Top conservation experts have now been confirmed to give evidence at the Coul Links public inquiry. Witnesses will include Professor Colin Galbraith and Jonny Hughes, who are both elected councillors for global nature conservation bodies and advise governments both nationally and internationally.
Professor Galbraith was previously a Director and Chief Scientist with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) and has been instrumental in developing guidance concerning protected wildlife sites. Jonny Hughes is Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust and an International Union for Conservation of Nature Global Councillor and worked at Coul Links as a warden for several years.
Other witnesses are Buglife Scotland’s Conservation Director, Craig Macadam and Dr Mark Young, an Emeritus senior lecturer at Aberdeen University and author of over 200 research papers on ecology.
Together, these witnesses will outline the national and international environmental importance of Coul Links, which is designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest, Special Protection Area and a Ramsar Site.
The witnesses will be presented by the Conservation Coalition, a group of seven environmental organisations who have come together to help save this internationally important wildlife site, due to the lasting damage that will be done if the plans are allowed to go ahead.
The controversial plans for a golf course at Coul Links in East Sutherland were ‘called in’ by Ministers earlier this year due to natural heritage issues of ‘national importance’. The plans will be scrutinised at a public inquiry due to start in February next year.
Professor Colin Galbraith said: “There is a powerful case against these development proposals. Internationally important wildlife sites, including Coul Links, undergo a careful designation process and are strictly protected from inappropriate developments such as this one”.
Jonny Hughes said: “Coul Links is globally important for nature conservation and because of this it is among one of the most heavily protected areas in Scotland. It is alarming that these damaging plans have come so far.
“The Scottish Government’s response to Coul Links is a test of its commitment to caring for our most important habitats. Our evidence will demonstrate the immense damage that will be done by carving out a golf course in this truly special place, and we hope it will lead to a swift rejection of the plans by Scottish Ministers.”