Real change ahead for biodiversity in Scotland

Scotland has some of the most beautiful natural scenery in the world, and we are putting it at the heart of our recovery, says Lorna Slater MSP

There may be chaos in Downing Street, but, here in Scotland, we are focused on a recovery for people and planet. We are getting on with the job of government, and doing everything we can to build a fairer, greener Scotland.

The cost of inaction when it comes to tackling the climate emergency would be devastating. If the pandemic has been bad, then living through the breakdown of our biosphere would be immeasurably worse. Every government has a role to play in getting it right. There will be no second chances.

Scotland has unique and world-renowned landscapes and wildlife. Yet, large parts of our natural environment are heavily degraded, and wildlife is in decline here just as it is across the world.

According to WWF Scotland, one in nine of our species are at risk of extinction, including some of our most iconic wildlife: the Scottish wildcat, mountain hare, beaver and red squirrel. It is a trend that we are determined to reverse.

Last November we saw a first in Scottish history when we relocated a family of beavers that was otherwise destined to be shot. I hope that they are the first of many that are saved.

Last week I was delighted to announce a £12.5 million investment to protect our species, woodlands, rivers and seas. This builds on a £5 million fund that we launched in November.

This is real money that is delivering real change. These projects, and this fund, will be crucial in helping us to tackle the twin crises of biodiversity loss and climate change. Over the next four years we will invest at least £65 million through the fund.

We have already committed funding to 54 projects across the country, from cities to towns and villages. This includes support for the Edinburgh & Lothians Greenspace Trust to improve biodiversity in Edinburgh’s urban parks and for Edinburgh City Council to build a coastal meadow network.

This funding is part of a wider commitment to invest £500 million in preserving and improving Scotland’s natural environment, including the restoration of peatlands, woodlands, and other natural habitats.
By doing this we can create thousands of good jobs and fuel a green recovery. These plans are a triple win: good for people, good for the planet and good for our economy.

We are investing in our parks, and, in my Ministerial role, I will be proud to announce at least one new national park over the course of this parliamentary term – something that hasn’t happened in Scotland for 20 years.

One of my biggest priorities is to bring biodiversity to our cities. So many children growing up in cities like Edinburgh do not get to experience the positive and affirming impact of our natural environment and green spaces.

It should be the goal of every generation to leave things better than we found them. Only through that commitment and that stewardship can we restore what we have lost and ensure a better tomorrow for future generations.

When we take care of our environment it takes care of us. Clean water, clear air, healthy soil and locally grown and sustainable food are good for all of us. That is why we are proud to be the most pro-nature government that Scotland has ever had.