Scotland honours the champions of wildlife conservation with pride

Richard Lochhead was among the winners at the awards. Picture: Ian Rutherford
Richard Lochhead was among the winners at the awards. Picture: Ian Rutherford
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CONSERVATIONISTS ranging from a retired teacher who pioneered the idea of the “outdoor classroom” to a farmer who has boosted the number of lapwings on his land have been honoured at the inaugural RSPB Nature of Scotland Awards.

The ceremony, supported by The Scotsman, took place at the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh and celebrated excellence, innovation and outstanding achievement in nature conservation.

Winners included a project that aims to reduce energy consumption in thousands of homes in Renfrewshire and a scheme offering sustainable dolphin watching in the Moray Firth, as well as a fungi expert who has inspired generations of Scots at the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh.

Hosted by comedian and presenter Fred MacAulay, the event brought together a range of businesses, public sector organisations, community groups, politicians and individuals, all with an interest in safeguarding and conserving Scotland’s natural heritage.

After sifting through almost 100 entries, the judges selected six winners, in six specific categories.

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: “The very worthy winners all represent the very best in their field.

“We are pleased to honour them at this innovative event that celebrates those stepping up for nature conservation in Scotland. We hope the standard set today will encourage many others across the whole country to follow suit.

“Nature cannot thrive in the future by just applying rules and regulation, when people enthusiastically go the extra mile that something special happens.”

The Marine Award won by the Dolphin Space Programmeoffers sustainable dolphin watching opportunities in the Moray Firth.

In the Sustainable Development Category, there was success for a Lochwinnoch project.

The Local Energy Action Plan (LEAP) aims to reduce domestic energy consumption in the 1,200 households in Lochwinnoch, Renfrewshire, and subsequently in the 3,000 households in three nearby villages.

Richard Lochhead MSP, cabinet secretary for rural affairs and the environment picked up the first prize for Politician of the Year.

A partnership between conservation and the health service that impressed the judges when it came to the winner of the Innovation Award. Forestry Commission Scotland’s Branching Out provides opportunities for people attending mental health services to take part in conservation and greenspace activities.

Renowned mycologist Professor Roy Watling of the Royal Botanic Gardens Edinburgh took home the Outstanding Contribution to Nature Award for a lifetime of inspiring the public about the importance of fungi.

And Stirlingshire farmer Alastair Robb was named Species Champion for efforts to increase lapwings on his Townhead farm.

The Lifetime Achievement Award, went to 81 year old retired biology teacher Rosalie ‘Roley’ Walton from Livingston, who pioneered the development of the outdoor classroom.