Two and a half weeks ago, RSPB Scotland, supported by a coalition of environmental experts including Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, the National Trust for Scotland, the Scottish Wildlife Trust and the Marine Conservation Society, launched an e-action asking people to write to their MSPs, or if not in Scotland, to the First Minister, calling on the Scottish Government to step in and #SaveCoulLinks. Lyndsey Croal, our Parliamentary Officer, provides an update on the response so far to the e-action.
Parliamentary Support for a Coul Links ‘Call In’ grows
After the disappointment following the Highland Council’s Local Planning Committee decision to support the golf development, we’ve been overwhelmed by the response to this e-action so far, with over 5,000 actions taken to MSPs and over 1,500 to the First Minister, Nicola Sturgeon. This is sending a clear message to the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government that people really care about this precious area of nature and don’t want to see it lost forever. The good news is, it seems to be making a difference!
As responses to the letters are being received from the various political parties, there is a real pattern of support for the call-in. The Scottish Labour Party, the Scottish Green Party, and the Scottish Liberal Democrats are all supporting the call-in, with some already writing to the Planning Minister, Kevin Stewart to ask him to move this process forward.
Some of the statements from the different parties have been equally positive:
Labour’s Environment spokesperson, Claudia Beamish MSP highlighted the SNH advice on the adverse effects on the Ramsar site meaning, “it cannot be granted planning consent. It would also breach Scottish Planning Policy on SSSIs as any economic benefits would not be of national importance.” Her colleague, Alex Rowley MSP, and member of the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, also said, “these wild spaces belong to all the people of Scotland, and that is why following your email I have written to the Minister for Local Government and Housing Kevin Stewart, urging him to call this plan in.”
From the Greens, John Finnie MSP, a regional member for the Highlands and Islands and a long term objector to the development, said on their website “This is a disappointing but unsurprising decision by councillors who are too easily swayed by flimsy promises of jobs, regardless of the cost to an irreplaceable wild landscape and the nature and tourism that it supports…I urge Scottish Ministers to step in to ensure we do not allow another golf course in the wrong place.”
From the Lib Dems, Mike Rumbles, Scottish spokesperson for rural affairs, said “given the importance and scale of this proposed development, I have written to the Housing Minister, Kevin Stewart, to request that the Scottish Government ‘call the application in’, in order to make a formal assessment of the situation.”
Additionally, the Scottish Conservatives have recognised that “as this development will potentially affect an area that is designated, it is right that the Scottish Government reviews the decision to examine the potential environmental impacts.”
These are all positive statements highlighting the level of national interest in this development proposal indicating that opposition parties are united on believing that the call-in should happen.
Although there has been some encouragement that SNP MSPs feel the development is likely to be called in, none have taken a concrete position. This is likely because they are awaiting for Scottish Government colleagues to consider the development so as to go forward with a collective party decision.
Therefore, it is now up to the Scottish Government to decide whether to step in to save this unique and triple-designated site, for the sake of Scotland’s reputation, and to send a message that Scotland truly cares about its international commitments, biodiversity and the value of our natural environment. We have been encouraged by the opposition parties’ responses so far, and hope Ministers will also get the message that this development is #NotCoul!
Thank you to everyone who has taken the e-action so far, but if you haven’t done so yet, there’s still time to do so here.