March, 2015

Our work

Our work
You might be surprised to read that our work is far broader than nature reserves and Big Garden Birdwatch. Read more about what else we do.

Scottish Nature Notes

Keep up to date with the latest wildlife and nature news in Scotland. Regular blogs from RSPB Scotland's conservation teams across the country. Writing about Scotland's amazing wildlife & natural environment.
  • Most people get climate change – are you one of them?

    Jim Densham, Senior Land Use Policy Officer with RSPB Scotland, is back with another blog on the For The Love Of...campaign that we are part of.

    Most people get climate change – are you one of them?

    It's time to start thinking that the vast majority of people do get climate change after all – they understand it. 

    Most people don’t even need convincing that it will have huge impacts if we don’t act now. Perhaps our collective inaction on sorting out the climate is down to us not knowing what to do about it rather than not believing it is a threat.

    I spent Valentines Day and the weekend before last asking visitors to RSPB Scotland events what they love, as part of the For The Love Of...climate campaign. The simple message is that everything we love and hold dear could be affected if we don’t act to halt climate change now. 

    At our event at the Kelvingrove Museum in Glasgow we focussed on the link between extinctions and climate change. Climate change is a risk to our wildlife because it heaps further pressure on already vulnerable species. Scientists have estimated that with every 1oC rise in global average temperatures we will lose 10% of species to extinction. 

    Seeing as we already have experienced an 0.85oC  rise since the industrial revolution and we are well on the way to at least a 2oC rise we can expect a much less biodiverse world to the one our parents and grandparents knew.

    Lots of children drew their favourite animal on a heart and parents helped them complete a postcard calling for the First Minister to take action. It was really brilliant because no-one refused to support the campaign but what really surprised me was that so many people who we talked to totally understood the message. It struck me that people understand the impacts of climate change more than we realise.

    Perhaps most people don’t know what can be done about climate change and as a result stay quiet. After all, climate change is not an easy message to sell because; it's a global issue with no specific location, there is no single baddie or monster at fault, the people most affected are far away (definitely not in Scotland yet), it can be highly technical, and it's depressing. And because people aren't rattling the gates of Parliament about climate change, politicians and world leaders haven’t yet got the message that we need to act. But they will. 

    This year because the For The Love Of campaign is giving a voice to everyone to tell Governments that we do care and there are lots of us. Add your voice in Scotland by asking Nicola Sturgeon to act on climate change now through our partner’s website

  • For the love of the next generation

    RSPB Scotland conservation manager Stuart Benn is back with a new blog - this time about bird watching in the Highlands and the For The Love Of campaign. 

    For the love of the next generation

    I've blogged before about A Focus on Nature – an absolutely brilliant organisation committed to encouraging young people to develop and then hold on to a love for the natural world. So, when I met young Ben Moyes and his family at the AFON Conference and they asked me if I would show them some Highland birds when they were up on holiday, I jumped at the chance.

    I spent a couple of days with them last week in the Cairngorms – we looked for and found golden eagles, crested tits, black grouse and ptarmigan.  All this in amongst glorious mountain scenery – quite a change from their home county of Suffolk!

    Ben just after he’d seen his first ever ptarmigan

    I was Ben’s age when I first came to the Highlands, though back in those days my mum and dad just packed me onto the train from Glasgow to Aviemore with no means of communication until I got home. I suspect there are precious few parents that would allow their 15 year old to do that now and the world has changed so massively in the last 40 years not just in the freedom we allow our children but with music, the internet, fashion (though I’m sure those flares will come back in one day) and in so many other ways.  But some changes are rather more insidious – every year since the mid-1970s has been warmer than the 20th Century average; not by huge amounts but the effect that this is having on us and our wildlife is slowly but surely being felt.

    Ben feeding coal tit, Colin Moyes

    On the face of it, East Anglia and the Scottish Highlands don’t seem to have too much in common but these two areas will probably see the continuing effects of climate change more dramatically than anywhere else in the UK. East Anglia as it gets smaller with land being lost to rising sea levels and for us here in the north as birds, animals and plants come under increasing pressures from a steadily warming climate.    

    Two teenagers happiest when they’re outside (well, Brin’s a teenager if you convert his dog-years into human-years).

    Who can say what the world will be like by the time Ben gets to my age but if the next generation wants to keep enjoying a walk at Minsmere or feel the cold wind on their faces or the scrunch of snow underfoot, we need to keep acting on climate change.  

    ‘What do you love and hold dear? It could be changed forever by climate change and not be there for the next generation. Add your love here and ask out First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon, to act via the SCCS online petition

    Ben has been blogging about his trip to Scotland as well, you can read more here:

  • A more equitable decision making process for major developments is about much more than just windfarms

    Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland, has this blog about the decision making process for major developments in Scotland.

    A more equitable decision making process for major developments is about much more than just windfarms

    A joint letter signed by a number of heritage and environmental bodies, including RSPB Scotland, was published in the Sunday Times at the weekend,  which ran an accompanying article and in The Herald on Monday. 

    There were also additional articles and some further correspondence in the letters pages this week. Some of that correspondence narrowly interpreted the letter as a criticism of windfarms or as criticism of the town planning process. From an RSPB Scotland perspective, this is rather an over simplification. This is occasionally about windfarms but often it is about coal mines, housing, harbours, roads, golf courses or marine developments – in fact it can be about any decision to make major changes to our natural environment, on land or sea.

    Well sited and designed windfarms can deliver major benefits for the environment, particularly by reducing greenhouse gas emissions but RSPB Scotland adopts its position on all development types based on the conservation implications of the proposal not on the type of development.

    We think there needs to be a fresh look into how these major decisions that affect Scotland’s environment can be reviewed, and on occasion, challenged.  Of course the Government must have a central role in planning and in other nationally important decision making but, with the best will in the world, mistakes can happen. Providing an opportunity to challenge decision making is therefore a key part of an equitable and fair society. We are not convinced that our current system does this as well as it could. 

    Scotland’s planning system is better than most at involving others in the process of decision making but it is clearly weighted in favour of encouraging development to happen, sometimes to the serious detriment of our environment. An equitable right to challenge decisions is therefore especially important. Developers who are turned down have that right, those who feel the national interest is not best served by the development do not.

    Other regulatory systems are often much less effective at engaging others than is the planning system and often the only route of challenge is through the courts. This is both extremely expensive and limits any challenge to legal technicalities, rather than the merits of the case. This is far from ideal and the expense of the legal process, despite some recent improvements, weights the system hugely in favour of those with the deepest pockets, most obviously major PLC’s or those with backing from development agencies.

    A review of the system of legal challenge should therefore be undertaken in parallel with a review of planning appeal rights, with the objective of ensuring that we have a system that is open and transparent but, when required, also provides a fair and equitable opportunity to challenge decisions. Only then can we build a fairer, more equal and more sustainable Scotland.