The Scottish Wildlife Trust welcomes the Scottish Government’s endorsement of a national ecological network (NEN) – a natural highway for wildlife – in Scotland’s new national planning strategy which was published on 23 June 2014.
This high-level spatial plan – Scotland’s Third National Planning Framework (NPF3) – will influence every major development from housing and road building to energy infrastructure for the next 25 years.
Over the past year, the Trust has been calling on the Scottish Government to give a clear direction to planners that natural features are just as vital as the built environment within the planning process.
Large-scale 'green and blue networks' (parks, woodlands, rivers, lochs) will help re-connect Scotland’s fragmented habitats which will allow wildlife to move more easily from place to place. This will decrease the likelihood of species extinctions and increase the potential breeding pool, thereby improving ecosystem health and resilience in the face of climate change.
The physical elements of the natural highway could be large or small – green roofs, tree-lined streets and cycleways, hedgerows, woodlands and lowland raised bogs, protected areas and landscape-scale conservation projects.
The Scottish Wildlife Trust believes that planning for nature at a strategic level will not only boost Scotland’s wildlife but will also improve Scotland’s stock of natural capital, which provides essential benefits for a flourishing Scotland. These 'natural services' include pollination, improved air, soil and water quality, food production, flood prevention and carbon capture.
Head of Policy and Planning for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, Dr. Maggie Keegan, said: “In the past, poor planning decisions have led to some of Scotland’s species-rich habitats becoming increasingly isolated from each other, and have contributed to the decline in Scotland’s wildlife, its biodiversity and people’s enjoyment of outdoor spaces.
“The Trust is pleased the Scottish Government’s new high-level planning strategy recognises the importance of nature’s highways – what we would call a national ecological network – thereby giving a clear steer to decision-makers that enhancing and connecting the natural environment cannot be considered as an afterthought.
“Allowing species to move across a more permeable landscape, be it in a city or rural setting, will help wildlife such as such as otters, red squirrels, bats, butterflies, bumblebees, frogs and toads to up sticks if their homes become less desirable because of the effects of climate change, or when faced with some natural catastrophe, such as flooding or fire.
“The Scottish Wildlife Trust has been calling for biodiversity to be mainstreamed across Scottish Government departments, so it encouraging these policies are becoming more aligned.
“The Trust believes the Scottish Government’s 2020 Biodiversity Challenge – which sets out actions for protecting and enhancing Scotland’s biodiversity and ecosystems – cannot be delivered without having decision-makers such as planners on-board.
“We should also not forget that high-quality, connected green and blue spaces make Scotland a more attractive place to live. They provide people with an opportunity for more encounters with nature and this has proven health benefits. A healthy ecosystem means a healthier Scottish population.”