Top-down conservation management is failing Scotland and its wildlife

The Scottish Environment Link report loss is proof that the centralised, top-down, "command and control" structure of conservation management prevalent in Scotland and the rest of the United Kingdom and which protects only "key" habitats and species, is not working (your report, 19 March).

Politicians and environmental decision-makers are ignoring the most powerful advocates for biodiversity - the people on the ground. Very little effort has been made to engage land and wildlife managers, to give them incentives and ownership of this hugely important aspect of rural policy.

The fact is that the best skills and knowledge on how to apply good environmental practice are already in place. It is now time for government and its agencies to recognise this, and to start building genuine partnership, based on trust and openness, with the working people of rural Scotland.

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The solution is not simply a matter of throwing yet more millions at biodiversity monitoring. A radical re-think is urgently required.

The Scottish Countryside Alliance has long advocated the need to move away from the "protectionist", agency-led approach, towards one of participatory conservation management. This should be at the heart of the sustainable development agenda.

Such a rethink must rid Scotland of the polarised, antagonistic relationship between government agencies and rural interests. We now have a great opportunity to bring the whole rural community into the frame and establish a partnership between government and rural people. Only then will Scotland be able to exploit the balance between economy, environment, communities and cultures - thereby ensuring that the benefits of our unrivalled rural sector are maximised.


Chief executive, SCA



SEL's claim about the "alarming decline of its wildlife" is hardly surprising. The Scottish Executive seemed to start well, establishing national parks and committing itself to the protection of native woodlands, for example. However, later events reveal a different agenda.

At Carrbridge, in the Cairngorms National Park, a reporter overturned the combined opposition of councillors, the national park authority and the local community to allow the building of 117 houses in a native pinewood. And at nearby Nethy Bridge, the Executive allowed 40 houses in an ancient woodland site.

In both cases, the beneficiaries were large landowners, large construction firms and affluent individuals seeking holiday/retirement homes. The losers were the local communities and wildlife. By such examples are the real priorities of the Executive exposed.


Nethy Bridge