News Snippets

Rob Mackey

Consultation on the reintroduction of the Lynx to Scotland
A partnership of 3 charities - Scotland The Big Picture, Trees for Life and the Vincent Wildlife Trust - announced in January 2021 an impartial and extensive study to assess people’s views and attitudes to the re-introduction of the European Lynx into the Scottish Highlands. The suggestion is that there is sufficient habitat and roe deer to support up to four hundred lynx and that the research will focus more on assessing the willingness of the human population to accommodate this apex predator.
This study will run until February 2022 and further details can be found online.
Future of Wild Camping under scrutiny
A petition was lodged with the Scottish Parliament to lobby the view that new legislation be enacted to enable Local Authorities to create no wild camping zones. This prompted many responses including from those organisations that have celebrated the provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act 2003. A common comment was the fact that the petition focussed on informal roadside camping and not wild camping. Furthermore, additional legislation was deemed unnecessary as it was considered legislation is already in existence which would allow for enforcement actions.
In terms of possible solutions to the growing problem caused by roadside parking (eg by campervans) there is something of a consensus with proposals by Parkswatchscotland, Ramblers Scotland and Mountaineering Scotland along the following lines:
Education (rights and responsibilities), information, new infrastructure provision (see story on building of toilet facilities at the foot of Bla Bhein) and enforcement. Mountaineering Scotland argued for a form of Community Planning at a local level.
Landowners’ Concerns about Visitors
At a recent webinar, the responses from a small group of (self-selected) estate owners, asked about their main concerns over the expected rush of visitors to the Scottish countryside once restrictions are relaxed this summer, were as follows:
• New access takers less aware of rights to responsible access: 52%
• Infrastructure, eg parking, toilets, waste disposal: 30%
• Litter and fly-tipping: 7%
• Resources, eg rangers, police: 4%
• Other: 7%
The major problems of summer 2020 (eg due to the closure of the Loch Morlich campsite) are being used, with government funding available, by agencies and estate owners to prepare for summer 2021, eg "variable" signs at dead-end road entrances, a "bike and hike" scheme for hillwalkers, more enforcement of anti-parking signage, more rangers with links to open facilities.
Survey of Birds
The Invercauld Estate carried out a survey of ‘red’ and ‘amber’ listed birds over a three month period during 2020. Gamekeepers recorded 1,117 breeding pairs - an increase of 16% on the 2019 results. These included dotterel, curlew, ring ouzel and merlin but not grouse as these were not recorded in the survey. It is not clear if other moorland estates carry out similar surveys in an identical way that would allow for broader conclusions to be drawn about the level of bird breeding across the country.
Bailies of Bennachie Awarded 'Better Places' Grant
The conservation charity Bailies of Bennachie has been awarded a Better Places Grant from NatureScot. The grant will fund the first stage of examining the pressure of visitors on the hill so that recreation at Bennachie can be managed more sustainably.
The Bailies will look at how visitors currently use the hill and will work with users and landowners to find the better ways for this to be managed in the future. The Chair of the Baillies, Jackie Cumberbirch stated:
“The funding gives us a tight timetable to meet but over the next six weeks we will set out the main issues and start an audit of all the routes on the hill. We plan to work with Forestry and Land Scotland, private landowners and groups that regularly use the hill to work towards better and more integrated visitor management.”
For more information contact Fiona Cormack, Outreach officer
The John Muir Trust joins COPT26
The John Muir Trust has joined COPT 26 which is a civil society coalition made of groups and individuals from a range of constituencies in Scotland and the rest of the UK, including trade unions, direct action networks, climate justice groups, environment and development NGOs, faith groups, students and youth, migrant and racial justice networks.
COP26 is of course the international summit under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. The United Kingdom will host the meeting, originally planned to take place in Glasgow in November 2020. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic it has been postponed to November 2021.
Alok Sharma, the Conservative MP selected to lead the UK in its role as COP26 President – outlined 5 priority areas for the U.K. They comprise Adaptation & Resilience; Nature; Energy Transition, Clean Road Transport; and Finance.
Scottish Government pledges to double the Rural Infrastructure Fund
The Scottish Government has pledged to double this fund from £3 million to £6 million in the next financial year. The John Muir Trust welcomed this decision and shared their experience of investing in infrastructure on the Isle of Skye:
“Two years ago, the John Muir Trust received support to build a new composting toilet, additional car parking spaces and new interpretation at the foot of Bla Bheinn on Skye. That helped us manage an escalating problem of congestion, and thoughtless disposal of human waste and litter, so we know that this fund can make a big difference. We recognise that infrastructure funding is not the only solution. We need to tackle anti-social behaviour through education and find ways of redistributing visitor numbers beyond the famous tourist hot-spots to spread out benefits and impacts more widely.”

£1.9 Billion Boost from walking and cycling
A new report from NatureScot, Sustrans and Scottish Canals found that users of Scotland’s National Walking and Cycling Network (NWCN) spent £1.9 billion in the local economy in 2019. Use of the routes is estimated to have contributed a further £108 million to the economy, most significantly through improvements to health outcomes.
Walking and cycling trips on the NWCN are estimated to have taken 19.5 million car trips off the road over the year, saving 7.1 million kgs of carbon dioxide. Sustrans stated about this report:
“The rise in walking, wheeling and cycling over the past number of months has demonstrated huge public appetite to make happier and healthier journey choices across Scotland.
“Many people, regardless of age or ability, have discovered their local active travel routes for the first time. We now have a huge opportunity to maintain this momentum and deliver a fair, prosperous and green recovery for everyone in Scotland.
“This report demonstrates the huge environmental, health and economic benefits of investing in walking, wheeling and cycling. Bold, long-term support and backing is now needed to build upon this positive shift towards active journey choices.” See
Scottish Wildcats and the Clashindarroch II Windfarm Proposal Controversy
Vattenfall have submitted a planning proposal for a 77MW Windfarm scheme on Clashindarroch Forest that would consist of 14 new turbines, each with around a 6 megawatt (MW) capacity. The turbines are expected to produce enough fossil-free electricity to meet the equivalent demand of more than 55,000 UK households, and annually prevent more than 70,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere.
Wildcat Haven are strongly advocating and petitioning against this proposal pointing out this development will destroy 125 ha of the forest which forms part of the natural habitat of the wildcat population. They state that they have found 13 wildcats in this forest and this represents 1/3 of the population left in Scotland. There is a petition on Change.Org that is currently running at just under 900,000 supporters.
This planning proposal is shortly to be considered by Aberdeenshire Council.
CNPA Local Development Plan 2021 Adopted
The draft LDP issued last November has now been formally adopted by the Board (228 pages under Board Papers)

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