Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Ross will today set out a series of measures to protect Scotland’s natural environment on land, rivers and sea.
Speaking at a park in Edinburgh,he will explain plans for a Nature Bill aimed at reducing the threat of species extinction, expanding green spaces in towns and cities, and protecting marine life.
The bill will also tackle invasive non-native species, increase tree planting,end peat extraction for use in compost, create a third national park and review Marine Protected Areas with a view to expansion.
Scottish Conservative leader Douglas Rosssaid: “Scotland’s natural environment is beautiful, diverse and precious yet it has suffered from 14 years of SNP neglect.
“The SNP’s own biodiversity indicators reveal a track record of missed emission targets and ‘substantially lacking’ climate change plans. It is tragic that one in nine species in Scotland are at risk.
“Our ambitious and detailed Nature Bill would turn derelict urban sites green for community benefit and in Galloway we would create Scotland’s third national park.
“We would increase new tree planting to 18,000 hectares annually by 2024 and have a national strategy to remove invasive non-native species which damage our environment.
“Marine life would be protected with a likely expansion of Marine Protected Areas. We can grow our fishing sector and support coastal communities while better protecting our marine environment. The two are not mutually exclusive.
“The climate emergency demands our urgent attention — we cannot afford to waste another five years with a Parliament consumed by the SNP’s separation obsession.”
The Scottish Conservative’s proposed Nature Bill will include the following key measures:
- Redeveloping derelict sites in the centre of large towns and cities as new parks for community benefit, as part of a new National Public Gardens Strategy. The past year has taught us the importance of open spaces being accessible to all.
- Increasing tree planting to 18,000 hectares annually by 2024. Quality and biodiversity are also important, so we would increase the proportion of new planting that is of native species, while ensuring that Scotland’s forests are productive.
- In Galloway,creating Scotland’s third national park to protect the environment and encourage tourism. We would also consider proposals from other parts of Scotland.
- Ending peat extractionfor use in compost andincreasing peatland restoration to 20,000 hectares annually by 2024. Peatland is a vital carbon sink, sequestering more tonnes of CO2 a year than all other types of vegetation in the world combined. (International Union for Conservation of Nature, Peatlands and Climate Change, link).
- A review of Marine Protected Areas, with a view to expanding their extent. We would also pilot the introduction of HighlyProtected Marine Areas to go further and truly lead the world in protecting our oceans.
- A national strategy to remove invasive non-native specieswhere they damage our environment.
- New Nature Networksto allow species to move between habitats rather than being restricted by human activity and infrastructure. An example would be ‘green bridges’ over major roads. We will work closely with the UK Government to ensure Nature Networks are seamless at the border between Scotland and England.
Research shows that the SNP have failed Scotland's natural environment:
- One in nine species in Scotland face extinction. Of 6,413 species, 11 per cent are classified as threatened with extinction. (State of Nature Partnership,State of Nature Scotland Report 2019,link).
- Scottish breeding seabirds populations declined by 32 per centbetween 1986 and 2017. (Scottish Government,Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Report to Parliament: 2017 – 2019, 26 June 2020, Page 13,link).
- Performance is worsening or failing to improve on more than half of the SNP’s biodiversity indicators. Of 30 indicators being measured against the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy 2020 Challenge Outcomes (some have been archived), 16 are worsening or failing to improve, 7 are improving, and 7 do not have sufficient data to assess. (Scottish Government,Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. Report to Parliament: 2017 – 2019, 26 June 2020, Annex 2,link).
- Under the SNP, 12 species of national conservation importance are at risk. Scottish Natural Heritage warned that eight species were at moderate risk, with four at serious risk - the Scottish wildcat, the Ash tree, the great-yellow bumblebee and the freshwater pearl mussel. (Scottish Natural Heritage,Scotland’s Biodiversity Progress to 2020 Aichi Targets: Aichi Target 13 Supplementary Report, 2020,link).
- The SNP missed their own legal emissions targets.The Climate Change (Emissions Reduction Targets) (Scotland) Act 2019 requires a 54 per cent reduction between the baseline period and 2018, but they reduced by 50 per cent in this period while source emissions rose 1.5 per cent from 2017 to 2018. (Scottish Government,Greenhouse gas emissions 2018: estimates, 16 June 2020,link).
- A Scottish Parliament Committee say detail is ‘substantially lacking’ in the SNP’s climate plans. ‘the Committee also heard that detail on how to reach that ambition is considered to be substantially lacking and concerns have been raised over the credibility and achievability of the CCPu’ (Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee,response to the draft updated climate change plan (CCPu), 4 March 2021,link).
- The Climate Emergency Response Group say over two thirds of key climate policies are not on track. Only a third of 20 policy proposals were rated ‘green’ meaning the proposal was met or broadly met, while 57 per cent were rated ‘amber’ meaning the proposal was only met in part and 10 per cent were rated ‘red’ meaning they were not met in any meaningful way. (Climate Emergency Response Group,Scotland’s green recovery and climate emergency response: Interim assessment of progress – achievements and recommendations one year on, November 2020,link).