I write in response to the article published in Scotland on Sunday “Ugly side of Scotland’s beauty spots
”, 13 December 2009. What the article fails to recognise is the bigger environmental picture affecting these special places. Despite good progress by Scottish Natural Heritage to address problems within SSSIs, no amount of intensive care of individual sites will secure their future unless we also tackle the overall health of our land and seas. For example, overgrazing by wild deer is a problem across large parts of Scotland. Deer don’t respect nature reserve boundaries and only by managing populations at a landscape scale can we expect to safeguard SSSIs. Similarly, the decline in the health of marine environment due to climate change and resource overexploitation is causing declines in birds on individual SSSIs, including, as the article mentions, greglag geese on our own reserve at Montrose Basin. This is not the fault of the SSSI owners, or SNH, it is the fault of decades of unsustainable policies by successive Governments.
It was always going to be a tough challenge to get 95% of Scotland’s protected areas in favourable condition by 2010. But the real issue here is not what’s happening with our so called “beauty spots”; they will of course need continued special protection but only by restoring the health whole ecosystems can we expect to make real progress towards a sustainable future.
Director of Conservation
Scottish Wildlife Trust