The award-winning Species Champion initiative, coordinated by Scottish Environment LINK, the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environmental organisations, raises awareness and promotes action to safeguard Scotland’s diverse and important species, especially in the context of domestic and global biodiversity targets.
With almost one in 10 species in Scotland at risk of extinction, politi- cal support for protecting our natural environment has never been more critical.
We can be proud of our unique, varied and rich environment in Scotland. However, we must also be aware of historical and ongoing threats, impacts and challenges surrounding its quality and future.
A recent report by Scottish Natural Heritage highlighted that only seven out of 20 global biodiversity targets are currently on course to be met in Scotland by the deadline in 2020.
In March, the Intergovernmental Science-policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services released the most comprehensive biodiversity study in more than a decade, which concluded that the rate of decline is such that the risks posed by its loss should be considered on the same scale as those of climate change. Clearly more needs to be done by decision makers.
While offering an opportunity for MSPs to get out of the office and experience some of Scotland’s amazing nature, the initiative also looks to address failing nature policies by highlighting the need for habitats and species to be protected and for the benefits of a thriving natural environment to be considered in all aspects of decision-making.
Since its launch in 2013, the Species Champions initiative has gone from strength to strength: at the start of the current parliamentary session in 2016, 56 MSPs were signed up to the scheme. Today, at almost halfway through the current session, there are 100 MSP champions, representing 78 per cent of the chamber.
This summer, the initiative will celebrate surpassing 100 Champion MSPs with the Species Champion 100 Day Challenge, which asks politicians to stand up for their species through a series of actions over 100 days. Halfway through the challenge, a wide range of activities have taken place. MSP Champions Claire Baker, Stuart Mcmillan and Tavish Scott have lodged motions on issues affecting their respective species.
Out and about, MSP Species Champion for the white-beaked dolphin, Christina Mckelvie visited St Abbs Head Nature Reserve, along with local MSPS, to learn more about issues affecting her species and surrounding habitat areas.
John Mason MSP, Species Champion for kestrels, helped to ring 10 Kestrel chicks in North Lanarkshire, while learning more about what needs to be done in their conservation. Tom Mason, MSP Species Champion for the northern damselfly joined Buglife Scotland at Castle Fraser to look for his species.
The 100 Day Challenge will culminate in a parliamentary event in September, to bring together all those involved in the scheme and to look for solutions for Scotland’s biodiversity challenges.
The success of the initiative will be measured by the influence MSP Champions have on safeguarding Scotland’s biodiversity. Real action is needed to protect our environment so that it can continue to amaze us but also to continue performing the critical functions that enhance our health and wellbeing and are the foundation of our prosperity as a nation.
As we approach the 2020 deadline for meeting international targets for halting biodiversity loss, we need to ensure that we have the right policies in place, and sufficient action. There is a clear opportunity for the new Environment Strategy being proposed by Scottish Government to set the framework for a well-protected and thriving environment.
In pursuing these objectives, there will always be room for the Species Champions initiative to tap into the lighter side of parliamentary affairs; friendly and informative debate in the chamber, fun and insightful engagement visits and even the chance to get a ‘selfie’ of a proud MSP champion and their species.
We hope that readers will enjoy learning about how their elected officials are working to protect Scotland’s nature and encourage them to do more for our amazing nature. To find out more about the initiative, please follow @specieschampion on Twitter.
Calum Langdale, Scottish Environment LINK’s Species Champion Coordinator