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Scotland's Biodiversity: It's in Your Hands - A strategy for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland


Scotland's Biodiversity: It's in Your Hands
A strategy for the conservation and enhancement of biodiversity in Scotland

Header Photo Courtesy of RSPB

In this section we set down the broad mechanisms for delivery of the strategy, the roles and responsibilities of different agents and stakeholders, and the ways in which the implementation of the strategy will be steered and co-ordinated.

5.1 Everybody has a role

This document presents a vision, aim, strategic objectives, and an agenda for action to guide and stimulate biodiversity action in Scotland. Many different organisations have a role to play in meeting the objectives and achieving the vision. But it is not just the responsibility of the Scottish Executive, public bodies and environmental non-government organisations; at the heart of the strategy is a desire to see every individual, business and organisation take responsibility for and take account of biodiversity in all their actions.

Involvement of all Stakeholders

Pie Diagram

A little more awareness, thoughtfulness, care and creativity will deliver the many small changes which together will help conserve and enhance Scotland's biodiversity. Specialist agencies and non-government organisations will play an important role in facilitating this process, as well as ensuring that existing commitments to biodiversity conservation are met, but the fundamental responsibility is our own, as individuals, not someone else's.

5.2 Individual responsibility

Our individual actions may seem insignificant and unimportant when set against the great environmental issues of our time, and many people feel unable to help. This is wrong. The issues we face today are precisely the result of millions of small actions. What we buy, what we eat, our use of fuel, the way we deal with waste, how we manage our gardens - all of these actions ultimately have an effect on biodiversity and the physical environment. We should not shrug off our personal responsibility, simply because progress will depend upon many of us acting responsibly together. Rather the reverse.

There are many things that we can do. Thinking about what we buy, where it comes from, and how its production and distribution might affect wildlife and biodiversity, directly and indirectly, will lead to more responsible consumer choices. This applies particularly to food whose production involves land or water management, but also to other products derived from natural sources - timber, natural fibres, oils, cosmetics. People often blame big companies or farmers for negative effects on the environment. But it is consumer choice that ultimately determines what is produced, and increasingly how it is produced and packaged.

We can also engage more directly - by joining a local group to take action to manage local amenity space, by joining a voluntary environmental organisation, or by participating in surveys and monitoring programmes.

Puffin sitting on a rock, beak full of fish, Isle of MayCourtesy of RSPB

Puffin sitting on a rock, beak full of fish, Isle of May
Courtesy of RSPB

5.3 The public sector

Under the anticipated Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 all public bodies and individual office holders have a statutory duty to further biodiversity in exercising their functions. This applies to the Scottish Executive itself, to all government agencies, and to local government.

Government departments and agencies

All policy makers must consider the implications of any policy or associated instrument on biodiversity in general, and in relation to the objectives of this strategy in particular. This extends beyond the traditional concerns of the Scottish Executive to all departments and agencies and to any policy which might directly or indirectly impact on biodiversity.

Mosses and lichens growing on the woodland floor, loch Lubnaig, Argyll and ButeCourtesy of SNH

Mosses and lichens growing on the woodland floor, loch Lubnaig, Argyll and Bute
Courtesy of SNH

This should not be interpreted in a negative way. There are specific opportunities for the Scottish Executive to strengthen incentives linked to practices and patterns of land and marine resource use that benefit biodiversity, as part of on-going developments related to the Common Agricultural and Fisheries policies, Rural Development, the Scottish Forestry Strategy, the Water Framework Directive, and the Integrated Coastal Zone Management recommendation. But significantly, there are also exciting opportunities for the Scottish Executive to promote biodiversity through its dealings with business, education, health, transport, and development in the many ways detailed in the agenda for action.

Clearly government bodies and agencies such as Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Scottish Natural Heritage and Forestry Commission Scotland have a major role in biodiversity conservation. But as private enterprise takes on more responsibility, and local government strengthens its co-ordinating role, they will need more technical help, guidance and advice from these specialist bodies.

Government agencies are also key players in environment-related decision making processes, particularly environmental assessment (both Strategic Environmental Assessment, and Environmental Impact Assessments) and planning consents. As addressed in the Agenda for Action, there are opportunities to strengthen decision making in both these areas.

Local government

Local government has an increasingly important role to play in the promotion of sustainable development and biodiversity conservation. Integration is always easier at a more local level, and more comprehensible in relation to real, practical issues. Local authorities should therefore fully support the Local Biodiversity Action Plans, and take account of them in all their decision making, as well as in their role in education, training and business support.

Local authorities can play a key role in delivering the landscape objective. This is challenging and will require much more forward thinking, strategic planning, and engagement with all those who influence the shape and pattern of land and water use. Integrating national policy with local needs will be a core part of this. Co-ordination of spatial planning, transport corridors and green space management with rural development and farm support mechanisms offers exciting possibilities for linking rural habitats to each other and to urban greenspace.

Tide swept Kelp, North Sanday, OrkneyCourtesy of MNCR/SNH

Tide swept Kelp, North Sanday, Orkney
Courtesy of MNCR/SNH

Local authorities can also have a major influence on the quality of biodiversity within urban greenspace. Good design, more imaginative planting and improved management or guidelines will all help. There is an important opportunity to promote biodiversity as a key component in community planning. Local authorities can also make sure they think about safeguarding biodiversity when they decide on local planning proposals.

Education is a core function of local government. The biodiversity content of mainstream education can be strengthened. More outdoor learning should be encouraged, without prejudicing safety and access requirements. Innovative schemes, such as schools involvement in biodiversity reporting and monitoring could be developed.

Local authorities can also support wider campaigns to promote healthy outdoor living, increase biodiversity in gardens and on business premises, and support and facilitate corporate social responsibility initiatives. They can play an active role in assessment and monitoring of the state of biodiversity within their areas, and also promote more effective recording and exchange of information relating to biodiversity.

The Local Biodiversity Action Plan network

Every part of Scotland has some special biodiversity, and bringing together and presenting information about that diversity, raising awareness locally, and developing plans for its conservation and enhancement will all be vital if the objectives of this strategy are to be achieved. These are key tasks for the Local Biodiversity Action Plan (LBAP) officers.

LBAP officers can also serve a crucial link function - between national agencies and local interests; between theoretical perspectives on biodiversity and practical everyday human perspectives, between different departments whose coordinated actions can sometimes yield significant biodiversity benefits; and between public and private sectors.

More specifically, the local biodiversity officers can raise the profile of, and support, the many opportunities for increased engagement in biodiversity by local government identified above.

The scope of this work is broad, and will only be possible if the network of officers is able to draw efficiently on the skills and advice of specialist agencies and organisations - Scottish Natural Heritage, Scottish Environment Protection Agency, Forestry Commission Scotland, the many specialist non-government organisations and individual experts, as well as the various bodies associated with the Scottish Biodiversity Forum. Equally, it is essential that the roles of the various agents operating at local level are clearly defined - to maximise synergy and minimise overlap between LBAP officers and, for example, environmental planners or local SNH officers.

To deliver effectively is not just a matter of resources. LBAP officers need to be skilled communicators, negotiators and managers, as well as having solid understanding of local biodiversity, if they are to be effective in their roles.

Higher education and research institutions

Increasing the biodiversity content in training and higher education is central to raising awareness and understanding, and putting biodiversity at the heart of our culture. The biodiversity content of agriculture, fisheries and forestry courses can be strengthened in addition to that in more general land, natural resource, and environmental management courses. But we should also look beyond this for opportunities in other courses to raise the capacity of architects, economists, business managers and public service officers to identify opportunities to enhance biodiversity at the same time as enhancing reputation and service/product provision.

Organisations such as the Royal Botanic Garden, Edinburgh are already doing a tremendous educational job through their many activities and initiatives such as Flora Celtica. Researchers at other applied research institutions should continue to come forward with innovative research proposals relating to biodiversity conservation and enhancement.

Local enterprise companies

The local enterprise company network in Scotland can play a key role in facilitating the kinds of action suggested for the private sector - by helping to raise awareness, through the identification of biodiversity related business or market opportunities, through direct support, and by including biodiversity criteria in their assessment of, or conditions for, grant support.

5.4 The private sector

Land and marine-based businesses

Farmers, foresters, fish farmers, fishermen, sporting estates, tourism operators - all of these groups depend for their livelihood on some aspect of biodiversity, and it is in their long term interests to manage and harvest resources in a sustainable way.

There is an increasing resource of best practice guidance and initiatives, and this should be followed wherever possible. Where guidance does not exist there is an opportunity for users to work together to develop it, and to link it to business benefits. Best practice should be seen as a normal business responsibility and marketing opportunity, rather than as a production constraint.

Highland cows being fed outdoors, Kilchiarian, Islay Courtesy of RSPB

Highland cows being fed outdoors, Kilchiarian, Islay
Courtesy of RSPB

Where there are significant short term costs associated with best practice and sustainable management, then mechanisms to capture future benefits arising from improved management need to be identified. Resource users and managers need to engage with relevant authorities to examine the nature of the constraints to better practice, and agree on how these constraints will be addressed. The drivers which previously resulted in damaging or unsustainable practices must be identified and corrected.

At a more practical level, those businesses directly involved in land and water management in urban, rural and marine environments have the opportunity to acquaint themselves with the various guidance materials relating to management for biodiversity. Many of the practices are cost neutral, and in some cases offer cost savings and should be applied wherever possible.

Where costs are likely to increase then discussions can be opened with the client, who may be willing to pay - especially if savings have been identified in relation to other practices. Best practice may include, for example, reduced use of herbicides and pesticides, sensitive mowing regimes, leaving field margins, and more positive measures such as mixed planting, and habitat creation.

Oyster farmer on the strand between Oronsay and ColonsayCourtesy of RSPB

Oyster farmer on the strand between Oronsay and Colonsay
Courtesy of RSPB

The wider business community

Business in all its shapes and forms is a dominant cultural and political force, and as such has a responsibility - just as much as government - to promote sustainable development and improved environmental management in all its dimensions, including biodiversity. Of course, the primary objective of any business is to make money: to ensure that it stays in business for the benefit of shareholders, employees and society at large. But many businesses, both large and small, naturally consider corporate social responsibility as an integral part of their values, so fostering responsible business behaviours is not necessarily about imposing new burdens, but rather about building on this existing commitment.

For the vast majority of businesses, it is the pressure to keep costs down which can sometimes bring them into conflict with their wider social objectives. However, in developed societies such as ours, consumers are increasingly prepared to pay for responsibly produced products and services. But businesses should not wait for consumer demand to dictate best practice. They know their production practices (or those of their suppliers) and they can see where improvements can be made. So the challenge is to identify either cost saving or cost neutral improvements or, where increased costs result, to persuade consumers to pay for better practice.

Many companies already involved in formal Environment Management Systems, such as ISO14001 which seek continuous improvement, are finding that they can do things to help biodiversity once the relatively quick wins on energy and waste have been achieved.

Environmental non-government organisations (NGOs)

Environmental NGOs and voluntary bodies have the energy, commitment and flexibility to promote and facilitate the implementation of the strategy in all its dimensions. NGOs support the implementation of Habitat and Species Action Plans, and in many cases are the lead partner for Species Plans, helping coordinate their delivery and monitoring progress. They also play an important role in collecting valuable information, carrying out research, raising awareness, campaigning for action and providing guidance and advice to government, businesses and individuals.

Yellow flag growing by lochan, OrkneyCourtesy of RSPB

Yellow flag growing by lochan, Orkney
Courtesy of RSPB

Membership of environmental organisations is increasing steadily, showing the importance of environmental issues for many people, and their readiness to get involved. NGOs provide clear and accessible ways for individuals to understand and enjoy biodiversity, and to play their part as volunteers in conserving or restoring it. These organisations play an important part in raising awareness and campaigning for action.

A number of NGOs own and manage land for the benefit of biodiversity, and are actively involved in trying out biodiversity conservation approaches and advising government, businesses and individuals on solutions. The work of environmental NGOs complements many dimensions of the strategy - and their involvement and their potential to focus the interest and efforts of individuals should be encouraged.

The media

The national and local media throughout Scotland - newspaper, TV, radio, internet - can all make a huge difference to the success of the strategy, and indeed their co-operation is essential in support of the people and knowledge objectives.

5.5 Guidance, co-ordination and implementation

The Scottish Biodiversity Forum will continue its current role as an influential and inclusive grouping of bodies and individuals actively engaged in biodiversity. To ensure the effective implementation of the strategy, and to review progress, a small implementation team will be formed, which may be located either in or outside the Scottish Executive. This team will be overseen by and report to a steering group which will include representatives of central and local government, and non-governmental organisations. The steering group will take account of advice from the Scottish Biodiversity Forum on strategy implementation and review.

Field of oats, MerseheadCourtesy of RSPB

Field of oats, Mersehead
Courtesy of RSPB

Strategy implementation plans

Detailed implementation plans will be produced on a three yearly cycle which together will underpin delivery of the strategy vision, aim and objectives. These will initially cover the following themes:

  • cross-cutting issues

  • interpretation, communication and education

  • urban biodiversity

  • rural biodiversity

  • marine biodiversity

  • local delivery

The cross-cutting issues implementation plan will address over-arching issues and issues common to the three themes, including local biodiversity, information and research, and interpretation, communication and education.

The plans will be drawn up by working groups set up by the Scottish Biodiversity Forum. The plans will include actions relating to each of the strategy objectives, and will take account of the corresponding agenda for action, bearing in mind that these are to be implemented as required to achieve the aim and objectives over a 25 year time frame. The detail and prioritisation of actions will vary between plans and from cycle to cycle as decided by the working groups. Each plan will include at least the following:

  • Review of on-going actions which contribute to the strategy objectives and the UK Biodiversity Action Plan

  • The specific new actions required to achieve the strategy objectives and the resources required

  • Who will be responsible for those actions (stakeholders)

  • Time scales on which they will be completed

  • How progress on these actions will be measured (milestones and where possible indicators)

The plans will be reviewed by the Scottish Biodiversity Forum, but it will be up to the working groups to finalise their plans, identify resources and mechanisms for delivery, and where appropriate to take actions to ensure or co-ordinate delivery. Proposed actions may subsequently be refined or prioritised, with the Forum's agreement, to ensure they deliver the objectives of the strategy most effectively.

The Scottish Biodiversity Forum will also identify a list of species and habitats of particular importance for biodiversity conservation in Scotland - and which public bodies should make particular efforts to conserve.