EFFORTS to counter “Tory attacks on nature” are to receive a new £2.9m package of funding measures, Scottish Green co-leader Lorna Slater has announced.
Slater, Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity, told day two of the party’s annual conference in Dundee that the new funding would be used to accelerate the government’s response to the issue.
She revealed that £1.3m would go towards plans for restoring Scotland’s under-threat Atlantic Rainforests.
It will also see the new “species on the edge” project go forward to help protect and recover 37 of Scotland’s most vulnerable species – such as the great yellow bumblebee and the Scottish primrose.
A further £200,000 will go to the Green Action Trust to help expand nature networks – supporting their work with local communities across Scotland to create and restore woodlands and wetlands.
This will benefit restoration projects all over the country including the Clyde Climate Forest in greater Glasgow, new native woodland for East Ayrshire, restoring woodlands in Falkirk, habitat connectivity projects in Fife, and new wetlands in North Lanarkshire.
Addressing Sunday’s conference, Slater said: “We are in the midst of a nature crisis that represents an existential threat to humanity.
“Just this week the WWF’s Living Planet Report revealed that global wildlife populations have shrunk by 70% in the last 50 years.
“Scotland has, I’m afraid, led that decline. We have one of the most degraded natural environments in the world.
"As Greens we are honest about what has happened.
"Those bare hills are not the natural beauty of Scotland; they are environmental crime scenes. Our natural forests long lost to the ravages of intensive grazing and grouse farming for the elite to shoot for fun.
"And our seas - pillaged by decades of unsustainable fishing.
"No wonder that decline continues, with Scottish wildlife populations falling by 24% since 1994."
The announcement follows criticisms from RSPB Scotland, who have condemned the UK Government over changes they believe will undermine vital protections for nature by rolling back on commitments that were made while the UK was in the European Union.
They are also concerned that proposed changes by Liz Truss will make it easier for developments to go ahead in places that would damage wildlife and that investment zones could tear up fundamental protections for nature in certain areas.
Scottish Green MSP Mark Ruskell previously said that the Prime Minister has "threatened to renege on vital protections for our natural world".
Slater said the Greens have been working throughout government to battle the nature crisis.
She said: “We have established a £60 million Nature Restoration Fund, which is already creating green change across Scotland. From restoring oyster beds in Loch Craignish to supporting rewilding and nature-friendly farming in the Affric Highlands.
“We are creating a brand new network of highly protected marine areas, which will see 10% of our seas dedicated to nature and completely protected from commercial activities.
“We are designating a third National Park for Scotland and working closely with the Parks to make them leaders in restoring our natural environment.
“Through the Land Reform Bill, we will require large landowners to manage their land responsibly. And I am working on bringing forward an ambitious Natural Environment Bill to underpin these efforts with the laws we need to truly protect nature.”
Slater said current measures don’t go far enough, saying the situation in Scotland is “an emergency that requires urgent and far-reaching action”.
She said: “That’s why today I am announcing an immediate £2.9m package of measures that will accelerate our response to the nature emergency.”
The announcement comes just 24-hours after she revealed that the Scottish Government was also adopting a preferred position of no support for coal. It already holds a similar position with regards to fracking.
Slater told the party’s conference on Saturday: “Scotland, the country that helped bring the coal-fired industrial revolution to the world, has drawn a line.
“The era of coal is over and I’m calling on the UK Government to follow us, to make the right call for once, to ban coal extraction for good."
The UK Government has been approached for comment.