Statement from LINK’s Deer Group

May 23rd, 2023 by

Statement from Duncan Orr-Ewing, Chair of Scottish Environment LINK’s Deer Group:

“The reduction in the population of Scotland’s large and increasing deer population is urgently required to deliver a range of public outcomes related to the climate and nature emergency – including native woodland regeneration, peatland protection, and the creation of more diverse and resilient habitats for wildlife. We are satisfied that enhanced deer management can be delivered to the highest standards of animal welfare and best practice. We strongly support the Scottish Government’s proposals to improve the flexibility of deer management,  based on the independent scrutiny of the Deer Working Group and its final recommendations. More than ever we need to make all of the tools available to Scotland’s skilled and experienced deer managers to deliver the urgent changes required for nature and for all of us.”


Image: Simon Jones

New report reveals Scottish farming must adapt to reflect climate change and nature loss

May 11th, 2023 by

The way we fund our farms is making climate change worse and risks our food security, according to a significant new report – which campaigners say makes the case for a radical approach to the upcoming Agriculture Bill. 

Farm for Scotland’s Future: the case for change sets out how the Scottish government’s forthcoming Agriculture Bill can and must deliver for nature, climate and people through a transition to sustainable farming. 

The report was commissioned by a campaign backed by 40 environment, farming and food organisations, and outlines the impact of agriculture on the climate and biodiversity in Scotland. 

The report also highlights evidence that a warming climate and the continued decline of biodiversity are posing significant risks to our food producers through droughts, soil erosion and the loss of pollinators.

As it stands, agriculture is currently the third largest source of Greenhouse Gas emissions in Scotland, causing 18% of Scotland’s emissions in 2020. Current practices also make farming a major cause of wildlife loss. Scotland is ranked among the most nature-depleted countries in the world – the Biodiveristy Intactness Indicator ranked Scotland as 28th from bottom out of 240 countries. The report makes the case for reform and details farming practices which support nature, climate and food production with reference to key case studies in Scotland. 

The main purpose of the upcoming Agriculture Bill is to rethink the current funding system for the sector, based around direct payments. The report shows that this system is unfair and inefficient, with the top 20% of claimants receiving 62% of the direct payments budget. A new system has the opportunity to incentivise ways of farming which prioritise climate and nature in harmony with food production, and contribute towards achieving a just transition.

Deborah Long, Scottish Environment LINK’s Chief Officer said:

“Scotland’s farmers and crofters play a vital role in producing food and managing our land. The new farm funding system must support them to do so in a sustainable way. 

“But the current, decades-old system rewards land ownership, rather than good land use, and is failing to help the farmers who want to produce food while protecting the environment.

“Environmental crisis is already having an impact on food availability and cost. The Scottish government must deliver a new system that reflects the scale of the challenge and ensures that our farmers and crofters can produce food in climate- and nature-friendly ways.”

Ruth Taylor, Agriculture and Land Use Policy Manager at WWF Scotland, said:

“We know that nature-friendly farming brings benefits for people, animals, nature, and the climate. With lower emissions, healthy soils and livestock, and thriving nature, farming this way also makes good business sense.

“Research from WWF has shown that we have the potential to reduce our emissions and restore nature, while producing nutritious food that is accessible for all. However, the current policies suggested for agriculture get us less than halfway to where we need to be for Scotland to remain on track to reach net zero.

“This year, we have the opportunity to make sure Scotland leads the way on nature and climate-friendly farming. It is essential that we see strong leadership now from the Scottish Government to make sure that happens.”

Vicki Swales, Head of Land Use Policy at RSPB Scotland, said:

“This report underlines the important role farming must play in reviving the wildlife we have lost from our countryside over recent decades. As farmers ourselves, and as advisors to hundreds of other farms across Scotland, the RSPB sees the shift toward nature-friendly practices as essential if we are to improve the resilience of our food system.

“The Scottish public are deeply concerned about the loss of habitats and species. It is vital that MSPs take the opportunity of the Agriculture Bill to put sustainability, in every sense, at the heart of how we produce food and how we manage our land, as this will benefit us all.”

The campaign is supported by a wide range of environmental NGOs such as RSPB Scotland, WWF Scotland and the Woodland Trust and is advised by farmers’ groups.

The report was written by Ellie Brodie Consultancy for the Farm for Scotland’s Future campaign.

Read the report at

Image credit: Andy Hay (

Environmentalists call for communities to be at heart of improved marine protection

May 3rd, 2023 by

A coalition of environmental groups has said that local communities must be at the heart of the roll out of improved protections for our seas, ahead of a debate in parliament (Wed).

The Scottish Government has committed to introducing Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) to support ecosystem recovery and protect against climate change. The network of HPMAs will cover at least 10% of Scotland’s seas, in line with international recommendations and the EU’s own 10% target. The coalition fully supports this commitment.

During the Scottish Government consultation on the proposal, many coastal and island communities expressed concern that restrictions on fishing would damage the sustainability of areas dependent on the industry.

In a fresh intervention, leading marine conservationists have said that both community and ecological interests must be central to decision making.

Scottish Environment LINK, a network of environmental charities, is calling on the Scottish Government to ensure local communities have a core role in the designation of these new highly protected sites.

Alongside a designation process led by science with communities at the heart, Scottish Environment LINK has said that the Scottish Government should develop test scenarios in collaboration with stakeholders to explore how protected areas can work alongside sustainable fisheries.

Calum Duncan, Convener of LINK’s Marine Group and Head of Conservation Scotland at the Marine Conservation Society, said:

“Our seas are a vital resource – providing jobs and food through our fishing industry, as well as wider environmental benefits, including acting as a major carbon sink.

“We face catastrophic risks to our ocean from over-exploitation and climate change. We must act now to recover nature at sea and help tackle the climate and nature crises.

“Protecting parts of our sea from damaging or extractive activity is a proven and effective way to help nature recover. We know that this can in turn benefit neighbouring fishers and other sea users. Scotland’s only existing no take zone was driven by the community itself – which is why it is crucial to have communities at the decision-making table. 

“A process supported by science, and with the community engaged at the heart, can deliver proportionate and effective marine protection while benefiting from local and industry knowledge”

The community-led no take zone in north Lamlash Bay is Scotland’s only strictly protected area, broadly equivalent to a HPMA, and demonstrates the potential for success on a small scale. As well as ecological improvement over the last decade, the no take zone has had wider community and economic benefits.

Since 2010, the protected area in Lamlash Bay, Isle of Arran has shown a dramatic ecological improvement. Measured biodiversity has increased by 50%, while the populations of commercially important species are two to three times higher within the no take zone. The experience in Lamlash Bay clearly demonstrates the potential spillover benefits to Scottish fishers from even small areas of strict protection. 

Howard Wood OBE, Co-Founder of Community of Arran Seabed Trust (COAST) said:

“While COAST support HPMAs as they will reverse the decline in our marine environment, as COAST have shown on Arran over the past two decades, communities must be involved in both carefully choosing the areas and then in the ongoing monitoring of these areas.

“HPMAs must be brought in alongside other spatial measures that allow low impact fishing activities to both continue and thrive.”


End Notes

Cross-stakeholder letter to the Cabinet Secretary on HPMAs (sent 31 March): 

LINK’s Frequently Asked Questions on HPMAs: 

LINK briefing on the evidence base for HPMAs:


Image credit: Lisa Kamphausen for NatureScot

Letter to First Minister Humza Yousaf

March 28th, 2023 by

On his election as First Minister, Scottish Environment LINK has written to Humza Yousaf to congratulate him on his appointment, with the letter signed by 31 members of the environmental coalition. The letter urges strong leadership and action in a number of crucial areas, while acknowledging the progress already made in recent years, notably through the Edinburgh Declaration on biodiversity. 

Scotland faces twin environmental crises of nature loss and climate change. The latest IPCC report, issued this month, made clear that humanity requires urgent action to protect our environment, and underlined the importance of restoring nature as part of this effort. A healthy environment with rich and diverse nature is fundamentally important to the health, wellbeing and prosperity of Scotland’s people. However, Scotland has suffered a high level of historic nature loss and this is accelerating further, with 1 in 9 species at risk of national extinction.

The letter calls on the First Minister to reaffirm the Scottish Government’s commitment to our natural environment across the following areas:


  • Nature protection and restoration
  • Farming and forestry
  • Circular economy
  • Just Transition and human rights


Scottish Environment LINK is the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment community, with over 40 member bodies representing a broad spectrum of environmental interests with the common goal of contributing to a more environmentally sustainable society.

Read the letter and list of signatories



Image credit: Sandra Graham

Leadership candidates warned against pausing vital marine conservation proposals

March 23rd, 2023 by

Scottish Environment LINK, the umbrella body for over 40 environmental organisations, warned candidates for the SNP leadership not to scrap plans for Highly Protected Marine Areas if elected First Minister.

Existing measures for marine conservation in Scotland will not enable the scale of ecosystem recovery needed to meet Scottish Government targets to halt the decline of nature at sea. HPMAs if done well will support ocean recovery and deliver benefits for all.

LINK has been running a campaign – Create Ocean Recovery Zones – to encourage the public to support Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs), which the Scottish Government is consulting on. To date, over 1,500 people have taken the action.

Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland at the Marine Conservation Society and convenor of Scottish Environment LINK’s Marine Group said:

“We all rely upon a healthy ocean, coastal communities most of all. We’re in the midst of an ocean emergency and all governments of the UK have failed to halt the decline of nature at sea, with declining seabed conditions and plummeting seabird populations of particular concern.

“Highly Protected Marine Areas (HPMAs) are a simple measure, proven worldwide to support ocean recovery, doubling sealife within their boundaries, overspilling into surrounding waters to benefit local fishers. Sustainable wildlife watching, education, research and enjoyment can also take place within such zones. Failing to implement HPMAs would be a massive backwards step. If we are to reverse the alarming decline of nature at sea, we must boost ocean recovery and support coastal communities long into the future.”

Earlier this month, members of Scottish Environment LINK signed a joint letter with members of Stop Climate Chaos Scotland, calling on the leadership candidates to commit to strong action on nature and climate. To date only one of the candidates has responded.




End Notes

Ocean Recovery action:

Letter to candidates from SCCS/LINK:




LINK welcomes draft Scottish Biodiversity Strategy

January 30th, 2023 by

The Scottish Government published the ‘final draft’ of its biodiversity strategy at the tail end of last year. It coincided with the UN biodiversity conference in Montreal, where world leaders agreed on a global framework for nature’s recovery, known as the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework.

LINK welcomes the publication of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS) which has the potential to be instrumental in turning the tide on nature loss.

The SBS needs to reverse losses and restore nature: this is clearly stated as the overarching goal of this strategy. The commitment to introduce a programme of ecosystem restoration is positive and, if effectively delivered, can help nature recover at scale.

We also welcome the twenty-six priority actions outlined to restore Scotland’s natural environment and halt the loss of biodiversity by 2030. Priority actions include:

        A plan for Invasive Non-Native Species

        Expanding and improving protected areas

        Actions to reduce deer densities

        Supporting nature-friendly farming

        A policy framework for restoring Scotland’s rainforest

        Recovering vulnerable species

It is also great to see new outcomes for making our best nature sites larger, better connected and in good condition, and improving the abundance and distribution of species – two areas which had been missing from the previous draft.

However, there is still work to do. The actions for species must go further and include a headline commitment to a national programme of species recovery. You could draw a parallel to any education system: different pupils need different approaches and support to thrive. Diversity is a strength but it needs to be actively supported, otherwise those species that don’t fit with wide scale habitat restoration will be lost such as the twinflower.

The strategy is based on the principle of tackling the nature and climate emergencies together. However, the SBS needs to be as powerful as Scotland’s Climate Change Plan. This is not yet being reflected: the climate change adaptation programme only goes as far as peatland restoration and woodland creation which are important but very specific. Both the climate and biodiversity emergencies must be being tackled together robustly and at pace.

Scotland has suffered a high level of historic nature loss, and we face even greater threats today. We look forward to working with the Scottish Government to turn this into the Nature Emergency Strategy that Scotland so desperately needs.

This revised Scottish Biodiversity Strategy is still a draft to allow for any further amendments. There will be the opportunity for stakeholders to further consider the strategy alongside the consultation on the delivery plan which will be launched in spring 2023 with the final documents published in summer 2023.

You can read LINK’s consultation response here.


Image: Simon Jones

Petition calls for funding for sustainable farming

January 17th, 2023 by

Petition calls for funding for sustainable farming

Today at the Scottish parliament members of Scottish Environment LINK’s Farm for Scotland’s Future campaign presented Mairi Gougeon, Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs and Islands, with a petition calling for a new farm funding system that works for nature, climate, and people.

The petition, signed by more than 2,600 people, calls on the Scottish government to use the Agriculture Bill, due to be introduced this year, to ensure that at least three quarters of public spending on farming supports methods that restore nature and tackle climate change. It also calls on the government to support all farmers and crofters in the transition to sustainable farming.

Current methods make farming one of the top three sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Scotland and a major cause of wildlife loss.

More than half of those who signed the petition wrote personal messages to the Cabinet Secretary, explaining why the future of Scotland’s farming matters to them. The messages came from a people across Scotland including farmers and crofters, young people, and grandparents concerned about the legacy being left for future generations. Many describe the loss of nature they have witnessed in their own lifetimes.

Mairi Gougeon said today:

“I’d like to thank everyone who contributed to the petition, and I’d especially like to thank those who shared their opinions and experiences with me.

“Our plan to make Scottish agriculture more sustainable and regenerative relies upon the vital contributions of farmers, crofters and land-managers across the country.

“The petition is a shining example of the expertise that we will rely on to help guide us to a fairer and greener future for Scottish farming.”

Deborah Long, chief officer of Scottish Environment LINK, said today:

“We support the Scottish Government’s ambition for Scotland to become a world leader in sustainable and regenerative agriculture, and it’s essential that the upcoming Agriculture Bill can set us on the path to deliver this.

“The strength of feeling in the messages people wrote to the Cabinet Secretary is striking. People care deeply about the future of farming and want it to work in harmony with our natural environment. It’s vital that public spending on farming is used to help farmers and crofters produce food in ways that protect and restore nature, cut climate emissions, and revitalise our rural areas for everyone to enjoy.”

The Farm for Scotland’s Future campaign was launched last June by a coalition of environment charities and farmers’ groups. A recent Survation opinion poll found that 85% of Scots said it was important that public spending on farming supports methods that restore nature and tackle climate change.



Image L to R: Alastair Seaman (Director, Woodland Trust Scotland), Pete Ritchie (Director, Nourish Scotland), David McKay (Head of Policy, Soil Association Scotland), Mairi Gougeon MSP, Deborah Long (Chief Officer, Scottish Environment LINK), Jo Pike (Chief Executive, Scottish Wildlife Trust), Anne McCall (Director, RSPB Scotland), Lang Banks (Director, WWF Scotland)

The 100 messages presented in the book can be viewed at

Councils will need green specialists to meet government ambitions

January 17th, 2023 by

Planning departments will need more expertise to deliver the environmental ambitions set out in the refreshed framework for planning policy, charities have said.

The call comes as the Scottish Government has published the final version of the National Planning Framework 4 (NPF4) which sets out a plan for Scotland to create sustainable, liveable and productive places to improve people’s lives.

Scottish Environment LINK, a coalition of leading environmental charities, welcomes the ’significant weight’ to be given to both the global climate emergency and the nature crisis in the final draft of the framework.

Protections for ancient woodlands and veteran trees have been strengthened, with the Government clear that developments will not be supported that impact on these habitats.

The final draft of NPF4 also includes proposals for Nature Networks to be created, which provide corridors for wildlife and natural regeneration. However, the framework fails to commit to providing additional financial resource to planning authorities to allow for the recruitment of more biodiversity officers within local authorities to work on the roll out Nature Networks at local level to contribute to a national Nature Network.

However, environmental charities have said that local planning authorities must be given adequate resources to officers with experience in biodiversity and ecological science to effectively deliver on the kind of planning system envisaged in NPF4.

A 2022 survey, conducted by CIEEM, of 26 Local Planning Authority (LPA) staff found that 22% of respondents have no current ecological resource or expertise available and one third said there had been cutbacks to ecological provision within their LPA over the past 5 years.

Without in-house ecological expertise in local authorities, proposals for positive effects for biodiversity put forward by developers cannot be assessed and delivered. To implement transformation in Scottish planning there is an urgent need for increased capacity and expertise at local levels.

Esmé Clelland, Senior Conservation Planner and Convener of LINK’s Planning Group, said:

“NPF4 offers a real opportunity for meaningful change in the planning system and a shift to development which helps meet or climate change goals and nature recovery aims.

“We would like to thank the Minister for Public Finance, Planning and Community Wealth and Scottish Government officials for their hard work and listening to stakeholder views to produce a document which puts climate and nature at the forefront of decision making.

“Every local authority needs adequate resources and planning staff who are supported by experts in specialist area such as biodiversity, protected species and trees.

“NPF4 will be a key consideration in every planning application decision in Scotland and will shape local development plans in the future. The way it is interpretated and implemented will be critical.

“LINK members will continue to monitor progress to see how NPF4 is being delivered on the ground and hope it will deliver for climate, nature and people.”




Editors’ Notes


Scottish Environment LINK is the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment community, with over 40 member bodies representing a broad spectrum of environmental interests with the common goal of contributing to a more environmentally sustainable society.

Scottish Environment LINK Planning Group’s response to the draft NPF4 consultation


  1. State of Nature Report 2019
  2. Biodiversity Intactness Index
  3. Scottish biodiversity strategy post-2020: statement of intent


Image: Simon Jones

Sewage and chemical pollution top list of public concerns over Scottish seas

December 12th, 2022 by

People in Scotland believe sewage and chemical pollution pose the biggest threat to the health of our seas, according to new research.

The opinion poll, conducted by Survation on behalf of the environmental coalition Scottish Environment LINK, also found high levels of public concern over litter and the impact of climate change on our seas.

9 in 10 Scots say that it is important to them personally that Scotland’s seas are in a healthy state, according to the poll. But sea health is being damaged by a range of factors, including plastic, chemical and sewage pollution.

One factor concerning environmental charities is the lack of monitoring of sewage releases in Scotland – with the public left in the dark over the scale of the problem.

Sanitary waste such as wet wipes and cotton bud sticks can end up in our seas when sewers overflow due to heavy rainfall or insufficient capacity in the network.

These storm overflows, which release untreated sewage into rivers and coastal waters, are intended to operate during extreme weather events – but the Marine Conservation Society has raised concerns that storm overflows may be being used on a more regular basis.

Evidence from Marine Conservation Society volunteer Beachwatch litter surveys suggest a higher level of sewage related debris on Scottish beaches than in England and Wales, where monitoring rules are stricter.

Scottish Water monitor only 9% of storm overflows, and are required to monitor only 3%. In comparison, over 80% of overflows in England and Wales are monitored, with a commitment for 100% to be monitored by the end of 2023.

Scottish Water reported 10,763 spills in 2021 – however, this only covers the 3% of overflows they are required to monitor, suggesting a much more widespread problem.  Environmental charities have called on the Scottish Government to install electronic monitoring on all sewer overflows by 2024.

Calum Duncan, Convener of the Scottish Environment LINK Marine Group and Head of Conservation for Scotland at the Marine Conservation Society, said:

“Scotland’s beaches are beautiful – but anybody who has visited one in recent years will have noticed pollution being washed up on our shores.

“Our ocean is fundamental to life on earth, and inextricably linked to all our health and wellbeing.

“But our seas are being used as a dumping ground for sewage, plastic rubbish and ‘forever chemicals’, all of which continue to build up over time, wreaking havoc on our planet.

“We need much stronger monitoring on our sewer overflows to help target improvements and reduce the sewage and debris entering Scotland’s seas, and a ban on all non-essential ‘forever chemicals’.”

Clare Cavers, Senior Projects Manager at Fidra said:

“Evidence of pollution in our rivers and seas from invisible chemicals and tiny plastic particles is growing all the time, and a lot is known to come from sewage.

“There needs to be an urgent increase in monitoring sewage from storm overflows in Scotland, so that we can understand exactly what is coming through the sewers and where it is coming from.

“Then we can work with manufacturers, retailers and government to turn off the pollution tap and protect Scotland’s stunning seas for the next generation to enjoy.”



Marine Conservation Society briefing – Sewage related debris (Oct 22):

Scottish Environment LINK – Ocean Recovery Plan:

Opinion polling:

How important, if at all, is it to you personally that Scotland’s seas are in a healthy state?

NET Important: 91%
NET Unimportant: 5%
Don’t know: 3%

Which of the following do you think represent the greatest threat to the health of Scotland’s seas? Please rank your top 3. (Sum % of Rank 1,2,3)

Chemical or sewage pollution: 69%
Litter pollution: 61%
Impacts of climate change: 48%
Industrial fishing: 28%
Offshore oil and gas extraction: 26%
Shipping and transport: 14%
Energy infrastructure (wind turbines, subsea cables): 13%
Invasive non-native species: 12%
Aquaculture (fish and shellfish farming): 11%
Coastal developments: 9%
Marine tourism: 5%
Aquaculture (seaweed cultivation): 4%

Survation (31st Oct – 6th Nov). Sample size 1033.

Two thirds of Scots support ambitious “30 by 30” target to protect nature

December 5th, 2022 by

People living in Scotland overwhelmingly back plans to protect 30% of the country’s land and sea for nature by the end of the decade, a new opinion poll has found.

The global “30 by 30” target, expected to be agreed at the upcoming UN biodiversity conference COP15 in December, sets out to protect 30% of the world’s land and sea in response to the catastrophic decline in nature.

Scotland has historically suffered from a high level of nature loss, but more recent research shows that we are still losing nature today and 1 in 9 species are at risk of national extinction.(1)

Research conducted by Survation has found that 66% of respondents support the 30 by 30 approach being adopted in Scotland, with only 13% opposed. Excluding “don’t knows”, 84% of those who expressed an opinion were in favour of the target.

The findings come as a new report by Scottish Environment LINK outlines the steps necessary to make the 30 by 30 pledge deliver for nature’s recovery.

Currently around 18% of Scotland’s land is legally protected for nature, such as through designated Sites of Special Scientific Interest and European sites. However, not all of these places are working as well as they should be, with data showing that the condition of protected areas has not significantly improved over the past 15 years.

Scottish Environment LINK says that, as well as increasing the coverage and quantity of protected areas, and exploring new ways to protect land for nature, it is the quality of our best nature sites that is vital to make the 30×30 target effective, and a strategic programme of active management and restoration of these places is required.  

The coalition of environmental charities is calling for:

  • Robust criteria to be applied to decide what counts to the 30%
  • New targets and a strategic programme to improve the condition of protected areas
  • Long-term funding to support robust monitoring and management of species and habitats
  • The introduction of Nature Recovery Zones within our National Parks

Isobel Mercer of RSPB Scotland, and lead author of the Scottish Environment LINK report, commented:

“Nature is in trouble. In Scotland, nearly 50% of species have declined in abundance since 1994 and we need action now to reverse this trend before it is too late.

“Protected areas are the frontline of defence for nature against growing pressures from human activity and climate change. The evidence is clear that wildlife does better where protections are put in place.

“The global target to protect 30% of land and sea by the end of this decade is a major opportunity for reversing nature loss. The focus must be maximising benefits for nature rather than drawing lines on a map.

“The public clearly recognise that an ambitious approach is needed in this decade – we must make sure that the delivery of 30 by 30 meets those expectations.”

Alistair Whyte of Plantlife Scotland, Convener of the LINK Wildlife Group, added:

“A healthy natural environment is essential for our health and wellbeing, and protected areas are one of the most important tools we have.

“Increasing the level of protection to encompass 30% of Scottish territory is ambitious. It is also essential.

“We are in the midst of climate and nature emergencies and we must act now to protect nature before its too late.”