It’s time to reassess how our land is given to cruel blood sports – Alison Johnstone
Lockdown was extremely challenging, especially the impact it has had on livelihoods, incomes and mental health. Meanwhile, through the challenges many of us were also awakened to the importance of nature in our communities. Birdsong was not being drowned out by traffic noise, while the temporary reduction in pollution allowed verges, birds and bees to thrive.
The report by the Mammal Society on Friday was an abrupt reminder of just how fragile that is. The UK Red List warned that a quarter of UK mammal species is at risk. This worrying assessment echoes the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy Report to Parliament, which was published without fanfare a month ago and shows Scotland’s populations of animal, insect and plant species have dropped by a quarter since 1994, with no sign of this decline slowing.
Among the 11 native species named as being threatened in the Red List of mammals is the hedgehog, which we can all play a part in helping. Others, like the wildcat and red squirrel, have well documented declines.
There are also two species on the list which have been the subject of debate in the Scottish parliament recently.
Beavers, which are classed as endangered, could have been protected by a ban on licensed killing proposed by my colleague Mark Ruskell, but sadly the SNP and Conservatives voted it down.
The Scottish Government had declared the beaver a protected species, but that hasn’t stopped Scottish Natural Heritage issuing licenses for a fifth of all of Scotland’s beavers to be killed since. If an animal is endangered, that should not be happening.
Mountain hares are native to Scotland, and have been classed as ‘near threatened’ on the Red List. Incredibly though, the Scottish Government allowed the ‘open season’ to begin as usual on August 1, thus allowing this incredible native creature to be killed without any licence at all.
MSPs backed my proposals to protect this species, but the Scottish Government is still considering when it will bring this protection into effect, so mass killing of this species can carry on. This is not the time for humming and hawing. The Government can stop this death and destruction, knowing that the overwhelming majority of people in Scotland support this long overdue change.
There’s a lot we can do to protect against the decline of our nature, and given the vital role of biodiversity in our own survival, we must.
If we want our children and grandchildren to enjoy the wildlife we take for granted, we have to act. Scotland’s mammals, plants and other wildlife needs space to survive.
It’s time to reassess how much of our land is devoted to cruel blood sports, and we need to consider the natural world more in development and planning decisions.
New developments should make space for nature and build around it wherever possible. Some councils are now coordinating grass cutting to protect nature and reduce chemical use.
Climate change is also wreaking havoc with our biodiversity, raising sea levels and changing habitats. It’s vital for all our futures that we act to keep the global temperature rise down. Protecting Scotland’s nature is about building a future for all of us.
Alison Johnstone is Green MSP for Lothian region