Scotland Director’s Blog

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Scotland Director’s Blog

Anne McCall was appointed director of RSPB Scotland in May 2017, after 19 years with the organisation in other senior Scottish roles. Here you will find Anne’s thoughts on the big conservation topics of the day, with an emphasis on Scotland.
  • Celebrating Scottish nature champions

    Anne McCall takes a look over our Ntaure of Scotland Awards which began in 2012. 

    Celebrating Scottish nature champions

    One of the highlights of my job is getting to sit down and read through all the applications we receive for the Nature of Scotland Awards each year – something I had to do fairly recently in preparation for our judging panel discussions on 31 July. Each year it becomes a bigger job, as we get more and more applications, which is just great.

    When we started this venture in 2012 we had no idea if it was going to work but we did know that the sector needed a platform to promote and celebrate all the fantastic activities taking place across Scotland. I’ll admit it was a bit of a financial gamble, we didn’t know if we’d be able to attract sponsors or if people would buy tickets for the Presentation Dinner. It’s not just a relief but also a delight to find seven years on that the event is continuously growing and increasingly becoming a highly anticipated fixture in the Scottish conservation calendar.

    From that first event in a modest room in the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh we’ve moved around a bit as the growing scale has demanded, including Prestonfield House, this year we’re back to the Sheraton Grand Hotel in Edinburgh where the majority of celebrations have taken place, and it is a celebration in the widest sense. So many of the individuals and activities the awards are designed to highlight work in remote locations or are delivered by small teams who rarely attract the kind of publicity and profile the Nature of Scotland Awards can bring.

    Our Judging Panel are very much looking forward to announcing this year’s shortlisted entries at our Parliamentary Reception on 12 September. I’m disappointed that I can’t be at this event myself but I will be represented by Lloyd Austin our Head of Conservation Policy, my fellow judges and Mike Cantlay, Chair of Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH). We have been very pleased to welcome SNH on board as our headline sponsor this year and it is wonderful to have the opportunity to demonstrate to our MSPs just how much work people across Scotland are carrying out for our environment.

    Over the years we have been lucky enough to involve a wide range of nature personalities as our Presentation Dinner hosts. We are extremely grateful to BBC Landward’s Euan McIlwraith for his ongoing support for the project and we’ve also worked with Iolo Williams, Mike Dilger and Chris Packham. This year it will be my very great pleasure to welcome Kate Humble to Edinburgh to host our event. As a previous RSPB President I know she takes a keen interest in nature conservation right across the UK.

    Kate Humble – copyright Clare Richardson

    Gratifyingly we have presented more than 50 awards over the last six years so I’m sure you can imagine it’s difficult for me to pick out my favourite winners, they have all been deeply inspiring and uplifting. However the projects delivered by our young people do stand out for me. From Cramond Primary’s ‘Have You Got The Bottle?’ campaign where the issue of marine litter was brought to the fore at Parliament to Cumbernauld Living Landscape’s partnership engaging young people with local wind spaces to enhance urban greenspace, their enthusiasm and energy have given me confidence in the future of nature conservation in this country.

    From Beach to Parliament; Cramond Primary have the bottle! 

    Cumbernauld Living Landscape - Engaging Communities to Enhance Urban Greenspace      

    With these contributions in mind I have been personally very pleased that we have been able to celebrate even more of the successes young people have achieved for nature through this year’s RSPB Young Nature Champion Award which we are running in this, the Year of Young People 2018.

    The Nature of Scotland Awards is an RSPB partnership like no other, and I’m immensely proud to play my part. Good luck to all our entrants and thanks to my fellow judges, our shortlisting teams, sponsors and our huge number of supporters for their continued involvement in the project. I hope to see many of you at our Presentation Dinner on 22 November!

    For more information on the awards visit: 


  • Scotland's future rural policy

    Anne McCall takes us through RSPB Scotland's vision for future rural policy in Scotland and how you can have your say on it through a Government consultation.

    Scotland's future rural policy

    The debate around the future of farming and rural policy in Scotland post Brexit has been well underway for some time now. You can find RSPB Scotland’s views here in a paper co-authored with our conservation partners in Scottish Environment LINK.

    In one form or another, everyone is grappling with two key questions: what kind of farming do we want to see, and what kind of support measures need to be introduced to achieve that?

    Until now, the Government itself has remained largely silent in setting out its own views. But it has now published a consultation paper, setting out some short term proposals and inviting views on the longer term direction of travel. This is a step in the right direction and, for us, it’s an opportunity to call for the environment to be put at the heart of future farming policy. It’s also your chance to add your voice to the debate, with more details on how to do this at the end of this blog.

    What kind of farming does RSPB Scotland want to see?

    We believe in a vision for Scotland’s rural areas where nature is thriving. Wildlife is diverse and abundant, ecosystems are healthy, rivers and lochs are clean, and soils are rich and full of life. At the same time, rural communities are also thriving, and are sustainable places to live and work. Rural businesses are viable, low-carbon, innovative and efficient. People from both rural and urban areas enjoy the countryside, and have access to nature and spectacular places.

    How do we make this happen?

    RSPB Scotland, as part of Scottish Environment LINK, want rural policy to have the environment and other public goods at the heart. All public money should be targeted towards these public goods – the things that we value as a society, like clean air and water, biodiversity, public access, and thriving communities. To achieve this, we have to change what we invest in.

    Farmers and crofters are often not rewarded for providing public benefits that we all enjoy, so we need to support more land managers to do more for the environment.

    For example, payments could be available to all farmers, crofters and land managers, in exchange for farmers and crofters doing some simple things that are good for nature - and which are often good for businesses too. More support could be available to those who go above and beyond to conserve nature and to protect and restore special places, or to those who farm in organic or high nature value ways. Woodland payments could both help our beautiful native woodlands, and support new planting in appropriate places.

    We also need to help people to work together in the whole countryside, with support for collaboration available to groups of farmers and crofters. Farmers, crofters and land managers will also need help to adapt to these changes, with plenty of advice and training available.

    This is just the start of our thinking for the long term, and for policy which is truly good for people and for nature. In the short term, we need to make time to develop these new approaches in a collaborative way, with everyone who has a stake in the rural sector.

    The Scottish Government recognises that this consultation applies to a wide range of people, including farmers, crofters, and other participants in the rural economy, wider rural communities, and everyone else who enjoys Scotland’s rich and diverse landscapes. If you are a farmer, crofter, or someone who cares about nature and is keen to make a difference, do make sure the Government hears your views on what you want for the future.

    How to respond to the ‘Stability and Simplicity’ consultation

    The consultation can be found here. It includes a series of questions, but you do not have to respond to each question to take part in the consultation; you can answer as many or as few as you like. Alternatively, you can simply fill in the respondents’ form and write a letter to the Scottish Government on your views, and send it to:

  • Working together for nature’s recovery

    “EU institutions have played a pivotal role over the past forty years in ensuring that our environment laws have been enforced, and giving a voice to citizens and civil society like ourselves who speak up for nature. The loss of EU oversight will result in gaps in our environmental protections and threaten Scotland’s unique and special natural heritage. This issue must be addressed. That’s why we have been working with colleagues across the four countries of the UK to better understand how our nations might collaborate to tackle the governance gap for nature in 2019. This blog explains our thinking so far, and calls upon the governments in the UK countries to move forward together.” 

    Anne McCall, RSPB Scotland Director

    Working together for nature’s recovery

    The four nations of the UK are home to a diverse and special set of species and habitats. Each country has its own iconic landscapes and seascapes to celebrate and protect, from mountains, woods and moors to sea cliffs, sea caves and reefs. However, nature does not recognise political boundaries. Rivers, mountains and seas naturally cross borders and many of our most threatened species regularly move between the four nations and beyond. Likewise, actions in any one country can have far-reaching impacts on nature elsewhere. We all have a responsibility to protect and restore our shared natural heritage for current and future generations to enjoy. And we can only achieve this by working together.

    Powers to manage our natural environment (including our agriculture and fisheries) are largely devolved to Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. However, environmental legislation across all four nations is currently guided by common EU frameworks such as the overarching environmental standards that the UK as a whole is bound by as an EU Member State. For very good reason the EU has promoted cooperation and collaboration on transboundary environmental issues that affect us all – including for the protection of our wildlife.

    There are many reasons why this cooperation and collaboration must continue. Our natural environment faces huge challenges – including pollution of our rivers, air and seas, the alarming decline of some of our most important and iconic species and the growing impacts of climate change. These challenges will not be easily overcome, but we stand a far better chance if we work together across the UK and beyond, ensuring that standards remain high, that species and habitats are effectively protected as they move between countries, and that our laws are effectively enforced.

    A healthy future for our natural world requires robust, independent and well-resourced institutions to hold all our governments and public bodies to account. Currently, EU institutions play a vital role in upholding environmental standards across the four nations. For example, they allow individuals and NGOs to raise concerns about how our environmental legislation is being implemented and enforced – providing the environment with a voice on the ground. Without a suitable set of replacement institutions, our exit from the EU will create a serious ‘governance gap’ across the four nations.

    Thankfully, the importance of filling this governance gap has now been recognised to a greater or lesser extent by all four nations. For example, the governments in Cardiff Bay, Holyrood, and Westminster have all committed to bringing forward proposals to fill this gap in their respective jurisdictions. It remains to be seen how these proposals will achieve the collaboration and coordination necessary to ensure effective enforcement of our environmental legislation across the UK as a whole.

    We are calling on the governments of our four nations to work together for nature’s recovery. We need them to rapidly agree a process for co-designing new shared frameworks and robust and coordinated environmental governance mechanisms. This will ensure that all of us can work effectively for the benefit of nature, no matter where in the UK we are.

    A letter from you could encourage your Ministers to collaborate with their counterparts in the other nations. Please follow these links to find out more and how to contact your relevant Ministers:



    Northern Ireland


    Anne McCall, RSPB Scotland Director; Chris Corrigan, RSPB England Director; Joanne Sherwood, RSPB Northern Ireland Director; Katie-Jo Luxton, RSPB Cymru Director.