Fears for environment as SNH staff cut by a sixth

Scotland’s nature agency has seen its workforce drop by 15 per cent in the last five years.

SNH's workforce has dropped by 15 per cent in the last five years. Picture: Contributed

New figures show that staffing levels at Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) have reduced at 25 of its 38 offices.

The total number of employees at the government-funded body fell from 926 in 2010 to 788 by September this year – a loss of 138 posts.

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Offices in Aberdeen, Aviemore, Kirkwall and Fort William have all seen staff numbers cut by a quarter in the same period.

During this time Airlie and Lanark offices have closed, while the number of workers based on Rum was halved from 16 to eight.

Staff cuts of up to 40 per cent have also affected Stornoway, South Uist and Ullapool.

Highlands and Islands independent MSP John Finnie yesterday questioned the Scottish Government’s commitment to the environment after the numbers came to light. He said it was particularly worrying that many posts being lost were at remote field offices.

He said: “A 15 per cent cut in SNH staff in the last five years is significant and not just because of the closure of two offices, nor Aberdeen and Stornoway shedding ten posts, but because of vital jobs going in Ullapool, Rum, South Uist and other fragile rural areas.”

He said cuts to SNH and the Scottish Environment Protection Agency outlined in the draft budget suggest the Scottish Government “does not appear to value the protection of our environment very highly”.

SNH, which was set up to advise the government on environmental policy, controversially moved its headquarters from Edinburgh to Inverness in 2006 in an attempt to distribute civil service jobs away from the Central Belt.

There are now 232 employees based in the Highland capital – eight fewer than in 2010.

But a workforce plan produced earlier this year suggests a further 24 full-time posts will need to go across the agency in the next three years.

SNH chief executive Susan Davies said cutbacks had been handled in a number of ways, including voluntary severance schemes, restructuring and cost-saving technology.

“These steps have all delivered significant efficiency and carbon savings, allowing us to redirect funding to specific conservation projects,” she said.