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Dog Owners’ New Year Resolutions remove over 30 MILLION pieces of litter

Dog owners making a wonderful New Year Resolution have soared the ranks of the “PAWS ON PLASTIC’ campaign to 20,000.  The group of dog owners pledge to pick up a couple of pieces of litter on every walk, every day, removing over 30 MILLION pieces of litter a year from our streets, beaches, parks and countryside.

Founded in Stonehaven, NE Scotland, in November 2018 by Primary School Teacher, Marion Montgomery, PAWS on PLASTIC, has hit a cord among dog owners keen to play their part in fighting plastic pollution, attracting 20,000 members and followers on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

“We’ve had another fantastic start to the year!” explained Marion.  “January and February have been hectic, welcoming so many new members. It just shows the real desire among dog owners to protect wildlife and our precious environment from harm.  As awareness of the horrendous impact of plastic pollution grows, more and more people are looking for ways to combat it.  Paws on Plastic gives dog owners a simple action they can take which makes a huge difference.  It’s easy to think that one person’s actions doesn’t make that much of a difference, but as part of a huge group, we can really see how it adds up to 30 million pieces.

It gives a huge much-needed boost to MENTAL HEALTH to be out in the fresh air taking positive action which makes a real visible impact as I can testify to.  The beauty of Paws on Plastic is that no extra time or effort is required as it only takes a minute to pick up a couple of pieces of litter as part of your everyday dog walking routine.  It’s open to all regardless of age or ability.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to our members for all their efforts.’ says Marion.  “The strength of Paws on Plastic is its simplicity.  Dog owners are already out there walking their dogs every day.  We see the litter. We have a spare bag in our pocket & it just takes a second to pick up a couple of pieces. No extra time or effort is required yet if we all do our own wee bit, with 20,000 of us, just picking up 2 pieces of litter on 2 daily walks, that’s over 80,000 pieces a day, or nearly 30 MILLION a year although, as you will see, most people pick up more as it is rather addictive!  With around 9 million dogs in the UK alone, imagine the impact if we all did our own small bit.”

The group has now spread to over 70 countries in 6 continents around the world, showing the worldwide desire among dog owners to do play their part.  Dogs are naturally attracted to litter, with many picking up plastic bottles and cans.  Unfortunately many are also badly injured by it, cutting paws or eating things which make them sick.  By removing litter we are doing our bit to protect them and wildlife both on land and in the sea.

Barry Fisher, CEO of Keep Scotland Beautiful said, “We’re delighted that Paws on Plastic has now reached 20,000 members across the globe from starting in 2018 in Stonehaven. At a time when we need clean green and blue outside spaces more than ever before Scotland is facing the prospect of a litter emergency. And without the ongoing support of individual dog walkers and community groups who are committed to cleaning up Scotland, one litter item at a time, the problem could be far worse. Our recently published report, ‘Time for a new approach to tackling litter’, highlights an accelerating decline in the condition of local neighbourhoods, including littering, that has been going on since 2013.

Our call out is simple – to those who are proud of the country we live in– join us and Paws on Plastic to help combat the problem.  Together we can make a difference.”

As we start to open up the country again and people start to travel more, it has never been more important to get that ‘anti-litter’ message out.

Members are responsible for keeping themselves & any accompanying companions safe. All pieces picked up are helping to reduce the amount of plastic ending up in the sea.

 

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Press statement: STA responds to First Minister’s announcement on phased re-opening of the economy

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said:

“Today’s provisional timescale of the gradual re-opening of the economy as set out by the First Minister today is welcome, however, I know from the many conversations I’ve had with tourism businesses this week, and particularly within the last 24 hours that they were hoping for more detail around the pathway to reopening. The detail announced today does not go far enough in giving our sector the clarity needed at this point to plan for reopening.

The level system is a divergence from the route map set out by the Prime Minister yesterday and causes huge issues for businesses who we know are being contacted today with enquiries to book from those living south of the border. With no international tourism likely for some time, there is greater dependency on Scotland’s ability to attract tourism from within the UK and we need to provide a degree of reassurance that their bookings can be accommodated.

Our tourism industry is not able to accept bookings with confidence; not all will wait for our sector to gradually re-open to book. We’ve seen the huge spike in bookings from England for foreign travel over the last 24 hours and there is a great fear that Scotland’s tourism industry will lose out in what could have been a buoyant summer season.

Given that Scotland will now be opening behind England, there is an even greater need for a marketing campaign to boost late summer and autumn bookings and ensure that Scotland’s tourism industry isn’t disadvantaged in the long term. We know that people are actively searching for holidays for later in the year; the window of opportunity is now.

Our industry had hoped for the ability to trade at Easter; many of our businesses have not traded viably since September 2019 so it will be absolutely critical that robust and targeted support is offered across the tourism sector to give these businesses the best chance possible of survival until full reopening. The level of support has been insignificant for many businesses to date; it remains the case that some businesses have been without funding since the start of the crisis.

The First Minister’s reference to tapered support for businesses that are not able to reopen fully will offer some comfort; there are increasing numbers of businesses that simply don’t have funds in the bank to survive beyond Easter.

The STA looks forward to continued and immediate discussions with the Scottish Government to ensure that the right package of support is drawn up for what is undoubtedly the hardest hit sector in the economy and to gain more clarity around some of the detail announced today.”

Further Information

  • Link to today’s news release here
  • Link to First Minister’s statement here
  • Read the updated Strategic Framework here

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Wild Scotland and VisitScotland
working in collaboration to support businesses in the Adventure Tourism Sector

Are you finding planning for 2021 and beyond impossible?
Here’s some help! 

Wednesday 24th February 2:00 pm until 3:00 pm

VisitScotland and Wild Scotland have worked together, using the STERG Scenario Planning Toolkit,  to highlight key considerations for small and medium sized Adventure Tourism Operators planning for the different scenarios Scottish tourism may face through 2021 and beyond.

This workshop will help you:

  • understand why and how to use scenario planning
  • consider the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats in the sector
  • reflect on how your customers,  your product/offering, staff and suppliers may be impacted in the face of different scenarios – and how you may want to act
  • hear thoughts on what has worked for others and ideas you may want to implement within your own business

Go away with some real actionable ideas as you plan for the next 12 to 24 months .

Register here
This is an open event for all businesses working in adventure tourism from activity operators to marine and wildlife operators across Scotland

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Loch Beinn a Mheadhoin in Glen Affric, Scotland. 

 

Pictured: Loch Beinn a’Mheadhoin in Glen Affric, Scotland © SCOTLAND: The Big Picture scotlandbigpicture.com

Three-quarters of Scots support rewilding says new research

Findings come as call launched for Scotland to become world’s first ‘Rewilding Nation’

More than three quarters of Scots support rewilding in Scotland, according to research conducted for the Scottish Rewilding Alliance, a coalition of over 20 organisations.

The findings come as the Alliance launches a campaign calling on the Scottish Government to declare Scotland the world’s first Rewilding Nation, with a commitment to rewilding 30% of the country’s land and sea within a decade, ahead of the United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP26) to be held in Glasgow in November.

A new opinion poll shows that 76% of Scots support rewilding – the large-scale restoration of nature to the point it’s allowed to take care of itself – with just 7% opposed.

The Rewilding Nation campaign kicks off today (17 February), with an inspiring new animation narrated by wildlife presenter and filmmaker Gordon Buchanan showing how rewilding can help make Scotland a place where nature recovers, wildlife flourishes and people prosper.

“The world faces overlapping nature, climate and health crises, but Scotland has the opportunity to show bold leadership by becoming the world’s first Rewilding Nation. We have the space, political influence and public backing to become a world leader in saving nature and ourselves,” said Steve Micklewright, Convenor of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance and Chief Executive of Trees for Life.

With habitats and species being eradicated rapidly worldwide, the United Nations has declared 2021-2030 the Decade of Ecosystem Restoration. The Scottish Government has committed itself to bold action to tackle the crisis facing biodiversity through its Edinburgh Declaration.

Yet far from being the nature-restoration trailblazer it could be, and despite many superb conservation initiatives, Scotland is lagging behind other countries – with nature in steep decline and its landscapes among the world’s most nature-depleted.

Only 1.5% of Scotland’s land is national nature reserves and just 4% native woodland, while 25% is severely nature depleted and does not support the nature-rich forests, peatlands and river systems it should. Rural landscapes now support fewer people than previously.

Declining or at risk species include red squirrels, wild cats, capercaillie and great yellow bumblebees. Recovery or return of species such as beavers, cranes, sea eagles and pine martens happen slowly, while elk and lynx are among the species already made extinct.

The Scottish Government has put 37% of Scotland’s seas into forms of designation, but damaging activities such as scallop dredging and bottom trawling are only banned from less than 5% of coastal waters. Government assessments reveal that the extent of seabed habitats continues to decline. Wild salmon populations are at historically low levels. Seabirds are feeding their chicks plastic waste.

“It’s past time to reboot our relationship with the natural world, and Scotland can lead the way. By working with nature instead of against it, rewilding can restore life to hills, glens, rivers and seas – while tackling climate breakdown and offering fresh opportunities for farming and local economies,” said Rebecca Wrigley, Chief Executive of Rewilding Britain.

The Alliance says rewilding at least 30% of Scotland’s land and sea by 2030 can be achieved by restoring and expanding woodlands, moorlands, peatlands, rivers and marine habitats, and without loss of productive agricultural land.

Hugh Raven, Chair of Open Seas, said: “The new opinion poll shows people know that nature’s health is our nation’s wealth. Incentivising lower impact fisheries around our coastline would help degraded habitats and fish populations recover, and regenerate our harbours and coastal towns. Recovery in places like Lamlash Bay shows what can be achieved by communities, but we urgently need to rewild larger areas of our seas.”

Tom Bowser, farm owner and Ranger with Argaty Red Kites, said: “Declaring ourselves a Rewilding Nation would be a powerful statement of intent that we’re serious about tackling the climate and nature crises, reconnecting people with nature, and regenerating our communities.”

The Alliance recommends using rewilding as a natural solution for increased absorption of atmospheric carbon, building rewilding into post-Covid green recovery plans, and establishing a native species recovery policy and a nationwide network connecting nature restoration projects.

“We’re being seriously outpaced by climate breakdown and biodiversity loss, so trying to save nature piecemeal isn’t enough. Scotland has the opportunity to restore the web of life that supports our health and wellbeing, while acting as a rewilding inspiration globally,” said Peter Cairns, Director of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.

For more details and to view the Scottish Rewilding Alliance’s new animation, Rhythms of Life, following its launch on the evening of 17 February see www.rewild.scot.

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Finance Secretary confirms extension to business rates holiday

Following the announcement of £1.1BN of consequential funding from the UK government, Finance Secretary Kate Forbes has confirmed the extension of 100% business rates relief for another year for retail, tourism, hospitality and aviation businesses.

The move builds on the three month rates relief extension announced in the Scottish Budget and will be taken forward provided the Scottish Government receives the funding already assumed from the UK Budget on 3 March, and that requisite funds are available to maintain existing support into 2021-22.

She also confirmed £50M investment for town centres and £10M in capital funding specifically for tourism infrastructure in rural communities for next year.

Ms Forbes said:

“When I presented our budget last month I guaranteed to extend non-domestic rates relief further if I was given the necessary resources. I can now deliver on that promise, providing the UK Budget in March delivers the funding we require.

“The other measures I am proposing today, including further support for hospitals, schools and local government and measures to tackle climate change, build on our priorities to ensure a robust recovery for our economy and public services.

“This welcome additional consequential funding was confirmed to us yesterday and I wanted give early notice to parliament and provide clarity to businesses.

“We are still in the throes of a national emergency and it is important Parliament works together to respond. I will continue to work with all parties to help deliver a budget for the nation fit for these times.”

The STA released the following media statement:

Marc Crothall, Chief Executive of the Scottish Tourism Alliance said;

“The STA welcomes the First Minister’s announcement that the Scottish Government’s strategic framework is under review and that the updated routemap will hopefully be published next week.  It is absolutely critical that the tourism industry is given as clear an indication as possible around reopening, given the sheer reliance on the domestic market as a result of the Scottish Government’s extension of quarantine and the need for businesses to start trading again.

Many businesses have already rolled over bookings from last year to this year and there can be no guarantee that those customers will maintain their commitment given this level of uncertainty

Since the First Minister’s announcement this afternoon, we have had an influx of correspondence from tourism businesses extremely anxious at the First Minister’s indication that an Easter reopening is highly unlikely and that a question mark has been placed over domestic travel this summer.  The STA Board will meet with the First Minister in the coming weeks and take the opportunity to update Ms Sturgeon on the desperate state that the industry is in.  I know of numerous businesses who are wholly reliant on being able to trade again at Easter in order to stay solvent; today’s indication that this is highly unlikely will I know serve as a crushing blow to many.

On a positive note, I know that our industry is breathing a huge sigh of relief as a result of the Finance Secretary’s announcement that she will extend 100% business rates relief to the sector for another year.  This has been one of the STA’s priority asks in recent months and we have had many constructive conversations with Ms Forbes over the past few weeks and as recently as this morning; I am delighted that our voice has been heard and also that a package of support has been extended to Scotland’s town centres with additional capital funding specifically for tourism infrastructure projects in local communities.  There is however no doubt that upweighted targeted support must be allocated to the tourism sector if businesses are not going to be able to trade viably for months to come and the STA will continue to press both the Westminster and Scottish Governments for this.

Scotland’s tourism industry continues to be 100% aligned to the health agenda; our businesses are committed to opening in a safe and secure way, giving customers confidence as a result of the level of financial investment which has been adopted across the sector.”

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Scottish Government likely to advise against booking Easter holidays “either overseas or within Scotland”

 

The First Minister announced details of the review of current lockdown restrictions, telling the Scottish Parliament that “Our room for manoeuvre remains very limited. Even a slight easing of restrictions could cause cases to start rising rapidly again.” and that “because of the new, more infectious variant, our exit from lockdown is likely to be even more cautious than it was last summer.”

Ms Sturgeon said that the Scottish Government is currently preparing a revised strategic framework, which will set out in more detail when and how we might gradually emerge from lockdown and it is hoped that this will be published next week.  The revised framework will “aim to set out how we will use and balance all the tools at our disposal – restrictions and advice, vaccination, test and protect, and travel restrictions – to restore, on a phased basis, greater normality to our everyday lives.”

The First Minister also indicated that the Scottish Government is “likely to advise against booking Easter holidays, either overseas or within Scotland, as it is highly unlikely that we will have been able to fully open hotels or self catering accommodation by then.” and added; “For the summer, while it is still highly unlikely that overseas holidays will be possible or advisable, staycations might be – but this will depend on the data nearer the time.”

Ms Sturgeon spoke of ‘trade-offs’ and that “in a world where we can’t do everything immediately, we will need to decide what matters most” and gave details of the Scottish Government’s phased approach to pupils returning to school.

The First Minister also highlighted that the Scottish Government will be “driven much more by data than dates.”

You can read the First Minister’s statement in full here

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European Lynx (Lynx lynx) adult female in winter birch forest, Bardu, Norway © scotlandbigpicture.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Is Scotland ready for the return of lynx?

An extensive and impartial study to assess people’s views about the possible reintroduction of Eurasian lynx to the Scottish Highlands is being launched this month by a new partnership of the charities SCOTLAND: The Big Picture, Trees for Life and Vincent Wildlife Trust.

Ecological research has shown that extensive areas of Scotland could support lynx, but the charities say returning the shy and elusive animal is less about science and more about people’s willingness to live alongside a species that’s become forgotten on these shores.

The year-long Lynx to Scotland consultation will impartially and accurately assess public and stakeholder attitudes around the idea of lynx reintroduction, including in rural communities.

“With a global biodiversity crisis, we have a responsibility to have open and constructive conversations around restoring key native species to the Scottish landscape – and science shows that apex predators like lynx play a vital ecological role in maintaining healthy living systems,” said Peter Cairns, Executive Director of SCOTLAND: The Big Picture.

Lynx are now expanding in range and numbers across mainland Europe as hunting laws are enforced and public attitudes to large predators soften. Several successful lynx reintroductions since the 1970s have brought ecological and environmental benefits to countries more densely populated than Scotland, and in areas used for farming, hunting, forestry and tourism.

As a shy and solitary woodland hunter, lynx are rarely glimpsed and attacks on humans are virtually unknown. Research suggests the Highlands has sufficient habitat – and more than enough roe deer, the cat’s preferred prey – to support around 400 wild lynx.

Steve Micklewright, Chief Executive of Trees for Life, said: “Scotland has more woodland deer than any other European country, and their relentless browsing often prevents the expansion and healthy regeneration of our natural woodlands. By preying on roe deer, lynx would restore ecological processes that have been missing for centuries, and provide a free and efficient deer management service.”

Jenny MacPherson, Science and Research Programme Manager with the Vincent Wildlife Trust, which will lead the study, said: “Reintroducing lynx would inevitably bring challenges. Lynx to Scotland will actively include stakeholders representing the full range of perspectives,in order to produce meaningful conclusions about the level of support or tolerance for lynx, and therefore the likely success of any future reintroduction.”

The Eurasian lynx is native to Britain but was driven to extinction some 500-1,000 years ago through hunting and habitat loss.

Lynx to Scotland runs from January 2021 to February 2022 and is not associated with any other previous or current initiatives to restore lynx to Britain.

For details, see scotlandbigpicture.com/lynx-to-scotland.

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Letter to businesses from Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes – 20th January 2021

Please click on the link below to read a letter sent today from Cabinet Secretary for Finance, Kate Forbes.
The letter is for businesses in Scotland and as well as an overview of the current restrictions, the letter also highlights available business support and links to useful information and advice for businesses and employees.

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Top Tips for Cold Water Dips – RNLI

With many reported health benefits, cold water dipping is increasingly being tried out for the first time by intrepid swimmers. In this video, Liam and Nick from the RNLIwater safety team explain how to enjoy cold water swimming safely, from what to take with you to how to avoid cold water shock.
The RNLI is the charity that saves lives at sea. 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, lifeboat crews around the UK and Ireland are ready to launch to help those in need. Whether you’re stuck on a sinking ship, cut off by a rapidly rising tide, or in the water and close to drowning, RNLI crew members will drop everything to come to your rescue. 95% of RNLI lifeboat crews and station staff are volunteers. But it’s not just lifeboats. RNLI lifeguards patrol 248 beaches across the UK and Channel Islands, keeping people safe, providing safety advice and rescuing those in trouble. Education volunteers visit schools and swimming clubs to help teach the next generation how to enjoy the water safely. And volunteer fundraisers and shop workers give up their time to generate vital funds. The RNLI is also working to help communities around the world that are most at risk of drowning. If you spot someone in trouble in the water, call 999 or 112 and ask for the coastguard.

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European beaver (castor fiber) swimming across forest lochan, Knapdale Forest, Argyll, Scotland.  Beaver © SCOTLAND: The Big Picture scotlandbigpicture.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Trees for Life crowdfunder to protect Scotland’s beavers raises £60,000

A crowdfunding appeal by Trees for Life to help protect Scotland’s endangered wild beavers has raised almost £60,000 – setting the scene for a court challenge to the Scottish Government’s beaver policy, which the charity says is causing needless loss of beavers’ lives.

Trees for Life and legally specialist rewilding charity The Lifescape Project say the Government’s nature agency NatureScot is breaking the law by failing to make killing of beavers a last resort when the animals have unwanted impacts on agricultural land.

A month-long crowdfunder set out to raise at least £40,000 to cover the costs of a current judicial review of the Government’s approach.  The legal challenge aims to ensure a safer future for beavers, which can be key allies in tackling the nature and climate emergencies.

The crowdfunder closed on 5 January, exceeding its target thanks to 1,500 supporters. Additional high-profile support came from television presenter and naturalist Chris Packham, whose campaigning conservation group Wild Justice donated £5,000.

“The support for our campaign to protect Scotland’s biodiversity-boosting, flood-preventing beavers has been amazing, and every donation is hugely appreciated.  Public opinion clearly supports a more nature-friendly, climate-friendly and farmer-friendly approach to beaver management,” said Steve Micklewright, Trees for Life’s Chief Executive.

Beavers’ dams create nature-rich and flood-reducing wetlands.  When beavers sometimes also have unwanted local impacts on agricultural land, laws governing protected species require any intervention to have the least possible impact on their conservation.

After the Scottish Government declared beavers a legally protected species in May 2019, those wanting to kill beavers or remove their dams or lodges must obtain a licence from NatureScot. Dozens of such licences have now been issued.

Because the Government says beavers cannot be relocated to new areas within Scotland – even though NatureScot has identified over 100,000 hectares of suitable habitat – the options for Tayside farmers whose crops are damaged by beavers are currently significantly limited.

A judicial review ruling in Trees for Life’s favour would ensure lethal control is a genuine last resort. Conservationists and others will be able to identify – with proper community engagement – suitable sites around Scotland to which beavers could be moved and be safe and welcome.

This could also help prevent damage to farmland, and ensure farmers are less often put in the position of having to shoot popular and endangered animals.

Trees for Life is dedicated to rewilding the Scottish Highlands.  See treesforlife.org.uk.

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