SCF Biodiversity Strategy consultation Response

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SCF Biodiversity Strategy consultation Response

Strategic framework for biodiversity cannot happen in isolation

Commenting on Scotland’s strategic framework for biodiversity, The Scottish Crofting Federation calls for more community engagement and for alignment with the government’s commitment to a just transition.

SCF welcomes the opportunity to express its views on Scotland’s strategic framework for biodiversity in response to the government’s recent consultation. Unfortunately, the strategy suffers from major shortcomings.

SCF chair Jonathan Hedges commented: “While we fully support biodiversity restoration and enhancement, this cannot happen in isolation. The present strategic framework does not sufficiently align with other objectives, namely agricultural policy and land reform, as well as the government’s broader commitment to a just transition. We are particularly concerned that the strategic framework will be implemented in a top-down manner, with no meaningful consultation of the communities most affected, just as we have seen with the attempt to introduce highly protected marine areas (HPMAs).”

Mr Hedges continued: “Crofting historically played a vital role in nature conservation and enhancement and has great potential to do so even more in the future. For this to happen we need an agricultural support system that works for crofters and common grazings. At the moment, it looks like many of the future funding options for biodiversity enhancement will not be accessible to crofters. This must change significantly as the agriculture bill is progressing through parliament. Crofters work one of the rarest habitats in Europe, the machair, and many crofts are in areas with abundant wildlife, including the white-tailed eagle. To strike a balance between habitat protection and local, sustainable food production, any biodiversity initiative needs to work closely with the communities affected.”

Further, SCF members are concerned about the dominant role of outside natural capital investment in Scotland’s biodiversity protection framework.

As Mr Hedges stated: “The strategy mentions individual grants of up to £ 240,000 to attract private investors in natural capital. This not only pours further public money into the pockets of large corporations and wealthy individuals, but also may have grave impacts on rural communities. Crofters are concerned that natural capital speculation will lead to further depopulation of large parts of the Highlands and Islands. At times where global food security is increasingly threatened, we cannot afford to sacrifice land suitable for sustainable and biodiversity-enhancing agriculture, just to enable carbon and biodiversity offsetting.”

SCF members worry that they will be facing a ‘green’, but not necessarily a just transition. This does not have to be the case. Enhancing biodiversity and restoring communities can be complementary, rather than mutually exclusive. Crofting will have to play a vital part there but needs the means to so.

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Contact Donna Smith on 01599 530 005

Article by SCF

14 December 2023

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