Scotland urged to become Rewilding Nation in world-first step towards nature recovery

The Scottish Government is being urged to declare Scotland the world’s first Rewilding Nation and commit to rewilding at least 30 per cent of the country’s land and sea within the next decade.

It comes as new research reveals more than three quarters of people support rewilding in Scotland.

According to a poll of 1000 people for the Scottish Rewilding Alliance, some 76% of Scots support rewilding via the large-scale restoration of nature to the point it’s allowed to take care of itself – with just 7% opposed.

The findings come as the Alliance – a coalition of over 20 organisations – launches its campaign calling on the Scottish Government to declare Scotland the world’s first Rewilding Nation.

They want this and the a commitment on rewilding to be made  ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held in Glasgow in November.

The Rewilding Nation campaign kicks off today with a new animation narrated by wildlife presenter and filmmaker Gordon Buchanan showing how rewilding can help make Scotland a place where nature recovers, wildlife flourishes and people prosper.

Steve Micklewright, Convenor of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance and Chief Executive of Trees for Life said: “The world faces overlapping nature, climate and health crises, but Scotland has the opportunity to show bold leadership by becoming the world’s first Rewilding Nation.

“We have the space, political influence and public backing to become a world leader in saving nature and ourselves.”

The United Nations declared 2021-2030 the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. The Scottish Government has also committed itself to bold action to tackle the crisis facing biodiversity through its Edinburgh Declaration. Both come as habitats and species are being eradicated rapidly worldwide.

However the group claims Scotland is lagging behind other countries with nature in steep decline and suggesting its landscapes among the world’s most nature-depleted.

They explained that only 1.5% of Scotland’s land is national nature reserves and just 4% native woodland, while 25% is what they described as being severely nature depleted and does not support the nature-rich forests, peatlands and river systems it should.

Rural landscapes now support fewer people than previously.

Declining or at risk species include red squirrels, wild cats, capercaillie and great yellow bumblebees. Recovery or return of species such as beavers, cranes, sea eagles and pine martens happen slowly, while elk and lynx are among the species already made extinct.

They also say activities such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling are only banned from less than 5% of coastal waters even as Government assessments reveal that the extent of seabed habitats continues to decline. The group states too that wild salmon populations are at historically low levels and seabirds are feeding their chicks plastic waste. 

“It’s past time to reboot our relationship with the natural world, and Scotland can lead the way. By working with nature instead of against it, rewilding can restore life to hills, glens, rivers and seas – while tackling climate breakdown and offering fresh opportunities for farming and local economies,” said Rebecca Wrigley, Chief Executive of Rewilding Britain.

The Alliance says rewilding at least 30% of Scotland’s land and sea by 2030 can be achieved by restoring and expanding woodlands, moorlands, peatlands, rivers and marine habitats, and without loss of productive agricultural land.

Hugh Raven, Chair of Open Seas, said: “The new opinion poll shows people know that nature’s health is our nation’s wealth. Incentivising lower impact fisheries around our coastline would help degraded habitats and fish populations recover, and regenerate our harbours and coastal towns.

“Recovery in places like Lamlash Bay shows what can be achieved by communities, but we urgently need to rewild larger areas of our seas.”

Tom Bowser, farm owner and Ranger with Argaty Red Kites, said: “Declaring ourselves a Rewilding Nation would be a powerful statement of intent that we’re serious about tackling the climate and nature crises, reconnecting people with nature, and regenerating our communities.”

Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin in Glen Affric, Scotland.

The Alliance recommends using rewilding as a natural solution for increased absorption of atmospheric carbon, building rewilding into post-Covid green recovery plans, and establishing a native species recovery policy and a nationwide network connecting nature restoration projects.

“We’re being seriously outpaced by climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, so trying to save nature piecemeal isn’t enough. Scotland has the opportunity to restore the web of life that supports our health and wellbeing, while acting as a rewilding inspiration globally,” said Peter Cairns, Director of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.

  • View the Scottish Rewilding Alliance’s new animation, Rhythms of Life, following its launch this evening via www.rewild.scot

Main Picture Credit |  scotlandbigpicture.com 

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