Sunday 16 June 2019

Has Scottish Natural Heritage Lost it's Way?

Recently, Francesca Osowska the Chief Executive of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) has been hailed as a great environmental leader for a speech she gave on climate change. However there is more to being a great leader of an environmental organisation than the ability to stand in front of an audience and read a speech written for you by a team of communications professionals.

More and more people, including staff members and people who work for environmental organisations such as the RSPB, have recently become concerned about the direction of SNH.

Here are just a few of my concerns:

The SNH five year plan (you can see it on their website here) mentions things such as economic development and sustainable enconomy far more frequently than it mentions nature reserves, protected areas or protected species. Which is strange seeing as SNH is supposed to be the government organisation charged with looking after protected areas and protected species in Scotland.

SNH now seems to focus much more on urban wildlife than rural wildlife. Their argument is that more people are in urban areas and that we need to connect with nature in the places we live. This is of course entirely true, however, this doesn't mean that urban nature is of itself more important than rural nature. Nature has its own value, independent of whether people are connecting to it and if nature isn't being protected then there's nothing there for people to connect to.

SNH has recently licensed controversial culls of wildlife (including goosanders and other birds that eat fish). Now in some cases culls may be the only way to deal with a problematic species (particularly an invasive species that is damaging the local ecology). However such culls should only go ahead after rigorous scientific research into alternatives. No such research was done by SNH before licensing these culls.

SNH seems nowadays to put most of its money into communications. A series of animations have been produced in conjunction with Young Scot to encourage young people to get outdoors. In an age of severely contrstrained budgets for public bodies then hard decisions need to be made and surely there is no justification for the body that is charged with protecting our landscapes and wildlife to take money from the budget to do exactly that and instead to fund pretty little animations that encourage people to go for a walk in their local park?

With most of its money going into communications, vital services such as monitoring the state of nature reserves and other protected areas in Scotland are becoming devalued and underfunded. If SNH (remember this is the statutory agency charged with looking after our protected areas and species) aren't going to monitor the state of the areas they are supposed to protect then who is? And if we don't know the state of our protected areas how do we know whether our landscapes and wildlife are being properly protected?

And if SNH is serious about the ecological emergency, that Francesca apparently spoke so eloquently about in her recent speech then they really need to be making sure that our wild lands, nature reserves protected areas and species are thoroughly protected to ensure that we have the best possible future for our environment.

If you live or work in Scotland and are concerned about how SNH may be failing in its duties to protect our wildlife and wild lands, please consider contacting your MSP or contact Francesca Osowska directly (her email is ceoATnatureDOTscot relacing AT with @ and DOT with .).

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