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Meeting of the Parliament [Draft]

Meeting date: Thursday, November 30, 2023


Contents


Restoring Nature to Tackle Climate Change

The Deputy Presiding Officer (Annabelle Ewing)

The next item of business is a members’ business debate on motion S6M-11282, in the name of Mark Ruskell, on restoring nature to tackle climate change. The debate will be concluded without any question being put.

Motion debated,

That the Parliament recognises what it sees as the success of the Nature Restoration Fund, which it understands has now granted over £30 million worth of funding to 150 projects across all of Scotland’s 32 local authority areas; understands that the funding is supporting a wide range of nature restoration work, including habitat and species restoration, tackling invasive species, and health and wellbeing projects for local communities; notes that, in the Mid Scotland and Fife region, this includes funding for Argaty Farm to protect water courses and integrate beavers, for Forth Rivers Trust to improve natural flood management and support wading birds, and for the University of St Andrews to restore coastal habitats; recognises that the fund was announced on Nature Day at COP26 in Glasgow in 2021; notes the belief that restoring nature and halting biodiversity loss are key components in tackling the climate crisis; understands that nature will once again be a key theme in the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference in Dubai, and notes the calls for a recommitment to supporting urgent action on the twin nature and climate crises, to ensure that there is a liveable planet for future generations of people in Scotland.

12:48  

Mark Ruskell (Mid Scotland and Fife) (Green)

I thank those members who signed the motion, and those who are joining me this lunchtime, to shine a light on the twin nature and climate crises and how communities across Scotland are responding.

My Scottish Green Party colleagues recognise the critical role of nature restoration in the fight against climate change. That is why we prioritised the nature restoration fund through the Bute house agreement. The NRF will now deliver £65 million of funding for projects on land and at sea over the five years of the current session of Parliament.

So far, £30 million has been granted to more than 150 projects across Scotland. As I just highlighted at First Minister’s question time, today is the start of the 28th United Nations climate change conference of the parties—COP28—but it is also one year on from the signing of the UN global biodiversity framework and the adoption of the critical target to restore a third of our degraded habitats around the globe by 2050. The Dubai COP will discuss how to harness finance for that work on its nature day on 9 December, with the aim of mobilising $200 billion per year for biodiversity by 2030.

The nature restoration fund has allowed us to take the first steps towards that goal here, in Scotland. I am proud that the fund, which was launched on the same nature day at the Glasgow COP two years ago, has been so successful. Countries around the world will follow in Scotland’s footsteps to support on-the-ground action that is vital for achieving the aims of the global biodiversity framework. However, it is important to remind ourselves again that Scotland, sadly, remains a nature-depleted country. This year’s “State of Nature” report underlines that our wildlife has decreased, on average, by 15 per cent since the 1990s. One in nine Scottish species are still threatened with extinction, and the numbers of seabirds and flowering plants have declined by nearly half since the 1980s.

Nature is impacted not only by exploitation of our land and seas but, increasingly, by climate change. We have only to look at our wild salmon populations, for example, to recognise how warming temperatures affect their delicate ecology. However, through restoration projects that help nature to adapt and become more resilient to climate change while locking up carbon and helping us to adapt to flooding and extreme weather, we can tackle the twin crises together. Those nature-based solutions, as they are often called, are rarely quick wins. It takes time to build up the action needed to a scale that can make the difference, and nature needs decades to fully build back.

Scientists believe that projects to restore and expand nature will be critical for cooling global temperatures over the long term, beyond the net zero goals that have been set for the middle of the century. They could play an important role in bringing us back down from peak global warming, but only if we start acting now, with an eye on the future for our children’s children.

This year’s “State of Nature” report said:

“The social and ecological consequences of living in a nature-depleted country are immense. They include impacts on human health, happiness and wellbeing, alongside direct costs associated with lost and damaged ecosystem services.”

In essence, what harms nature also harms us, but that also means that, if we restore nature, we also restore all the lost benefits to us and our communities.

Ninety-six per cent of Scots think that the natural environment is important to the country, so it is no surprise that, where nature restoration projects take root, they draw in volunteers and whole communities to the shared endeavour. What is happening around Scotland right now? I am looking forward to hearing from members about projects across their own areas later in the debate, but it is clear that an amazing range of approaches are being taken across the 150 projects that have so far benefited from the fund. From ancient Atlantic rainforests in Argyll to amphibian ponds on former coal mines in Lanarkshire, from pollinator corridors on arable farms to rewilded former airfields in Crail, and from coastal dune restoration in St Andrews to seagrass and oyster bed reseeding in the Forth, communities, non-governmental organisations and landowners, big and small, are working out how to restore neglected places, species and landscapes.

I will highlight some of the work that is happening in my region, particularly in the freshwater environment. Our rivers, burns, lochs, flood plains and wetlands are the arteries and organs of our catchments. From source to estuary, they sustain incredible species and habitats, but they also supply us with water when we need it, while buffering us from floods.

The relationship between watercourses and our land is critical because, over many years, we have degraded land to the point where water freely thunders off hillsides into swollen rivers—rivers that have often been canalised and moulded by industry over the centuries, with barriers that impact species such as salmon.

Therefore, I welcome the NRF-funded work that Forth Rivers Trust has done on the Allan Water, which includes placing large woody structures to create wetlands, reconnecting flood plains and planting riparian trees. Working with the community at Pool of Muckhart in Clackmannanshire, it has also built wetlands, installed overflow channels and introduced leaky dams to mitigate flood risks. On the River Teith, it has pushed on with establishing riparian woodlands—planting more than 10,000 trees along the banks with the community—and restoring 20 hectares of wetland at Blaircreich.

Jonathan Louis from Forth Rivers Trust told me that the nature restoration fund has allowed it to collaborate with partners and make a tangible impact on wildlife and communities throughout the Forth region.

Further down the Teith catchment, at Argaty farm, the fund is being used to reconnect waterways. Those on the farm have fenced off areas from cattle, encouraged wildflower seeding, planted 16,000 trees and established new hedgerow corridors. Tom Bowser at Argaty told me how that work will benefit a wide range of species, from pollinators to birds, bats and beavers. He also said that it would simply not have been possible without the fund.

We are seeing very similar work on other catchments, including on the Bamff estate near Alyth, where the project to establish habitats has now expanded to include another 10—

Mr Ruskell, I appreciate that there is a bit of latitude in the debate, but you need to bring your remarks to a conclusion.

Mark Ruskell

The momentum is building for nature restoration. We are seeing action in Scottish communities as the world gathers to discuss a global response to the climate and nature crises. This is just the beginning, but the fund is already creating a legacy for future generations. I look forward to seeing progress on the ground in the years to come.

12:55  

Audrey Nicoll (Aberdeen South and North Kincardine) (SNP)

I apologise to members that I will have to leave after my contribution due to a pre-existing commitment.

I thank Mark Ruskell for lodging the motion on restoring nature to tackle climate change, which provides us with an important opportunity to recognise the importance and success of the nature restoration fund. It is incredible to think that the fund has already supported 150 projects across Scotland that are protecting watercourses, restoring coastal habitats and doing so much more.

I thank the organisations that submitted briefings for the debate. I acknowledge, in particular, the Royal College of Physicians, which calls for the climate and nature crises to be recognised as one global health emergency. I look forward to reading the editorial that is referenced in the briefing, and I hope that we can return to consider that point at a future date.

Like many colleagues, I am in my peaceful space in the outdoors. In a single walk, I have encountered deer, hare, foxes, herons, woodpeckers, raptors and even red kites. If truth be told, my love and respect of nature has probably been a little bit one way—it was more about what I was getting out of nature than the other way round. That was until I became nature champion for the freshwater pearl mussel. Through that role, I now better appreciate the importance of projects such as those referred to in the motion.

I want to highlight the successful nature restoration project on the Beltie Burn in the north-east, which I was pleased to visit this summer. The project was funded through the biodiversity challenge fund, which was a precursor to the nature restoration fund. The Dee Catchment Partnership, the Dee district salmon fishery board and the James Hutton Institute worked tirelessly to remeander a 1.5km section of river channel and reconnect it to four wetland ponds that had been previously straightened to accommodate the Deeside railway. Wetlands are an incredibly rich food larder for fish, which is a vital aspect of the river habitat. What has now been created on the Dee is an improved habitat for fish and other wildlife, which also allows the river to expand and contract during periods of high water. That was all done at a relatively modest cost. Just weeks after work was completed in 2020, 15 spawning redds, created by salmon and sea trout, were seen.

I pay tribute to Susan Cooksley, Edwin Third and all the other stakeholders for their utter commitment to the project and for their vision that the Beltie Burn must be not just a demonstration site but an example of what we need to do more of across Scotland.

In its briefing, Scottish Environment LINK recognises the importance of the nature restoration fund in tackling biodiversity loss. It also highlights the impact of funding cuts to Scotland’s environment agencies. The fiscal landscape is immensely challenging, but I hope that the Scottish Government is able to protect funding for those agencies, especially in light of the expertise and experience that they have the potential to contribute.

Mark Ruskell

We have an incredibly challenging fiscal deal—which does not keep pace with inflation—coming from the Westminster Government. Will Audrey Nicoll reflect on the fact that restoration projects are now even more challenging because of Brexit and the loss of critical funding support—including life funding—from the European Union? The Scottish Government has had to step up in order to make those things happen.

Audrey Nicoll

I completely agree with Mark Ruskell’s point, which was very strong and well made. We reflected on that when I visited the project that I mentioned and the site of pearl mussel survey work on the River Dee.

I hope that nature features as a key theme in the forthcoming UN climate change conference in Dubai. I hope that the conference will provide a platform for Governments and NGOs to demonstrate strong leadership and genuine commitment to tackling the twin nature and climate crises, so that Scotland can support projects such as the one on the Beltie Burn, reduce emissions, reverse nature loss and meet our ambitious climate change targets.

13:01  

Stephen Kerr (Central Scotland) (Con)

There will not be a lot of disagreement in the chamber about the value of our natural endowment in Scotland. As a Scottish Conservative, I believe in conserving and, indeed, restoring nature. I also recognise and agree that there is a correlation between our happiness and our mental health and the environment in which we live, especially the natural environment.

There is a lot of common ground, so it was disappointing—but not surprising—to hear Mark Ruskell’s last intervention on Audrey Nicoll. Somehow, he managed to get Brexit into the debate and have another go at the United Kingdom Government, but it is worth saying that the Scottish National Party-Green Government is doing an appalling job of delivering against its ambitious plans for Scotland’s nature.

Frankly, the problem in Scotland is that a lot of good things happen but they get lost because of the emphasis, particularly from the Scottish Greens, on more controversial aspects of nature restoration. I wish to specifically mention rewilding because, although we absolutely should be focused on nature restoration, it is important that we bring people along with us in respect of that very important aspect of our stewardship responsibilities for Scotland’s natural endowment. Rewilding is problematic because, before our very eyes, we are, effectively, seeing a new wave of clearances in Scotland. Vast tracts of our countryside where people have been living are being vacated because, with rewilding, there is no space for people.

Mark Ruskell

It is disappointing to hear Mr Kerr invoke the clearances. Is he honestly saying that rewilding projects that are brought forward by communities—many of which have applied successfully to the nature restoration fund—should be stopped? Is he saying that he does not support communities doing that rewilding work?

Stephen Kerr

I am against faceless organisations, usually with headquarters outside this country, buying up tracts of land and then, basically, neglecting it. In the course of doing so, yes, we see clearances and people being taken out of those areas of our country. Rewilding on the scale that it is happening in many parts of our country means that jobs, communities and all the social infrastructure will go. It is a reckless piece of environmental vandalism.

I wonder whether Mr Kerr could name an example of an area that he is concerned about.

Stephen Kerr

There are many areas that I am concerned about and, subsequent to the debate, I am more than happy to talk to John Swinney about areas of mutual interest.

The point that I wish to make is that it is important that we listen to Scotland’s farmers. I wish us to acknowledge the genuine concerns that are held by Scotland’s farmers. At a recent meeting between the Cabinet Secretary for Rural Affairs, Land Reform and Islands and a group of farmers, sponsored by NFU Scotland, one farmer was greeted with applause when he highlighted the grave concerns about the impact of rewilding on farm businesses. According to an article in The Courier last Saturday, the farmer, Andrew Steel, said:

“Species such as golden eagles and beavers were all eradicated for a reason because they are vermin to the farmers.

In my opinion, the white elephant in the room today is that the SNP went into coalition with the Green Party to run the country.

How can you actually run the country with statements”—

Will the member give way again?

I will if I have time.

Briefly, please, Mr Ruskell.

Mark Ruskell

I appreciate the member being generous with his time, but will he also reflect on the fact that there are farmers who have applied to the nature restoration fund for species reintroduction and riparian planting because it benefits their farms and the local community? Will he acknowledge that there are farmers who support this agenda and are benefiting financially from it?

Stephen Kerr

If Mark Ruskell were to listen rather than think about how he can make further interventions, he would hear me say that I generally support nature restoration. However, I am raising genuine concerns that are being raised by Scotland’s farmers, who deserve to be listened to and worked with. We cannot work against the grain of opinion.

I specifically want to mention the issue of beavers, which has been highlighted by the NFUS, particularly in relation to the recent flooding. Martin Kennedy of the NFUS had something to say about that. He said:

“We need Scottish Government and NatureScot to recognise that, in some instances, the scale of damage”—

flood damage—

“was exacerbated by growing beaver activity, burrowing into and significantly weakening long established floodbanks.”

There is a whole bunch more that I could quote from. The point is that we need to work with those who are currently the stewards of the land. We need to trust them and work with them rather than against them, because they currently feel threatened by the agenda of the Bute house agreement.

13:06  

Foysol Choudhury (Lothian) (Lab)

Nature can be used as a first line of defence against the impacts of the global climate crisis, but we must not only look at protecting the existing nature and species that we have; we must also make targeted moves towards restoring what has been lost. That means ensuring that there are green spaces in urban areas. It means investing in our rural lands and nature reserves, and it means taking an integrated, targeted and cross-portfolio approach.

Scottish peatlands contain unique carbon-catching properties. In its 2023-24 programme for government, the Scottish Government made a commitment to restore 10,700 hectares of degraded peatlands over the course of the next year. I welcome that investment in nature and climate restoration and hope to see the targets achieved this year. In the fight against climate change, we need to focus on that just as much as on prevention.

The climate and nature emergencies are deeply connected and must be tackled together. We are at a crucial turning point for nature restoration in Scotland. Investment in nature and our natural spaces is vital to reduce biodiversity decline. Scotland’s native species inspire and sustain our health and culture. However, one in nine wildlife species in Scotland is at risk of extinction. We need to evaluate the abundance and distribution of species in our natural spaces and monitor the extinction risk to ensure that we are taking the right course of preventative action.

We must also monitor whether the extent and quality of habitats for those species is up to standard. Targets for nature restoration must drive ambitious action across Scotland across multiple levels and portfolios, similarly to the successful mainstreaming of climate change targets.

We must pair this great investment in Scottish nature with efforts to tackle climate change around the globe. A recent report on climate inequality by Oxfam outlined that the richest 1 per cent of humanity is responsible for more carbon emissions than the poorest 66 per cent.

This week, I returned from a cross-party group visit to Bangladesh. There, we can see at first hand the impact that climate inequality is having in the global south. Going into COP28, we must ensure that climate justice is at the forefront of our minds. Nature restoration targets should involve helping countries that are disproportionately affected by the climate crisis to adapt to long-term climate-related changes.

Scotland needs to engage in multifaceted responses. That means climate mitigation, adaptation and support to ensure that climate justice for all countries can be realised on our global path to net zero and nature restoration.

13:11  

Maggie Chapman (North East Scotland) (Green)

I thank and congratulate my colleague Mark Ruskell for securing today’s debate. As world leaders and others gather in Dubai at COP28, it is right that we, in Scotland’s Parliament, take some time to talk about the twin crises of climate and nature and the all-encompassing work that we need to do to create a liveable planet for future generations, both here, in Scotland, and around the world.

It is clear that the climate and nature crises share the same underlying cause: our economic system that is based on the extraction and exploitation of resources without regard for externalities, future consequences or the deterioration of the commons. Our climate and our natural resources are our commons. They also have intrinsic value and should not merely be considered important because of a commodified value that the economic structures that we create deem appropriate to give them.

Today’s debate is important in allowing us to think carefully about how economic, social and environmental justice are inextricably linked and therefore how we, as policy makers, need to consider the links and connections across the often messy web of life.

The north-east of Scotland, which is the region that I am privileged to represent, has benefited significantly from the nature restoration fund, mostly in rural areas, as might be expected. We need a wider view of which natures are worth supporting and restoring. We should not be limited by thinking that only some natures in some geographies matter, and I will spend the rest of my time in the debate talking about a little spot in an urban environment that I think is worth championing, protecting and sustaining.

The award-winning wetlands and reedbeds in St Fittick’s community park in Torry are the brainchild of the Scottish Environment Protection Agency, as a way of making space for biodiversity and supporting local people. The reedbeds are in a relatively small urban green space in Torry, surrounded by a community that is one of the most deprived in Scotland, with a life expectancy that is a decade lower than elsewhere in Aberdeen. Squished between industrial land and sewage works, a landfill site and an incinerator, the park is the only accessible green space for the community. It is well loved and well used by people who live locally, mostly in tower blocks and flats.

In stark contrast to the greyness of the heavy industry around them, the park and its wetlands and reedbeds are vibrant, varied places with a range of habitats, species, facilities and amenities for all to enjoy. St Fittick’s has what we might expect from a community park, but it also boasts areas of woodland, wet meadow, reedbed and diverse dry grasslands.

Then there is the staggering biodiversity of the park, with more than 40 species of breeding birds, including nine red-list and eight amber-list species; more than 115 plant species, including a wonderful array of orchids; hundreds of invertebrate species, some of which are still being documented; and otters, deer and other mammals sometimes spotted in the reeds and woods. As autumn shifts into winter, we see migratory birds stopping over in the green spaces. Over winter, we will see substantial snipe populations.

All the work that was done a little over a decade ago by the Aberdeen ranger service and SEPA has really paid off. What was a polluted, poor-quality and inaccessible area is now an award-winning biodiverse wetland. That nature, too, is worth protecting and restoring.

We must not compromise already marginalised people’s health and wellbeing, and the restored nature that they currently enjoy, in the mistaken belief that such smaller natures do not matter as much as the grander natures that other members have spoken about. It would be a travesty for the wetlands and reedbeds, and the wider park, to be lost in the name of a so-called just transition. If that nature is lost, any transition will not be just.

13:15  

Ariane Burgess (Highlands and Islands) (Green)

I make this speech at a time when we are deep in a climate and nature emergency. That is the unavoidable backdrop to everything that we do in this Parliament but, somehow, it is not always foremost on the agenda, so I am grateful to my colleague Mark Ruskell for focusing our minds on it today.

COP28 starts tomorrow. There will be a renewed focus on how countries will meet their targets under the Paris agreement to maintain a “safe operating space” for humanity and for the nature that supports us and makes our lives possible. That is why it is so important that we proceed with ambitious environmental policies, such as the proposals on clean, green heating and warm, green homes that are being led by Green minister Patrick Harvie.

However, despite the fact that Scotland leads the UK on decarbonisation of buildings, there is no way that we can meet our climate targets without giving the same level of attention to nature. When our natural world is healthy and thriving, it is a key ally in our fight against climate change, but, if humanity does not reverse rising emissions and nature loss soon, we will reach tipping points that will set off a cascade of global warming and species extinction that we cannot undo.

The good news is that we still have a small window of time, and we have people working tirelessly across Scotland to restore our depleted natural world and raise us up the global biodiversity league tables from our current spot—28th from bottom out of 240 countries. Seagrass restoration work on Loch Craignish is doing just that. It is being led by the community with help from Seawilding, which is supported by the nature restoration fund. Globally, seagrass captures carbon up to 35 times faster than tropical rainforests. Therefore, the Loch Craignish project not only boosts biodiversity but sequesters carbon and creates good green jobs.

The nature restoration fund, spearheaded by Green minister Lorna Slater, is supporting several more projects in the Highlands and Islands this year. The protecting Gigha’s woodlands project will remove invasive species and create a system of hedgerow corridors across the island; Scotsburn Farm in Invergordon will plant aspen trees to provide habitat for our precious capercaillie; and the Glencoe habitat recovery project will restore woodlands, wetland and peatland in Glencoe national nature reserve. Luing and Scarba host the turning the tide project, and in Badenoch and Strathspey, work is being done to restore “five feisty species”.

Such projects could go further and faster with multiyear funding. That is especially true of projects that work to eradicate and prevent non-native invasive species, to benefit seabirds and other island wildlife, and to eradicate rhododendron from rainforest habitat.

A great deal of the work on the ground to meet our climate targets will be done in the Highlands and Islands. The Highlands and Islands has the land and the nature that are pivotal in this national effort, so we need to welcome and accommodate more people in the region to deliver more projects like the ones that I have mentioned. That is why affordable rural housing is crucial. We need housing for workers and long-term homes to support stable, growing communities. We also need to continue to increase support for farmers to integrate trees on their farms, to restore peatland, to manage water quality and to create habitat mosaics.

Finally, we must remember to keep our side of the bargain. Nature is powerful but it cannot stop climate change on its own. We humans in Scotland must continue to play our part by reducing emissions, supported by policies that we can pass in this Parliament. Let us work with nature, not against it, to stop climate change and protect our shared home.

13:19  

The Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity (Lorna Slater)

I thank Mark Ruskell very much for bringing the debate to the chamber, and I thank all the members who have contributed.

It warms my heart to hear my colleague Maggie Chapman speak about how nature is our “commons” and say that we should celebrate its intrinsic value. Many members have done exactly that: they have celebrated specific species, including otters, or projects that they have enjoyed seeing, and they have celebrated being champions of nature. Audrey Nicoll mentioned that she is the champion of the freshwater pearl mussel.

It is wonderful to hear of our commonality in treasuring nature and valuing it for its own sake, although we all acknowledge that restoration of nature can have benefits for us. It can have benefits for our communities, tackle the global health challenge that is a consequence of our climate and nature emergencies, and sequester the carbon that we need to sequester in order to keep global temperatures within a liveable boundary.

That is such a contrast to what Stephen Kerr said when he called golden eagles and beavers “vermin”. That was, which is a shame, in real contrast to most members, who value nature for its own sake.

Stephen Kerr

To be absolutely clear, I note that I was quoting a Scottish farmer who was talking about what he has to deal with in running his business. That is who said it. Does the minister not agree that we should listen to Scotland’s farmers about species such as beavers, which damage their businesses and the landscape in which our food is grown?

Lorna Slater

We absolutely need to listen to farmers. I give Stephen Kerr the example of Argaty farm, which has received £65,000 from the nature restoration fund and has one of the first beaver reintroduction sites in Scotland. I have seen the farmers’ posts on the internet and their challenge to other farmers to match them and meet their goals of ensuring that nature thrives alongside thriving and profitable farm businesses.

Many farms in Scotland are doing terrific things. I have met the Nature Friendly Farming Network and farmers who do organic farming and regenerative farming. Really good work is taking place. Land managers get the point that we can have thriving biodiversity alongside sustainable food production in Scotland. We have huge opportunities to bring all farmers along on the journey as we reform agriculture subsidies to ensure that farmers get paid to do the right thing—to produce sustainable food and to work to restore Scotland’s biodiversity.

I enjoyed very much the contributions of my fellow members who talked about the link between the nature and climate emergencies. I am very glad that the conversation has moved to a point at which we are discussing them together and how they interconnect. Increasing global temperatures increase the risks to our nature. There are more diseases, pests and invasive species, and native species struggle to thrive in warming climates.

Mark Ruskell highlighted the issues around wild salmon and fish, which we know are highly sensitive to temperature. Of course, declining fish numbers also affect our seabirds, and the statistics on our seabird decline are devastating and sickening: there has been a 50 per cent decline in the number of seabirds before the effects of avian flu are taken into account.

Such situations are absolute emergencies in our nature. Measures such as the nature restoration fund and all the work that we are doing across Parliament on the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill, land reform, agriculture reform and the forthcoming natural environment bill, turn the tide from loss, decline and damage.

Mark Ruskell rightly pointed out that there has also been a 50 per cent decline in flowering plants in Scotland, as is illustrated in the latest publication of the Plant Atlas. That is really something to think about. Our parents and grandparents lived in a world that had more flowers in it, and therefore more insects, and therefore more birds.

We live in a damaged and decimated nature. We talk about how beautiful nature in Scotland is—but how beautiful it used to be when there was just more of it. Working to stop the decline—to halt it by 2030 and to substantially restore nature by 2045—is the Scottish Government’s goal. The nature restoration projects that have been highlighted are part of that goal.

Foysol Choudhury rightly mentioned our role as global citizens and said that we should consider in our nature targets how we interact with the global community. I am interested in hearing more on that as we develop our targets in the natural environment bill. How we interact with the world as global citizens is, of course, important to tackling the climate and nature emergencies.

Ariane Burgess highlighted the work that volunteers and workers do all over Scotland in restoring nature, whether it is tackling invasive species, trapping mink or farmers planting wild flowers along the sides of their fields. Many people in Scotland spend free time and working time restoring nature in Scotland, and I absolutely celebrate that.

Ariane Burgess also highlighted that much of our nature restoration funding goes to rural areas, farmers and our coastal communities. That creates jobs, and Ariane Burgess gave us a specific example of job creation on the seagrass project.

I will give further examples—the Cairngorms Connect project, which is our largest landscape-scale restoration project, now employs more people on the project than were previously employed when the land was under other management types. That directly contradicts Stephen Kerr’s claim, which he made without any concrete examples, that jobs will be lost and the number of people will be reduced. Ariane Burgess is exactly right: we need more people in our rural areas and in the Highlands and Islands to do that work. We have peatlands to restore, forests to plant, wild flowers to plant, rivers to re-meander, species to monitor and farmers and rural communities to support. That is a lot of work and a lot of jobs.

I am very proud of the work that the nature restoration fund does for nature, jobs and rural and coastal communities in Scotland.

13:26 Meeting suspended.  

14:30 On resuming—