RSPB's Allan Whyte reflects on the success of the Say NO to Hunterston campaign.
There will be no new coal at Hunterston!
Peel Energy has withdrawn their plans to build a massive and polluting power station on the protected site at Hunterston.
Everyone at RSPB would like to extend our warmest thanks to all those who contributed to making this happen; this is a fantastic victory for the environment and for public campaigning. Over the past three and a half years we have stood alongside other organisations and thousands of members of the public to stop this development happening.
From the beginning the odds have been stacked against us. This was David against Goliath; a group of local residents and charities against a massive corporation that turns over billions of pounds each year.
On Tuesday afternoon rumours began to circulate that Peel Energy, the company behind the plans for the huge coal-fired power station at Hunterson, had decided to withdraw their application for the development. The more saturated the ether became with these rumours the more convinced I was that this was actually happening.
Elation and shock were the emotions trending for most of us who have been involved with the campaign. I have been involved in the Hunterston campaign for a couple of years, colleagues of mine have been involved since the very beginning in 2008. This is the day we all hoped would come.
Success has been a result of emphatic public opposition to these plans - a development which would have destroyed an important wildlife site and seriously jeopardized Scotland’s ambitious climate change targets.
Everyone who has been involved should feel a great sense of pride in being part of this victorious campaign. If you signed a pledge card; sent an e-action; wrote to your MSP, MP or councillor, or joined us for a day of action then you made this happen.
We want to build on this success and will continue to work hard to protect nature and the environment in the knowledge that we have the support of people across the country who care about the environment and the future of the planet.
We want to safeguard the Portencross Coast Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) at Hunterston so that it remains the fantastic wildlife site it is today. We want to see an end to dirty coal in the UK and will tackle climate change head on. We can only do this with the levels of public support that have made the Hunterston campaign so successful.
Thank you again to everyone who was involved in this campaign. I hope that this victory demonstrates the collective strength and influencing power that people can have when they are willing to stand up for what they believe in.
RSPB Conservation Manager, Stuart Benn, takes the One Show crew out to meet Black-throated divers.
One Show Divers
If there was a competition to find the most stunning of British birds, it’s hard to imagine that the winner wouldn’t be the Black-throated diver – a truly gorgeous combination of black, grey and white. Always immaculate, with never a feather out of place they always remind me of a beautifully groomed star from the golden age of Hollywood.
Twenty-odd years ago it wasn’t looking good for these birds with research showing that most nests were failing. BTDs are restricted as breeders to freshwater lochs in north-west Scotland but must nest very close to the water’s edge as they can only shuffle about on their bellies (their legs are set really far back on their bodies - they can swim superbly but the downside is that they can’t walk). So, water level rise means the nest gets flooded, fall and the birds just can’t physically reach their nests – too few chicks were being produced and a solution needed to be found. Like any great idea, the answer was very simple – rather than keep the water levels stable, which would be difficult as many of the lochs are used to generate hydro-electric power, floating rafts were provided that go up and down with the water thus giving the birds a safe place to nest.
Photo: Chris Gomersall (Rspb-images.com)
Forty rafts are now in place and the divers have taken to them like ducks to water and, during those twenty years, the numbers have gone up from about 180 to 250 pairs. It is a great conservation success story and The One Show thought so too and have been up filming us working with the divers this week. Confirmation of the dates came quite late in the day which meant a bit of a rush to get the various permissions sorted but everyone involved – the different landowners, fish farm people, Forestry Commission and the National Trust for Scotland - were just brilliant and could not have been more helpful.
The weather and birds couldn’t have been more cooperative either – hot, sunny, flat calm and very accommodating so that both the Scottish Highlands and the divers looked at their absolute best.
We filmed at two lochs – one where we knew the raft hadn’t been used so there would be no disturbance and another where the pair had a small chick which we could safely film from the shore. Filming went really well and everyone seemed well pleased with what we got – not sure yet when it’s going to be broadcast but we’ll let you know and, assuming I don’t end up on the cutting room floor you’ll get to see what I look and sound like too!
Rio+20 begins today. Our Senior Land Use Policy Officer (Climate), Jim Densham, discusses the global importance of Scotland's peat.
Climate Change Minister Stewart Stevenson MSP and Secretary of State Caroline Spelman MP visited a Brazilian rainforest on Monday as part of their Rio+20 visit. We organised this little jaunt for them to highlight the value of tropical forests for climate change and conservation.
Peatlands have been described as Scotland’s rainforest because of the massive amount of carbon they store. Scotland’s peatlands hold 1620 million tonnes of carbon – this is ten times the amount of carbon as that stored in all of the UK’s woodland. They are home to some of our most special and precious wildlife, including red-throated diver, hen harrier, otter, mountain hare and sundew. But, like rainforest it is too easily damaged or destroyed by human activity. Peatlands have been drained, overgrazed, had trees inappropriately planted on them and even dug up and made into garden compost. All these activities, and more, dry the peat, change the vegetation and stop it being a peat-forming ‘living’ bog. It also releases carbon to the atmosphere and contributes to climate change. Scotland has a huge 1.8million ha of blanket bog, 80% of the UK’s total, but only 30% are in good condition. There is even more shallower peat, lowland bogs and peaty soils, all at risk from poor management.
Forsinard Flows nature reserve (Photo: Andy Hay rspb-images.com)
We are asking the Scottish Government to commit effort and funding to help restore 600,000 hectares of blanket bog in Scotland within 10 years. Blocking drainage ditches, managing sheep numbers, removing trees from blanket bog are all essential activities which would help wildlife return, reduce water pollution and lock up carbon. Find out more about how we have been leading the way to restore peatland habitats at our Forsinard Flows nature reserve. If you want to know more about the policies affecting peatland restoration here is a link to a report from last year.
We wouldn’t be able to save special places like peatlands or rainforests without you. Please show your support for Scotland’s peatlands at http://www.rspb.org.uk/supporting/campaigns/flowcountry/ and for tropical forests at www.rspb.org.uk/rainforests.