Scottish Greens will act to protect the country's precious wildlife - Alison Johnstone

On Sunday I joined Scottish Greens co-leader Lorna Slater on a visit to a local nature reserve on the campaign trail.

Tuesday, 4th May 2021, 7:00 am
Within a year of beavers being declared a protected species, a fifth of the population was killed under licence
Within a year of beavers being declared a protected species, a fifth of the population was killed under licence

It’s fascinating that we have such a precious deep peat bog so close to Edinburgh, accumulated over thousands of years. Peat bogs are incredible useful at capturing carbon, and are essential in tackling the climate emergency.

It’s also a place teeming with wildlife. From the boardwalk you can see dragonflies, frogs and toads.

With one in nine species at risk, Scotland is in a Nature Emergency. We need places like this where wildlife can thrive.

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However, nature reserves alone are not enough when so much of Scotland’s uplands are intensively managed so that a few people can shoot wildlife.

And it isn’t just the grouse that are killed. This year I won protection for mountain hares which are killed in huge numbers because landowners think it will boost grouse populations. There is no evidence this works.

And of course, there is the appalling legacy of raptor persecution, which sees birds of prey continue to disappear near these moors, or found killed. It is a stain on Scotland’s reputation.

NatureScot, the agency which is supposed to be protecting Scotland’s nature, is far too quick to hand out licences to kill.

Within a year of beavers being declared a protected species, a fifth of the population was killed under licence. It’s time to address the nature emergency and deliver real protections for Scotland’s native species, before it’s too late.

The Scottish Greens manifesto pledges to review the priorities of NatureScot and other agencies, strengthen licensing, end bloodsports, ban cruel traps like snares and deliver a fully-resourced Wildlife Crime Investigations Unit in Police Scotland.

We are committed to reform wildlife law, so that when a species or important habitat is designated as protected, they really are protected. And we need to ensure those who commit wildlife crimes are brought to justice. Too often, despite overwhelming evidence, these crimes don’t even reach a trial.

It is similar for fox hunting, which was supposed to have been banned in 2002 but carries on regardless. It’s time for a real ban.

As well as tougher protections for animals, we also need to protect the places where they thrive.

As well as our plans to create new national and regional parks, creating over 1,000 jobs, we want to expand the nature restoration fund we won in the last Scottish budget to £150m, to restore key habitats such as wetlands, rivers and our coastlines. And we also pledge £145m which would be enough to restore every last hectare of peatland in the country.

Scottish Greens are proud of the protections we have won for beavers and mountain hares, but these need to be enforced. That requires a government that can stand up to vested interests and protect Scotland’s wildlife. Their future depends on it.

Their future depends on it, so please vote Scottish Green on Thursday.

Alison Johnstone is a Green Party candidate for Lothian region