EFFORTS to counter ‘Tory attacks on nature’ are to receive a new £2.9million package of funding measures, Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater has announced.
Slater, minister for green skills, circular economy and biodiversity, told day two of the party’s annual conference in Dundee that the new funding would be used to speed up the government’s response to the issue.
She revealed that £1.3million will go towards restoration plans for Scotland’s under-threatened Atlantic rainforests.
It will also see the new ‘species on the edge’ project move forward to help protect and recover 37 of Scotland’s most vulnerable species, such as the great yellow bumblebee and Scotch primrose.
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A further £200,000 will go to the Green Action Trust to help expand the Natural Networks – supporting their work with local communities across Scotland to create and restore forests and wetlands.
This will benefit restoration projects across the country, including Clyde Climate Forest in Greater Glasgow, new native forests for East Ayrshire, forest restoration in Falkirk, habitat connectivity projects in Fife and new wetlands in North Lanarkshire.
Addressing Sunday’s conference, Slater said: “We are in the midst of a nature crisis that poses an existential threat to humanity.
“This week alone, WWF’s Living Planet report revealed that global wildlife populations have declined by 70% over the past 50 years.
“Scotland has, I fear, led this decline. We have one of the most degraded natural environments in the world.
“As Greens, we are honest about what happened.
“These bare hills are not Scotland’s natural beauty; they are scenes of environmental crime. Our natural forests have long been destroyed by the ravages of intensive grazing and grouse herding for the elite to shoot for pleasure.
“And our seas – plundered by decades of unsustainable fishing.
“No wonder this decline continues, with Scottish wildlife populations having fallen by 24% since 1994.”
The announcement follows criticism from RSPB Scotland, which has condemned the UK government for changes they say will undermine vital nature protections by reneging on commitments made while the UK was in the Union European.
They are also concerned that the changes proposed by Liz Truss could facilitate developments in places that would harm wildlife and that investment zones could tear away fundamental nature protections in some areas.
Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell previously said the Prime Minister had ‘threatened to roll back vital protections for our natural world’.
Slater said the Greens had worked within government to tackle the nature crisis.
She said: “We have set up a £60m Nature Restoration Fund, which is already creating green change across Scotland. From restoring oyster beds in Loch Craignish to supporting release and nature-friendly farming in the Affric Highlands.
“We are creating a whole new network of highly protected marine areas, which will see 10% of our seas dedicated to nature and completely protected from commercial activities.
“We are designating a third national park for Scotland and working closely with the parks to make them leaders in restoring our natural environment.
“Through the Land Reform Bill, we will require large landowners to manage their land responsibly. And I am working to introduce an ambitious Natural Environment Bill to underpin these efforts with the laws we need to truly protect nature.
Slater said the current measures do not go far enough, saying the situation in Scotland is “an emergency that requires urgent and far-reaching action”.
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She said: “That’s why I’m announcing today an immediate £2.9 million package that will speed up our response to the nature emergency.”
The announcement comes just 24 hours after it revealed the Scottish Government is also taking a privileged stance of not supporting coal. He is already in a similar position when it comes to hydraulic fracturing.
Slater told the party conference on Saturday: “Scotland, the country that helped bring the coal-fired industrial revolution to the world, has drawn a line.
“The age of coal is over and I call on the UK government to follow us, to do the right thing for once, to ban coal mining for good.”
The UK government has been approached for comment.