Scottish biodiversity strategy

The Royal Society of Edinburgh (RSE), Scotland’s National Academy, welcomes the opportunity to respond to the Scottish Government’s consultation on a draft Scottish Biodiversity Strategy. There is increasing global recognition of the ‘twin crises’ of climate change and biodiversity loss, and Scotland has already set bold net zero targets, ushering in the need to impose correspondingly rigorous biodiversity protections. Scotland’s natural environment is internationally renowned and yet many of its species and habitats are in notable decline, reaffirming the importance of a coordinated and deliverable approach to managing biodiversity.

While we are supportive of the Strategy in principle, the RSE is concerned that 1) it defers the question of delivery too far into the future, at which point it may be too late, difficult, or costly to achieve its vision of ‘substantially restored and regenerated biodiversity across [Scotland’s] land, freshwater, and seas’ by 2045; and 2) it lacks an actionable and focused framework for delivery. Such a framework must be founded on the following essential criteria: a baseline; a timeframe; a target; an appropriately costed action plan; an analysis of how these actions will deliver benefits; clear lines of accountability; recourse to legal enforcement; and regular and transparent monitoring.


While the Strategy’s vision for biodiversity is necessary and laudable, it will remain unrealised in the absence of a clearly articulated, measurable, and enforceable delivery plan. On the topic of delivery, there should be an unequivocal commitment to the co-production of delivery mechanisms with local communities.

There is a need for an early formulation of changes to key policies and delivery instruments which most affect biodiversity – including across the agriculture, forestry and renewable energy sectors – to ensure that the Strategy will translate into tangible benefits for biodiversity.

Scotland’s terrestrial and marine environments host a mosaic of differing – and sometimes competing – activities. While no ‘one size fits all’ approach to biodiversity management will suffice, it will be important to achieve consensus around a set of key management principles and outcomes if Scotland is to successfully reconcile these competing land and marine uses for the benefit of biodiversity.  Unless we can achieve synergies between different land uses, policies, and funding mechanisms, biodiversity protection will remain fragmented in practice.

We would urge the development of a formal, structured, and professionally managed programme office and programme governance approach.

While legislation on its own cannot produce the sweeping mindset change necessary to achieve broad societal buy-in, it can nevertheless be a rapid and effective mechanism for halting destructive practices and for assuring accountability.

An effective Strategy will depend on the availability of high-quality, consistent, accurate, and spatially and historically contextualised monitoring data so that the impacts of any delivery measures are quickly understood.

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