RSPB makes call to Scottish Parliament over ‘perilous’ state of nature

A western capercaillie in the Scottish Highlands

THE RSPB has called on the Scottish Parliament to introduce a host of new measures to protect nature in the country.

The wildlife charity said that new findings on the ‘perilous’ state of nature are now too big a wake-up call to ignore.

It comes after analysis by the Natural History Museum revealed Scotland to be listed in the worst 12% of out of 240 countries and territories around the world analysed for the amount of wildlife and wild places lost due to human activity.

The RSPB said that the biodiversity intactness index (BII), which is used by the key United Nations nature initiatives to assess nature around the world, is the latest analysis in a ‘growing body’ of evidence highlighting the ‘urgent’ need for action in order to halt and reverse declines in wildlife and to protect nature and restore ecosystems.

Scotland has a BII of just 56% compared with 65% for France, 75% for Norway and 89% for Finland – which is among the best countries or territories worldwide for retaining its natural biodiversity. Of the 27 EU member states, 23 of them – 85% – rank more highly than Scotland.

In 2019, a group of nature conservation and scientific organisations, including the Scottish Government’s nature advisors NatureScot, published the state of nature in Scotland report. The document revealed an ongoing loss in nature, finding that 49% of species had declines and one in nine species is at risk of extinction in Scotland.

The RSPB said that investment and action to protect and restore nature have not been sufficient to halt the declines. As a result, it is calling on the Scottish Parliament to bring in legislation and policies that it says will aid nature’s recovery. It called on the following:

  • Protecting 30% of Scotland’s land for nature by 2030 through new and existing nature sites, ensuring these places are well managed, monitored and sufficiently funded.
  • Transforming Scotland’s approach to a wide range of policy areas from farming to fishing to planning and development to benefit nature, people and climate as outlined in the #11Actions in the Nature Recovery Plan produced jointly by RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and WWF Scotland.
  • Setting legally-binding targets for nature’s recovery like there are for climate

Aedan Smith, head of policy for RSPB Scotland, said, “The central message from the BII is inescapable: by this measure, nature in Scotland is more depleted than in 88% of the 240 other countries and territories studied across the world. When we combine that with the State of Nature finding that nature loss is continuing right now in Scotland, on our watch, surely the wake-up call is too loud to ignore.

“Too much of our nature is in trouble – but we still have the staggering beauty of pinewoods and peatlands, eagles, dolphins, bumblebees, kelp, orchids, curlews and thousands of other precious species. We have so much to lose – and so much to regain.

“With new determination and creativity, we can restore nature in Scotland. This last incredibly difficult year has shown us how much we need nature. And now nature needs each and every member of the Scottish Parliament to commit to taking strong and lasting action to restore and protect it.

“The good news is that the action needed can all go hand-in-hand with a green recovery from Covid-19 – creating jobs and improving the health and wellbeing of people living in Scotland.

“While Scotland’s huge importance for nature in terms of the four UK countries is clear from its higher ranking for intactness, it still has a long way to go to be a true champion of nature. Scotland could lead the world in protecting nature but only if this new Scottish Parliament takes the opportunity to turn things around, creating a Scotland we can all be proud of.

“As each of the 129 MSPs start this new five-year term, we wish them all the very best. We have high hopes that they will be equal to the challenge and can set Scotland’s nature firmly on a road to recovery for all our sakes.”