Scotland’s strategic framework for biodiversity consultation

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy, welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on the strategic framework for biodiversity. The consultation outlines a robust biodiversity strategy, marking a promising step towards biodiversity and nature restoration in Scotland in the short and medium timescales. There are many positive elements of the consultation which the RSE both acknowledges and supports.

Executive summary

  • The Scottish Government is to be applauded on the latest iteration of its strategic framework for biodiversity (‘biodiversity strategy’). Without its successful implementation, following further development, Scotland will not be able to achieve its aspirations for nature restoration and the role this plays within our society.
  • However, the biodiversity strategy cannot succeed without fundamental changes to the way policies, strategies, funding mechanisms and action plans are delivered throughout the public sector. Hence, formal and focussed mainstreaming into all other government activities is essential. Changes in the ways support for agriculture and forestry are funded are essential to these efforts. “To achieve this sea change, the mandates of all relevant public authorities need to be strengthened, from the current ‘have regard to’ to ‘must do’.”
  • For the biodiversity strategy to be achieved, there needs to be clarification of the resources required and how they will be made available, and substantial revision of the proposed governance arrangements to make them manageable and useful by building on existing arrangements. The role of Environmental Standards Scotland (ESS) should be strengthened to help with this aim.
  • The delivery plan for the biodiversity strategy should include clear delivery timescales, allocation of responsibilities and accountabilities, and the development of targets that are SMART (specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-bound), aided by expert input.
  • Plans for a new national park should be supported. Those not achieving their bid for national park status should be helped to develop other approaches, including landscape protection.
  • The linking of protected areas will need to be given greater priority through implementation of the proposed nature networks. A resurrection of the natural heritage areas is one way of achieving this.
  • Environmental education, especially at primary and secondary levels, needs to be revised.
  • An ethical approach is recommended through implementation of a Charter for Nature.
  • The further development of citizen science will provide greater participation and useful knowledge.