Area of Ecological Importance

I visited Sutherland today – a chance to look for a pair of sea eagles and to check the spread of the red squirrels we translocated in 2013. But I mainly I drove north to pay a short visit to the Public Inquiry about a golf development proposed on the Coul Links Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) near Dornoch. It is being held in the Carnegie Hall, not the famous one on 7th Avenue New York, but the small one built in Clashmore by the same Andrew Carnegie. I quietly slipped into a seat at the back of the village hall and listened to the proceedings. I wanted to be there to show support for those who are opposed to damaging Coul Links. It brought back memories, from the 1970s onwards, of other inquiries where my RSPB colleagues and I were being questioned by lawyers as we fought to protect a nature site. We won some and lost some, but why are they still being won or lost?

Then our focus was on the protection of birds so there were many people who weren’t impressed by that, for the cry then was ‘do you want birds or jobs’. But now it is a much more important matter – we desperately need these special areas of nature to ensure the future of our earth. Outside the hall, it was like a spring day, rather than the 27th February. My car radio told me these were the hottest days on record in a decade of some of the hottest years on record. Flick the channel and a reporter is talking about the massive declines of insects. On another the Green MP is talking about tomorrow’s debate at Westminster on ‘climate change’ or better stated ‘climate breakdown’.

Coul Links with Loch Fleet is a SSSI as well as being a Ramsar Site and a Special Protection Area. There are just over 1400 SSSIs in Scotland covering just under 13% of our country, so why are we putting any of them at risk at a time of great risk to the future of our grandchildren. Some world visionaries believe that to ensure long-term survival of the earth’s ecosystems we will need to have 50% of the earth’s land and seas dedicated to nature and natural processes. I am a firm believer of that target. We cannot lose any more nature sites and the huge areas of land degraded by fire and livestock require to be ecologically restored. Ecological restoration on a large enough scale to attempt to ameliorate the increasing levels of carbon and to restore earth’s ecological processes will be job creation on a truly massive scale. It will require bold far-seeing political leaders and the diversion of major funding from other budgets. It is no longer a choice. As I listened to this morning’s evidence, expert against QC, I also thought that the term SSSI is now antiquated and does not command public respect. They need rebranding in today’s perilous times – may be something like – Areas of Ecological Importance.