Programme for Government: Trust urges greater action to restore nature

The Scottish Wildlife Trust welcomes the Scottish Government’s programme for the year ahead, but greater urgency is needed to reverse biodiversity loss and halt climate change.  

Bogbean growing in pool on peatland at dawn © Mark Hamblin/2020VISION
Peatland © Mark Hamblin, 2020VISION

The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government sets out a number of new and welcome steps for nature’s recovery, including:  

  • A new Natural Environment Bill setting targets for nature restoration on land and seas,and with a new statutory monitoring, enforcing and reporting framework including protecting 30% of Scotland’s land and seas by 2030 
  • Beginning the process of designating 10% of our seas as highly protected by the end of 2022
  • Ensuring that every Local Authority area will have a Nature Network by 2026
  • The delivery of a new Biodiversity Strategy and a five-year action plan in 2022 
  • Moving 50% of agricultural funding towards supporting public goods including biodiversity, and a commitment to producing a Good Food Nation Bill
  • A focus on economic, social and environmental wellbeing in the National Strategy for Economic Transformation

Commenting on the programme Jo Pike our Chief Executive said: “The Scottish Government’s programme rightly recognises that we are living in a global climate and nature emergency, and that nature loss and climate change are the greatest threats facing people and the planet. 

“Many positive steps have been announced in the programme, several of which we directly called for in our Nature Recovery Plan. These include setting legally binding targets to protect and restore nature, as well as renewing the commitment to Local Nature Networks in every local authority, transforming agricultural support, and beginning to ensure that Scotland’s network of Marine Protected Areas deliver meaningful change.    

“Nature is our life support system and protecting it has to be the government’s number one priority.”  

Jo Pike

“However, the emergency facing our natural environment requires a more urgent response. In particular, we would like to see the Natural Environment Bill brought to Parliament as a matter of priority. 

“If Scotland is serious about playing its part in the UN’s Decade on Ecosystem Restoration, this really shouldn’t be left until the third year of the Parliament.  

The Scottish Government also needs to build on its important long-standing commitments to invest in peatland restoration and the creation of new woodlands by embracing a wider range of nature-based solutions in the urban, marine and agricultural environments. 

“Nature is our life support system and protecting it has to be the government’s number one priority.”  

Seagrass
Seagrass meadow © Ben James, NatureScot

Biodiversity Strategy and nature targets 

“We strongly welcome a commitment to meaningful and legally binding targets for nature’s recovery, which is something that the Scottish Wildlife Trust has campaigned for.  

“However, it is disappointing, particularly at the outset of the UN Decade on Ecological Restoration that these targets will not be in place until 2025 at the earliest.  

“It is critical that the new Biodiversity Strategy and the associated five-year action plan promised for next year puts added impetus behind delivering nature-based solutions on land and at sea, and includes the key measures required to address the nature crisis. When it comes to the recognition that climate change and nature loss are the greatest threats facing us today, actions and words must match.” 

Local Nature Networks and Regional Land Use Partnerships 

“The commitment to Nature Networks in every Local Authority area is a critical step in addressing biodiversity loss. However, these networks must be delivered effectively and by the end of this Parliament. 

“The new National Planning Framework must also ensure that these networks are coordinated across regions, and the country as a whole, to maximise connectivity and benefits for nature, recognising that this will go hand-in-hand with delivering benefits for climate and people.  

“Meanwhile, we need a commitment to roll out Regional Land Use Partnerships nationally on a fully funded basis to ensure that decisions on land use can be taken in a way that involves all stakeholders. These partnerships provide a vital opportunity to change regional land management for the better, and there are currently no other tools available to the Scottish Government which provide the scale and coordination necessary to address the climate and nature emergencies as part of a just transition.” 

National Strategy for Economic Transformation  

“The focus on economic, social and environmental wellbeing is a positive step but our economic plans need to fully recognise the findings of the Dasgupta Review on the Economics of Biodiversity, including that our economy is embedded within nature.  

“We need greater commitments to delivering nature-based solutions to the urgent challenges facing society, and to go beyond current commitments on peatland and forestry by delivering nature-based solutions in the urban, marine and agricultural environments. This is a vital step to ensuring that Scotland’s economic plans are both truly transformational and sustainable.  

Natural Capital  

“It is extremely positive to see the Programme for Government highlighting the vital importance of investing in natural capital, particularly for land-based and marine industries. We also welcome the new commitment to taking forward a Green Market Solutions Programme which aims to encourage, amongst other things, new investors in natural capital.”  

Marine environment  

“We welcome the commitment to completing the management measures needed to ensure Scotland’s network of Marine Protected Areas delivers for nature, and to beginning the process of designating 10% of Scotland’s seas as Highly Protected Marine Areas later this year. We look forward to engaging with the Scottish Government on the development of its Blue Economy Strategy, as well as the new Future Catching Policy and the roll-out of Remote Electronic Monitoring on fishing vessels.  

“We also welcome the delivery of a new vision for sustainable aquaculture but hope this does not create further delays in taking action to improve the environmental standards of the industry. In particular we expect to see urgent action from the Scottish Government in response to the Salmon Interactions Working Group report, delivery of the sea lice framework, and effective reform of the regulatory system.  

Agriculture 

“We strongly welcome a change in the direction of agricultural support to target half of all funding for farming and crofting towards measures that support biodiversity and help the industry lower its carbon emissions.  Nonetheless, 50% of payments to farmers and crofters will remain unconditional, and a further shift in funding will be needed beyond 2025 to achieve a Just Transition in agriculture. We also welcome the renewed commitment to delivering a Good Food Nation Bill.” 

Deer 

“Addressing the wide-ranging impacts of Scotland’s wild deer is a key part of tackling the nature and climate emergencies. The Scottish Wildlife Trust welcomes the renewed commitment to implement the recommendations of the Deer Management Working Group. However, this commitment has been made before and we now need urgent action. Further commitments to modernising legislation are also welcome but again we must see decisive action.”  

Beavers 

“We were delighted to see a strong commitment to the continued expansion of the beaver population in the shared policy programme published by the Scottish National Party and the Greens last month, including considering translocations into new areas of Scotland. This important detail is missing from the Programme for Government, and we will seek assurances about this policy at the earliest opportunity. “ 

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Preface

The Scottish Wildlife Trust welcomes the Scottish Government’s programme for the year ahead, but greater urgency is needed to reverse biodiversity loss and halt climate change.   The Scottish Government’s Programme for Government sets out …

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