THE environment secretary has called for a two-year delay on the implementation of a ban on pesticides which are thought to be harmful to bees.
Richard Lochhead backed EU restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids, but he said these should not be implemented until 2015, allowing time to gather more evidence.
If further research proves the pesticides are not harmful to bees, the restrictions should then be withdrawn, Mr Lochhead said.
Neonicotinoids account for one 1 per cent of all pesticides used in Scotland. The proposed restrictions would only affect certain uses of the pesticides on crops with flowers that are attractive to bees.
France, Germany, Italy and Slovenia have already banned the use of neonicitinoids, and a many member states are expected to back restrictions at a meeting tomorrow in Brussels.
Mr Lochhead said: “The Scottish Government takes the health of bees and other insect pollinators very seriously, but in this case, the science has not been clear cut.
“Ministers have to therefore make careful judgments in the absence of conclusive evidence.”
He called for the UK government to agree to a programme of research, to be carried out over the next two years.
“If the results prove conclusively the pesticide does not harm bees, the proposals [to restrict the use of neonicotinoids] would be withdrawn,” he said.
“If not, the proposals would be implemented. A breathing space would allow any existing stocks to be used and ensure that any alternatives on the market do not make matters worse.”
But Mr Lochhead was accused of “appalling hypocrisy” by Green MSP Alison Johnstone.
“He admits the use of these pesticides only accounts for a minuscule proportion of what’s used on our crops, but, instead of genuine precaution, he’s asking for a further delay,” she said.
“The Cabinet Secretary doesn’t understand what the precautionary principle is or he wouldn’t suggest two years of inaction.
“He should be demanding convincing scientific evidence that pollinator populations aren’t negatively impacted by the use of neonicotinoids, and in the meantime he should support the call from the European Commission.
“We need a moratorium on the use of these pesticides as soon as possible.”
SNP MEP Alan Smith member of the European Parliament’s Agriculture Committee also supported the European Commission’s proposed ban.
“There is clear and credible evidence that neonicotinoids have a detrimental impact. The consequences of inaction are potentially catastrophic,” he said. “By all means let us research into this further, but this should not be used as an excuse for inaction.”