Most people living in Scotland want a green recovery from the Covid-19 pandemic

07 Aug 2020
A new poll shows people in Scotland believe the Government should prioritise economic recovery measures that tackle climate change and enhance nature A new poll released today shows three-quarters of people living in Scotland believe the Scottish Government should prioritise measures for a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic. The poll shows strong public support for measures that improve our quality of life, tackle climate change and enhance nature [1]. It also reveals that 76% of people in Scotland have become more aware of nature in their everyday life during the recent lockdown [2]. Scottish Environment LINK, a coalition of leading environmental charities, has welcomed the results which demonstrate strong support for green projects, including enhancement of Scotland’s nature through woodland expansion and restoration, peatland restoration and new high quality and accessible green spaces [3]. The poll results also highlight strong public support for initiatives to deliver nature-friendly farming and enhanced re-use and recycling enterprises [4], reflecting concerns about access to food and higher levels of plastic pollution that have been raised during lockdown. Last year, the First Minister declared a climate emergency and recognised the equal importance of tackling the threats to nature [5]. As the coronavirus pandemic reached its peak in April, Scottish Ministers signalled their intention that the economic recovery from the pandemic should deliver positive outcomes for nature and climate change. The charities are now calling for investment in ‘ready-to-go’ environmental projects to deliver these much-needed improvements to Scotland’s environment while creating new jobs and opportunities for traineeships. Deborah Long, Chief Officer of Scottish Environment LINK said: “The poll results highlight how important nature has been for the wellbeing of many of us during the recent lockdown, with people spending more time in their local environment. It also shows the great importance the public is placing on an economic recovery to the pandemic to lead us to a fairer, greener Scotland, with greater levels of support for an economic recovery that prioritises green projects. At Scottish Environment LINK we have been working with members to gather information about where rapid investment in on-the-ground projects could lead to better environmental outcomes benefitting us all.” Some of the projects proposed, where the charities believe rapid investment could lead to vital environmental benefits, include peatland restoration, woodland restoration, new urban green spaces, improving access to healthy food and tackling plastic pollution. Aedan Smith, Head of Policy and Advocacy for RSPB Scotland, said: “Scotland is home to globally important peatland habitats ranging from shallow blanket bogs to raised mires to the deep peats of Caithness and Sutherland – the largest area of blanket bog in Europe. A healthy peatland is an important carbon store and can also continually accumulate more stored carbon as well as providing homes for internationally important species of plants and wildlife. A damaged peatland by contrast emits carbon, supports fewer species and is unable to deliver key benefits like water management. Investing in peatland restoration brings all those environmental benefits, supports local communities, and is a natural way to help tackle the climate and nature emergencies.” Pete Ritchie, Executive Director of Nourish Scotland said: “The impact of Covid-19 has brought home the value of accessing nature in urban environments and has highlighted an increased demand for space to grow food. Along with more space for walking and cycling, we must reimagine our towns and cities as places in nature, with community supported food growing spaces threaded through our urban landscapes. Access to nature in everyday life should be there for everyone.” Sarah Duley, Head of Food at Soil Association Scotland, said: “The impact of Covid-19 has highlighted more than ever the importance of a resilient food system. Consumers have shown that they value access to healthy, locally produced food. Scotland’s public sector now has an opportunity to lead the way in a green recovery that builds on this public appetite for change. Our work with local authorities through the Food for Life Scotland programme has shown us that serving fresh, sustainable school dinners is good for pupils’ health, good for local business, and good for the planet. By putting local, healthy food on the table in our schools, hospitals, and care homes, Scotland’s public sector can provide a stable market for Scottish food businesses, protect skilled jobs in the local area, and build lasting resilience into our food supply chains.” Alistair Whyte, Head of Plantlife Scotland, said: “The Alliance for Scotland’s Rainforest is developing a suite of collaborative, landscape-scale projects that restore and protect Scotland’s rainforests, an internationally important, yet often unknown habitat, unique to Scotland’s west coast. Restoring and expanding this habitat, which rivals tropical rainforest in terms of its species diversity and richness, is a fundamental step to increasing the potential of these woodlands to contribute to carbon sequestration; enhance its rich wildlife and cultural value; while at the same time providing welcome economic benefits to rural economies.” Dr Maddy Berg, Project Manager for Fidra, said: “Fidra’s projects focus on tackling plastic and chemical pollution. Our Great Nurdle Hunt demonstrates the widespread nature of plastic pollution from the vast and expanding global plastics industry, with 87% beaches surveyed this year finding these plastic pellets. Our work on packaging shows everyday items like popcorn packets and polystyrene present risks to people and wildlife. Scotland’s seas are vital for people’s physical and mental wellbeing and a healthy planet, which is why we must stop using them as dumping grounds. Developing a circular economy is key to reducing waste, maximising reuse and plugging unnecessary leaks of plastic pollution such as nurdles, to protect these wild places for future generations.” ENDS For further information or to arrange interviews, please contact: Kirsty Nutt, Communications Manager, on 07711 385595 or kirsty.nutt@rspb.org.uk or Vhairi Tollan, Advocacy Manager for Scottish Environment LINK, on 07512 828004 or vhairi@scotlink.org   Notes 1. 76% of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Government should prioritise economic recovery measures that improve our quality of life and tackle climate change and enhance nature.’ 2. 76% of respondents said they had become more aware of nature during lockdown. 38% a lot more aware and only 4% not aware at all. 3. ‘Enhancement to Scotland’s nature through, for example, tree planting, peatland restoration, green spaces which are good for nature’ was ranked as ‘Very important’; half of respondents (49%) prioritised this as of ‘utmost importance’. 4. The importance of ‘Support for nature friendly farming’ was scored 4.07/5 and the importance of ‘Support for re-use and recycling enterprises’ was scored 4.22/5. 5. In 2019, the First Minister declared a “climate emergency” and recognised the equal importance of tackling the interlinked threats to nature. (FM letter to Scottish Environment LINK). 6. The poll was undertaken by ScotPulse in July 2020. The full results are summarised below. • 76% of respondents said they had become more aware of nature during lockdown. 38% a lot more aware and only 4% not aware at all. • 76% of respondents agreed with the statement that ‘Government should prioritise economic recovery measures that improve our quality of life and tackle climate change and enhance nature.’ When looking at 16-34-year olds this was 83%. Only 8% disagreed. • 76% agreed with the statement “If Government provides support for sectors that contribute to causing climate change or damage nature, this should be dependent on those sectors and businesses rapidly changing their practices so that they no longer cause environmental harm”. • 80% of respondents agreed that Environmental regulations should not be relaxed or undermined as part of the Recovery. Almost 50% strongly agreed. When looking at 16-34-year olds 84% agreed. • Q3 was about measures that could be part of the Government’s recovery plans and respondents were asked to indicate importance on a scale of 1-5 (with 1 being not important, 2 of some importance, 3 quite important, 5 utmost importance) o From highest to lowest those ranking as very important were  Support for community food production and local food businesses (4.26/5). 50% said of utmost importance, 27% very important.  Support for re-use and recycling enterprises (4.22/5). 47% utmost and 34% very.  Renewable energy projects (4.17/5). 50% utmost and 29% very.  Enhancement to Scotland’s nature through for example, tree planting, peatland restoration, green spaces which are good for nature (4.15/5). 49% utmost and 27% very.  Upgrades to our homes and buildings so they are well insulated and fit for the future (4.15/5). 33% utmost and 45% very  Support for nature friendly farming (4.07/5). 42% utmost and 32% very. o Quite important overall were  Support for training and research to help us tackle climate change and reduce waste (3.98/5).  More space for pedestrians/cyclists (3.53/5). Despite ranking lowest of defined answers, 55% still believe this is very important or of utmost importance.  Something else (3.4/5) Answers included: planting wildflowers for bees; cut down in travel; awareness of littering; electric cars; better public transport; reduce packaging and single use plastics; support tourism; solar energy; conservation of local wildlife 7. Scottish Environment LINK is the forum for Scotland’s voluntary environment community, with 40 member bodies representing >0.5 million people in Scotland who support a broad spectrum of environmental interests with the common goal of contributing to a more environmentally sustainable society.

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