A bee crawling over the head of a thistle.

Scotland’s nature is in crisis. The most recent State of Nature report shows 1 in 9 species such as Puffins, Scottish Wildcats, and Swifts are at risk of national extinction.  

We are one of the most nature depleted countries in the world, ranked 28th from the bottom of 240 countries and territories, according to the Biodiversity Intactness Index.

While the Scottish Parliament takes the lead on most environmental policies, Scotland’s MPs can still help. 

RSPB Scotland, of course, remains politically neutral. What matters is action for nature. Here we outline what Scottish candidates for Westminster can do to protect and restore our natural world. And if you share our desire to see our Westminster decision-makers deliver for nature, you might wish to use this to ask questions of prospective parliamentary candidates for Scottish seats.

 

Increase agriculture funding and ensure it does more for nature 

The UK Government releases £3.5bn a year in agriculture funding, with 17% going to Scotland, reflecting historic spending patterns.  This funding is only guaranteed by the current UK Government. It will be a decision for a new government after the General Election to decide on the size of the future agriculture budget.

RSPB Scotland wants to see the overall UK budget, at the very least, maintained in real terms, with a bigger proportion going to help nature’s recovery, and there is a strong case for significantly increasing it given the scale of historic loss of nature across the UK. Incentivising nature-friendly farming can help tackle the loss of biodiversity and address the fact that agriculture is now the second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland.

A farmer is repairing a fence in a field full of cattle. There are hills and grasslands in the background.

Image credit: Andy Hay

 

Encourage nature-positive renewable energy

We would like to see the end of oil and gas exploration and the ramp up of renewable energy, but this shift cannot come at the expense of nature. Developments continue to be proposed in locations that pose high risk to bird species which are already under pressure.

Although the power to approve energy projects is devolved to Scotland, most energy policy matters are reserved to the UK Government, including the ability to provide a guaranteed minimum price for energy generators – we believe this should only be available if companies commit to nature positive developments. In other words, we need them to not just minimise their negative impacts but actively help restore species already in serious decline.   

 

Advocate for public spending and private finance to address the nature and climate crisis

Nature knows no borders and Scottish MPs can help make the case for significantly more money for nature protection and restoration right across the UK and internationally. Although nature policy is largely devolved to Scotland, the UK government can directly and indirectly invest in the recovery of nature in Scotland.  It is important that they work closely with the Scottish Government to ensure that there is sufficient investment to allow nature to be restored. 

Given the scale and urgency of the nature crisis, public funds will not be sufficient. Responsible private finance will also be required – responsible being the key word. The UK Government should ensure that effective codes of good practice become the norm.

An Arctic Tern with its wings spread wide in flight. It is a white, gull-like bird with a black head and red, pointed beak.

Image credit: Louise Greenhorn

 

Review the Internal Market Act 

Environmental policies which enjoy broad support in Scotland have been undermined by this UK law, which effectively prevents or discourages higher environmental standards from being introduced in one country of the UK ahead of the rest. For example, it has been used to, in effect, block Scotland’s proposed Deposit Return Scheme (RSPB Scotland was a member of the Have You Got the Bottle campaign, recognising the benefits from less litter and reduced greenhouse gas emissions). It has also been pointed out that a proposed ban on peat sales in England would still allow peat produced in Scotland to be sold in England, under the market access principles of the Act.  

Scottish MPs could press for reform of how the Act works in practice, ensuring it encourages UK countries to continually improve environmental standards and to ‘compete’ with each other in a race to the top rather than discouraging individual countries from moving ahead.

 

Encourage global leadership.  

The next UK government will represent all four home nations on the international stage. It must drive ambitious global action for biodiversity, climate, and environmental sustainability at this critical time. The RSPB is proud to be the UK partner of BirdLife International – the global partnership of national conservation organisations. The new UK government must lead by example on its domestic agenda and support practical action around the world to secure a nature positive future.

A silhouette of a Razorbill standing on a cliff against a deep, orange sunset.

Image credit: Ben Andrew

 

We hope these points help you as you engage with your local candidates.

Nature can’t vote – but you can. 

#NatureCantWait. 

Header image credit: Colin Campbell