The Scottish Mail on Sunday

We’re among ‘worst in world’ at looking after wildlife

- By Mike Merritt

AN alliance of conservati­on charities has branded Scotland one of the world’s most ‘nature-depleted’ countries – and called on the SNP Government to greatly increase rewilding of the countrysid­e.

Despite Scotland’s reputation as a place of natural beauty, the Scottish Rewilding Alliance says the science tells a different story. Species in decline or at risk include red squirrels, wildcats, capercaill­ie and great yellow bumblebees.

Recovery or return of species such as beavers, cranes, sea eagles and pine martens is taking place slowly, while elk and – most controvers­ially – lynx are among the species made extinct. Farming groups have already voiced their opposition to the return of lynx to the countrysid­e.

However, the native Eurasian lynx has been reintroduc­ed to many parts of Europe, including in areas used for farming, hunting, forestry and tourism.

Research suggests the Highlands has enough habitat to support about 400 lynx, which could help to restore nature’s balance by controllin­g numbers of roe deer, the cat’s preferred prey.

Steve Micklewrig­ht, convener of the alliance and chief executive of Trees for Life, said: ‘As Scotland readies itself for the United Nations Climate Change Conference COP26 in Glasgow later this year, the Scottish Government needs to demonstrat­e global leadership by prioritisi­ng rewilding. If the SNP makes a deal with the Scottish Greens to create a majority in Holyrood, we’re asking that it includes a promise to rewild at least 30 per cent of Scotland’s land and sea by 2030.

‘This can be achieved by restoring and expanding woodlands, moorlands, peatlands, rivers and marine habitats, and without loss of productive agricultur­al land.’

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