Rebekah Strong looks at what politicians need to do to help nature thrive in Scotland
The nature emergency is closely linked to climate change and these twin crises have many shared solutions. At COP 26 in November Scottish Wildlife Trust and RSPB Scotland believe that nature must be at the heart of discussions and urgent action taken to halt biodiversity decline and improve the natural world around us. Nature is essential to our livelihoods and wellbeing and in this UN decade on ecosystem restoration there has never been a more pressing time for us to kickstart nature’s recovery.
Our vision is for a connected network of healthy, resilient ecosystems supporting Scotland’s wildlife and people. We put great effort into informing and influencing MSPs to support positive actions for nature. The Nature Recovery Plan developed by RSPB, WWF and the trust, has helped us focus our advocacy efforts. The plan sets out 11 actions to ensure a thriving natural environment in Scotland. We see these actions as the first steps needed to start delivering nature-based solutions to our most pressing societal issues.
The five main manifestos demonstrated varying degrees of support for the 11 actions. All parties relay the need for native woodland expansion coupled with sustainable deer management to ensure trees are able to grow to their full potential. In addition to this the SNP, Scottish Conservatives and Scottish Green Party all emphasise the value of Scotland’s rainforest and the need to protect, restore and expand this valuable habitat. There is also broad alignment for the need to support farmers to manage the land for nature and the provision of public goods. SNP and Labour both directly mention investment in nature-based solutions and the value that nature provides in many aspects of our lives.
We are pleased to see that nature has become a greater focus in the five main party manifestos we have reviewed, however we believe much more ambition is necessary for nature to recover fully. It is essential that parties fully recognise the importance of nature’s recovery through firmer commitments. As clearly pointed out by Professor Dasgupta, “our economies, livelihoods and well-being all depend on our most precious asset: Nature”. We cannot continue to use nature as we are currently. We need to invest more than we take. We cannot continue to run up natural debt and support unsustainable consumption; the pandemic is evidence of the disastrous consequences of destruction of ecosystems by humans. Nature offers us many possible solutions to the challenges from climate change, green jobs, and our wellbeing. Nature-based solutions allow us to help nature help us so that we all benefit and resources are sustained for future generations.
We need a Scottish Government which fully understands, prioritises and invests in nature-based solutions and enables an environment of change so that we can all make sustainable choices. We need a government which is willing to make tough decisions, support innovation and take direct action for a Scotland where nature and people can thrive.
Rebekah Strong is nature-based solutions policy advisor at the Scottish Wildlife Trust