An attempt by the Scottish Greens to declare a “nature emergency” at Holyrood has failed after MSPs instead backed an amendment to deal with “climate change and biodiversity loss on a twin-crises basis”.
The party’s environment spokesman Mark Ruskell submitted a motion noting the “catastrophic collapse” in Scotland’s natural environment, which was debated on Wednesday.
As well as a “nature emergency”, it called for 30% of Scotland’s land and sea space to be dedicated to natural recovery and pushed for an end to driven grouse moor management practices as well as large-scale peat extraction.
Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham said the motion was “overburdened” and suggested it was “designed to fail”.
MSPs instead supported by 85 to 35 Ms Cunningham’s amendment which called for “the continued treatment of climate change and biodiversity loss on a twin-crises basis”.
Speaking in the Scottish Parliament, Mr Ruskell said legislation was needed to prevent many of Scotland’s native species from going extinct.
He said: “This is a crisis that demands the same level of attention and action as the climate emergency. And the first step is to declare it for what it truly is, the nature emergency.”
He said he was “disappointed” that the Government had chosen to delete the word “emergency” from his motion.
Ms Cunningham said: “Scotland’s natural environment is our greatest natural asset. It provides the foundation our society and economy depends upon and improves our physical and mental health. It is also crucial to Scotland’s businesses, brands and reputation.
However she described the Green motion as “somewhat overburdened” and added: “I have to say a cynical person might just feel it is designed to fail.”
Her colleague in the SNP, Mairi Gougeon, said: “We do disagree with elements of the motion, where it pre-empts decisions that we’re yet to announce as a Government.
“However there are a number of pieces of work under way. I don’t think anyone here is in any doubt about the crisis, or the urgency, with which this needs to be tackled.”
Liz Smith, speaking for the Scottish Conservatives, said her party opposed the Greens’ policy on ending driven grouse shooting.
She said there was a “growing minority” of people ignoring the countryside code, adding that the issue was “not just about improving biodiversity, but ensuring everyone understands that”.
Claudia Beamish, speaking for Scottish Labour, said her party had “long stated that we face a nature emergency”.
Liberal Democrat MSP Liam McArthur said he supported calls for licensing of grouse moor management, which would ensure “all practices are sustainable and compatible with the declarations of the climate and nature emergency”.