees certainly need to be aware of any resulting policy changes, such as the greatly reduced list of birds on their General Licences.
As we look forward, the way Scotland recovers from Covid-19 could be one important way we secure a nature-rich future for generations to come. During lockdowns around the world people have valued the direct physical and wellbeing benefits of nature – spending time in their local parks and green spaces. People are more connected with nature than they have been before. More people than ever before are starting to fully understand and support powerful arguments to put nature at the heart of our emergence from this crisis.
The World Economic Forum identifies biodiversity loss and ecosystem collapse as one of the top five risks in the next 10 years. It acknowledges the critical implications for humanity that biodiversity loss poses, in particular for food and health and wider supply chains. Investing in a green recovery will help us mitigate the significant economic and societal shocks in the future, and will contribute to a more resilient economy and society. We must look beyond traditional economic approaches and restore nature. Green recovery is low carbon, resource efficient and socially inclusive. It addresses the twin challenges of climate change and biodiversity loss and is central to a more resilient and inclusive society and economy.
In 2019, Scotland was the first nation to declare a climate emergency. Now we can be world leaders again, with a green recovery that puts nature, and nature-based solutions, at the heart of rebuilding our economy. We are taking the lead on a wide range of partnership projects with a pivotal role to play – from outdoor learning for school pupils to active travel, to multimillion-pound biodiversity projects across Scotland; from business investment partnerships to developing urban greenspace to peatland restoration and sustainable marine management.
A programme is underway to reintroduce wildcats to the Cairngorms National Park. (photo: ©Lorne Gill/NatureScot)
Protected areas can safeguard species, but some, including our native birds, and wildcats, are so threatened or vulnerable that they need legal protection wherever they occur.
From the beginning of April, 11 species of birds, including rooks, great black-backed gulls and collared doves, were given stronger protection when they were removed from General Licences. We want to make sure our licences remain relevant, evidence based and fit-for-purpose and our new General Licences will better balance current conservation research with the needs of licence users. Our role is to help wild birds thrive, but we must also safeguard the public from health and safety risks, as well as making sure farmers can protect their crops.
The wildcat is critically endangered and on the verge of extinction in Scotland, but a new phase of wildcat recovery is offering our last native feline their ninth lifeline. Saving Wildcats (#SWAforLife) is a new £5.4 million partnership project, led by the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland in collaboration with NatureScot and others, to reintroduce wildcats into the Cairngorms National Park and boost the population. A dedicated conservation ‘breeding for release’ centre is being built at Highland Wildlife Park to enable experts to breed wildcats, prepare them for life in the wild and then release them into the Scottish highlands. It is tremendously exciting to begin the UK’s first wildcat release project.
In August 2020, Scottish Natural Heritage became NatureScot as part of its drive to adapt the organisation to meet current environment challenges. Nature is at the heart of the work that we do; now it’s in our name too. As NatureScot we will be ready to deliver the transformational change needed to secure a nature-rich future for Scotland.
For more information: www.nature.scot
This article was taken form Issue 191 Winter 2020 of the ARB Magazine, which is available to view free to Arboricultural Association members by simply logging in to the website and viewing your profile area.