RSPB Scotland welcomes new support for peatlands in Scottish draft budget
20 September 2012
Media and Communications Officer
Responding to the Scottish Government’s draft budget presented to Parliament, Stuart Housden, Director of RSPB Scotland, said:
“This budget is an opportunity to make good on the Scottish Government’s promises of a greener Scotland – and give real credibility to the Year of Natural Scotland in 2013.
“We welcome Mr Swinney’s announcement of new funds for peatland restoration as part of the Government’s plans to fight climate change. However, no figure is yet specified and both the need to take action and the potential for success, in Scotland, is high. We look forward to working with the Government to discuss how this might be best deployed to reduce carbon emissions, while also enhancing biodiversity and water quality (2).
“We are also pleased that no further cuts have been made to the budgets for Scotland’s agri-environment scheme or to that of SNH (1). Agri-environment schemes support farmer and crofters choosing to manage land in an environmentally friendly manner and are crucial to protect Scotland’s wildlife. Only with the co-ordinated application of agri-environment measures and other SNH funds will we be able to grasp the challenges of managing and protecting our special wildlife sites (SSSIs) and meet the Government’s 2020 targets for biodiversity (3).
“Investing in nature provides real returns in green jobs, in underpinning the industries that rely on our healthy environment, such as farming, crofting, fishing and Scotch Whisky, and especially to tourism by reinforcing Scotland’s image at home and abroad as a country with outstanding wildlife.
“We hope the final budget will include measures that protect and enhance our amazing natural environment, and hope that Parliament will play its part in ensuring it does.”
1. Agri-environment schemes are a key way of encouraging farmers and crofters to manage their land in ways that benefit wildlife, protect our soil and water resources and respond to climate change. In 2011/12, the Scottish Government spent £47 million on such schemes but signalled in last year’s budget that it intended to cut this to £40 million in 2012/13 and again to £38 million in 2013/14 – an overall 19% cut in funding. Unless agri-environment spending is maintained, the Scottish Government is likely to struggle to meet its own targets to halt declines in biodiversity by 2020. The Rural Affairs, Climate Change and Environment Committee has noted the importance of agri-environment spending and committed itself to monitoring how this money is spent http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_Bills/Budget%20(Scotland)%20Bill/BBV_171_final.pdf (5661, P45).
2. Scotland's peatlands are the home to some of Scotland's most precious wildlife and hold 1,620 million tonnes of carbon - equivalent to ten times the carbon stored in all the UK's forests. However, large areas of peatland are degraded or poorly managed and carbon from the peat soils is being lost to the atmosphere and contributing to climate change. Government has an existing obligation to restore 600,000 hectares of blanket bog habitat to benefit wildlife, and this activity could also save 2.7Mt CO2eq per year from being emitted. Typical costs are in the range of £100-300/ha although some damaged areas will cost more to restore to good habitat status. Costs of £13/tonne per tonne of CO2eq saved from peatland restoration are favourable when compared to other ways of carbon saving. Funding over a 10 year period could come from a number of public and private sources and can be considered as preventative spending - money allocated now to prevent serious damage and greater costs in the future. Providing or facilitating the funding of £12m per year over ten years will enable restoration of sufficient peatland to significantly meet the national carbon targets http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/climatechange/scotlands-action/climatechangeact/secondarylegislation . Peatland restoration must be included as a policy in the Government’s Report on Proposals and Policies http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Topics/Environment/climatechange/scotlands-action/lowcarbon/rpp
3. SNH and other public bodies play a vital role in delivering the Government’s environmental objectives. These bodies have already suffered significant reductions in current and anticipated spend. Any further reductions will jeopardise the ability of these bodies to deliver on our environmental commitments – as reflected in the Government’s National Performance Framework. These commitments include restoring SSSIs to favourable condition (see http://www.scotland.gov.uk/About/Performance/scotPerforms/indicator/naturesites) and meeting new 2020 targets for biodiversity conservation, as agreed at Nagoya, Japan, in 2010 (see http://www.scotland.gov.uk/News/Releases/2012/07/biodiversity06072012