The Marine Conservation Society has become the fifth conservation organisation to speak out against a proposal to build a golf course at Coul Links in east Sutherland.
Calum Duncan, Head of Conservation Scotland for the Marine Conservation Society said, "Scotland is of European importance for sand dune systems and Coul Links is one of few in Scotland and across the UK that remain almost entirely undisturbed. We think they should stay that way as befitting a nationally and internationally important site, so that the local community, visitors and rare wildlife can share and enjoy them for generations to come."
The proposal has shocked conservationists and the Scottish Wildlife Trust, RSPB Scotland, Buglife and Plantlife Scotland have already come together to campaign against the proposal. Last month they wrote to the developers urging them to reconsider their plans for Coul Links.
Bruce Wilson, Senior Policy Officer, Scottish Wildlife Trust said, "The recently published State of Nature Report gives a clear warning about the loss and fragmentation of coastal habitats, and demonstrates how unsustainable development is harming Scotland's wildlife and habitats.
"A very significant proportion of the undisturbed dune system at Coul Links will be irreversibly damaged if this proposal goes ahead. It is almost inconceivable that we are faced with the loss of such a precious place. Hopefully lessons have been learned from the Scottish Government's approval of Trump International Links in Aberdeenshire, which has been a disaster for another nationally important sand dune system."
1 State of Nature Report 2016
More information can be found at: www.rspb.org.uk/son
2 Coul Links
Coul Links are protected as part of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Special Protection Area which has been designated for its importance to foraging osprey in the summer and for thousands of over-wintering wildfowl and waders. It supports internationally important wintering populations of Icelandic greylag goose, wigeon and bar-tailed godwit and nationally important populations of teal, scaup, curlew and redshank.
Coul Links are also protected as part of the Dornoch Firth and Loch Fleet Ramsar site which is designated for its sand dune, saltmarsh and estuary habitats that are of international importance for their flora and geomorphology. The Ramsar citation notes that the tidal flats support internationally important numbers of waterfowl in winter and are the most northerly and substantial extent of intertidal habitat for wintering waterfowl in Europe.
Coul Links are also part of the Loch Fleet Site of Special Scientific Interest, designated because of its important intertidal and coastal habitats, vascular plant assemblages and breeding and over-wintering birds. The SSSI citation notes that Coul Links is an extensive dune system which is unusual in displaying a complete transition from foredune to slacks with well developed coastal heathland in drier areas.
There is a rich floral diversity including variegated horsetail, purple milk-vetch, rue-leaved saxifrage, moonwort and frog orchid. Breeding birds include ringed plover, oystercatcher, shelduck, eider, arctic tern, common tern, little tern, wheatear, sedge warbler and reed bunting and over-wintering birds include a nationally important population of eider that benefits from the low level of human disturbance. The Links are also noted for the presence of the Fonseca's seed fly, an endemic species restricted to a short stretch of dunes in northern Scotland, part of which is within the footprint of the development.
Last Updated: Tuesday 6 February 2018