Stark reminder to new MSPs of the action needed to tackle the nature and climate emergency

Kirsty Nutt

Monday 17 May 2021

Collage of Holyrood and puffin

  • New report shows nature in Scotland is more depleted than in 88% of 240 countries and territories across the world.
  • Scotland ranks 28th from the bottom in the Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII), a global analysis on how much human activity has impacted nature.
  • Of the 27 EU member states, 23 of them – 85% – rank more highly than Scotland in biodiversity intactness.
  • Scotland has a BII of just 56% compared to 65% for France, 75% for Norway and 89% for Finland which is among the best countries worldwide.
  • RSPB Scotland is calling on all 129 newly elected MSPs to be ambitious and restore nature for Scotland’s wildlife, climate and people

A new RSPB evaluation, using analysis by scientific staff at the Natural History Museum, has shown that Scotland is listed in the worst twelve percent of 240 countries and territories around the world for the amount of wildlife and wild places lost due to human activity.

The Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII), which is used by the key United Nations nature initiatives to assess nature around the world, is the latest analysis in a growing body of evidence highlighting the perilous state of nature in Scotland and the urgent need for action in order to halt and reverse declines in wildlife and to protect nature and restore ecosystems.

Scotland has a BII of just 56% compared with 65% for France, 75% for Norway and 89% for Finland, which is among the best countries or territories worldwide for retaining its natural biodiversity. Of the 27 EU member states, 23 of them – 85% - rank more highly than Scotland.

In 2019, a coalition of nature conservation and scientific organisations, including the Scottish Government’s nature advisors NatureScot, published the State of Nature in Scotland report. It revealed the ongoing loss of nature, finding that 49% of species had declined and 1 in 9 species is at risk of extinction in Scotland. When viewed alongside the BII, it is clear that nature in Scotland is in a perilous state.

Wildlife and wild places have been continually damaged for many decades through human activity. Investment and action to protect and restore nature have not been sufficient to halt this or the resulting declines in species.

Aedan Smith, Head of Policy for RSPB Scotland, said: “The central message from the BII is inescapable: by this measure, nature in Scotland is more depleted than in 88% of the 240 other countries and territories studied across the world. When we combine that with the State of Nature finding that nature loss is continuing right now in Scotland, on our watch, surely the wake-up call is too loud to ignore.

“Too much of our nature is in trouble – but we still have the staggering beauty of pinewoods and peatlands, eagles, dolphins, bumblebees, kelp, orchids, curlews and thousands of other precious species. We have so much to lose – and so much to regain.

“With new determination and creativity, we can restore nature in Scotland. This last incredibly difficult year has shown us how much we need nature. And now nature needs each and every member of the Scottish Parliament to commit to taking strong and lasting action to restore and protect it.”

The Biodiversity Intactness Index (BII) is designed to be a sensitive, easily understood indicator that can be applied at a range of scales. Importantly, it reflects historical losses of nature and it allows for comparison between different areas and regions. All four of the UK nations sit close to the bottom. England ranks 7th from the bottom; Northern Ireland 12th; Wales 16th; and Scotland 28th. They are all amongst the countries and territories whose biodiversity is most damaged out of the 240 studied.

RSPB Scotland is calling on the Scottish Parliament to bring in legislation and policies that will aid nature’s recovery rather than its destruction by:

  • Protecting 30% of Scotland’s land for nature by 2030 through new and existing nature sites, ensuring these places are well managed, monitored and sufficiently funded.
  • Transforming Scotland’s approach to a wide range of policy areas from farming to fishing to planning and development to benefit nature, people and climate as outlined in the #11Actions in the Nature Recovery Plan produced jointly by RSPB Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and WWF Scotland.
  • Setting legally-binding targets for nature’s recovery like there are for climate

Aedan added: “The good news is that the action needed can all go hand-in-hand with a green recovery from Covid-19 – creating jobs and improving the health and wellbeing of people living in Scotland.

“While Scotland’s huge importance for nature in terms of the four UK countries is clear from its higher ranking for intactness, it still has a long way to go to be a true champion of nature. Scotland could lead the world in protecting nature but only if this new Scottish Parliament takes the opportunity to turn things around, creating a Scotland we can all be proud of.

“As each of the 129 MSPs start this new five-year term, we wish them all the very best. We have high hopes that they will be equal to the challenge and can set Scotland’s nature firmly on a road to recovery for all our sakes.”

To find out more visit 

The new report is available here.


Last Updated: Wednesday 15 December 2021

Tagged with: Country: Scotland Topic: Campaigns Topic: Conservation Topic: Birds and wildlife Topic: Climate change Topic: General Topic: Green issues Topic: Planning and economics Topic: Science