The Scottish Wildlife Trust campaigns for fundamental and lasting improvements for wildlife across Scotland.

We believe long-term change can only be achieved by encouraging others to live and work sustainably, and the Trust works closely with environmental organisations both in Scotland and across the UK to achieve this. We also campaign at a Scottish Executive and Scottish Parliament level to improve current legislation and funding.

Our immediate priorities in policy advocacy work are outlined below:

Nature's Emergency Service

Nature can be on the front line of responding to the Climate Emergency…but only if we give it the chance.

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In light of the declaration of a Climate Emergency, the new target to reduce carbon emissions to net zero by 2045, and the Scottish Government’s 2019/20 Programme for Government:

  • Progress needs to be seen on the announcement that the Infrastructure Commission for Scotland and the Scottish National Investment Bank have been tasked with setting out priorities for investment in low emissions infrastructure by the end of this year. This must include a new strategic approach and detailed plan as to how we will invest in our green and blue infrastructure to maximise the biodiversity and climate benefits. This includes ensuring that our new and existing green and blue infrastructure is properly connected.
  • A new Climate Change Plan is required to set out the actions (detailed, funded and time bounded) to achieve the new emissions targets. This must include putting Natural Climate Solutions at the heart of the new commitment and investing in our natural infrastructure such as restoring peatlands, allowing natural regeneration of woodland, planting more trees, greening the urban environment and enhancing the capacity of the marine environment to store carbon. These solutions can also bring additional benefits such as protecting us from flooding and improving our physical and mental wellbeing.
  • The Scottish Government must also follow through on its commitment to review all existing policy areas in light of the Climate Emergency and see where we can go further and faster. It is vital that this is done in such a way that biodiversity targets are also met. Government must recognise that solving the biodiversity crisis and the climate emergency are inextricably linked. The reviews must include the existing economic strategy and will require a more strategic approach to forestry, the rural economy, renewable energy, transport, land use planning and urban design. The new economic strategy must put improved wellbeing – including a strong focus on biodiversity, natural capital and other environmental factors – as the key overarching objective.
  • The Scottish Government must commit to a dedicated new Scottish Environment Act that will:
    • Embed much-needed EU environmental principles in Scots law
    • Set up an independent watchdog to enforce environmental protections
    • Set clear targets for environmental protection alongside adequate financial resources

    This must be supported by a new Environment Strategy setting out specific policy targets, funding, timescales and the mechanisms through which they will be achieved. It must include a commitment to Scotland achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals and be supported by a comprehensive delivery plan.

  • Environment and climate policy must be included in the remit of the new Citizen’s Assembly on Scotland’s future which has been announced by the Scottish Government.

We must make up for the failure in meeting previous targets and the new strategy must be holistic enough to reverse the long-term decline in biodiversity in Scotland. It must be backed by new policies and funding that can make the aspirations a reality. The Climate Emergency can only genuinely be tacked if the biodiversity crisis in Scotland – where 1 in 9 species are at risk from extinction – is addressed at the same time.

A new approach to how we invest in our blue and green infrastructure should have a greater focus on improving the connectivity of our habitats, including the establishment of a National Ecological Network in line with Scottish Government existing commitments and which is supported in the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4). A Scotland-wide ecological network will benefit not only our natural environment but also our wellbeing and economic prosperity. However, there has been little progress on its roll-out in Scotland. The Trust is leading the development of Riverwoods – a project looking to deliver a Scotland-wide network of riparian woodland – which will become a physical expression of a Scotland-wide ecological network. The announcement in the Programme for Government of a new approach to the Central Scotland Green Network is also a welcome development.

We must build on the successful reintroduction of beavers in Scotland. This includes keeping the new beaver management framework under review as we learn from experience of its practical application. We must also ensure Scotland demonstrates commitment to the EU Habitats Directive through engaging with the National Species Reintroduction Forum (NSRF), which should seek opportunities to improve biodiversity through translocations and reintroductions in line with the guidelines set out by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and Scottish Code for Conservation Translocations.

The announcement in the Programme for Government that Regional Land Use Partnerships will now be formed, and plans undertaken for every part of Scotland, by 2023, to maximise the potential to contribute to the fight against climate change is a positive first step. Scotland needs to see these partnerships fully utilise the potential to reverse the loss of biodiversity. Hopefully, this is the start of a much stronger commitment by the Scottish Government to the 2016-2021 Land Use Strategy and its implementation.

We must encourage more land managers to build on their sense of land stewardship and pride in managing land sustainably so it can be used in perpetuity. This new approach should also include:

  • A post-Brexit system of rural support that focuses on ‘public money for public goods’ and replaces existing subsidies with a new system of payments that target natural capital improvements such as providing more habitat for wildlife, reducing soil erosion and lessening the amount of pollution that ends up in our streams and rivers.
  • The implementation of the Forestry Strategy in a manner that will transform our landscapes to see a much greater proliferation of native woodland, less dependence on non-native Sitka spruce and greater support for more biodiverse woodlands. We must ensure that we are able deliver on our woodland targets.
  • Revitalisation of our rural economies to ensure that the uplands provide multiple sustainable benefits into the future with a focus on improved deer management, licensing of driven grouse moors and new economic opportunities such as sustainable nature-based tourism. The licensing of grouse moors would require new regulations on moorland management and existing species protection legislation.
  • Management of land at the landscape scale to deliver environmental, social and economic improvements to an area, rebuilding our natural environment on a larger scale than ever before, as demonstrated through our Living Landscapes .
  • The application of ecological urbanism in our towns and cities to embed nature into the urban environment and create genuine Living Cities.

The Scottish Government has an opportunity to build on its commitment to protect and enhance our natural capital by showing leadership and putting natural capital thinking at the heart of environmental and economic policy. This leadership will help natural capital thinking influence economic development decisions by local government and strategic decisions by businesses. This must all be backed by new private and public sector investment in natural capital. The planning system and the National Planning Framework 4 must work to achieve these aims and ensure that natural capital principles are applied in all development decisions. This must ensure the integrity of protected networks and prevent inappropriate development.

Given the scale of the challenge facing our natural environment, there is a need to find additional ways of funding natural capital and biodiversity improvements. This includes considering the role of taxation and carbon pricing in the UK and Scotland but also new innovative methods of finance.

The Scottish Wildlife Trust has partnered with the Scottish Environment Protection Agency to lead the Scottish Conservation Finance Project, which brings together a wide range of organisations to look at increasing investment in nature conservation through the £1 Billion Pound Challenge. The project looks to develop cutting-edge investment and funding models for large-scale nature conservation activities, for example planting native woodlands, restoring oyster reefs, creating urban green spaces, saving wetlands and restoring coastal and marine ecosystems. It is critical to the success of such initiatives that the Scottish Government provides a supportive environment to help enable success.

We are calling on the Scottish Government to:

  • Build on the existing network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) with four additional ‘mobile species’ MPAs, including one for basking sharks, and effective management of those MPAs already designated.
  • Develop a new Fisheries Policy that is evidence based, forward thinking, innovative, and places ecosystems and sustainability at the core of decision making.
  • Transition to sustainable aquaculture based on effective regulation, monitoring and enforcement to achieve an industry sold on high quality and unrivalled environmental credentials. To achieve sustainability, aquaculture sites must be appropriately located and must maintain the quality, health and biodiversity of the waters they occupy while avoiding significant, cumulative, long-term or irreversible damage to the environment. Existing sites unable to avoid significant environmental impacts should be obligated to apply effective mitigation, be relocated or, when necessary, closed.
  • Create a Marine Stewardship Fund, which could be financed in a number of ways – including through the introduction of a voluntary levy on industries impacting the marine environment – to help improve the health of our seas. For a number of years, the Scottish Wildlife Trust has been calling for a new approach to regulations relating to the decommissioning of oil and gas infrastructure if it can be demonstrated that leaving certain sub-sea structures in situ will deliver greater environmental benefits than complete removal. A proportion of the cost saving to the industry from leaving a structure in situ would be paid into the Marine Stewardship Fund to support marine conservation and research, representing a triple-win scenario: savings to the operator and taxpayer; environmental benefit; and significant new funding for better marine stewardship. Other users and beneficiaries of the marine environment such as renewable energy and aquaculture businesses could contribute to the fund via a levy.
  • Widen community engagement across Scottish coastal communities on marine issues. This includes beach cleans, action on marine plastics and promotion of snorkel trails, building on the work of the Trust’s Living Seas Community Programme based in Ullapool.
  • Review Scotland’s National Marine Plan and 11 Regional Marine Plans. This process must ensure the ecosystem approach is considered and implemented in the design and application of marine planning to marine development and activity within Scottish waters.

Policies and positions

View the Trust’s policy and advocacy documents, from consultation and planning responses to top level policies and parliamentary briefings.

Nature-based solutions

From combating climate change to reducing health inequalities, nature-based solutions can help humanity flourish alongside nature.

Current campaigns

The Scottish Wildlife Trust campaigns for fundamental and lasting improvements for wildlife across Scotland.

Find out about our current campaigns and how you might be able to get involved.

50 for the Future

Our 50 for the Future publication lists 50 things that we believe should happen in the next 50 years if we are to protect and restore Scotland’s natural environment.

Natural capital

The Trust is working on natural capital both as organisers of the World Forum on Natural Capital and as founding partners of the Scottish Forum on Natural Capital.



Learn more about the planning system and find out how you can get involved by responding to planning applications.

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