Response to e-action from Scottish Labour Party

Thank you for your email highlighting your concerns over the climate and nature emergency we face and the importance of Scotland’s uplands.

As someone who represents a rural area and as Scottish Labour’s spokesperson on Rural Affairs, the future of Scotland’s uplands is incredibly important to me. Around half of Scotland is upland, and although they remain renowned for their wildness, there is no doubt that they have borne the often adverse impact of centuries of increasing human activity. More than ever they need our support to protect and restore them.

One of the most important actions we need to take is better protection of raptors as you highlight. This is an issue I’ve raised in Parliament in the past and will continue to do so. We need to see more effective monitoring of raptor conservation, tougher penalties for those who persecute our raptors and crimes that impact on raptors being more vigorously investigated and given a higher priority. There have been too many cases in our South Scotland region where it’s clear there has been raptor persecutions, but such crimes have not been as vigorously pursued as they should be.

We also need to see a far fairer distribution of our land including more community ownership. I have supported a number of community land buyouts locally and I am confident they will be as successful as previous ones in the region. But to really achieve that fairer distribution of land ownership we need more resources for community buyouts including increased funding for the Scottish Land Fund and direct intervention when land is not used in ways that serve the public interest.

In our manifesto for the recent Scottish Parliament election, Scottish Labour also called for legislation to ensure that no one individual can acquire large swathes of Scotland’s land and prevent land ownership via offshore tax-havens.

We also argued that public sector organisations should be allowed to participate in land markets with the aim of transferring the land into local sustainable ownership, as a basis for wealth building and income retention in communities.

I also very much agree with you about the importance that needs to be placed on the return of natural woodlands and bogs. Scottish Labour supports planting at least 15,000 hectares of trees a year and increasing peatland restoration to 20,000 hectares each year, alongside measures to end commercial peat extraction. We also fully support at least 50% of all woodland expansion being planted with native species and at least 10% delivered through natural regeneration, issues that I have pursued in Parliament. We cannot afford to see a repeat of the same mistakes made in the past, especially in our area, where huge sways of our land are planted with repetitive non-native species.

These actions would help create employment in our area in a sector which does provide good opportunities in our area. That’s one of the reasons Scottish Labour has also called for the establishment of a Scottish Conservation Corps, modelled on the Civilian Conservation Corps of the New Deal, dedicated to restoring Scotland’s natural environment and we estimate this could create up to 10,000 jobs across Scotland.

There is no doubt that much needs to be done to restore and enhance Scotland’s uplands but with the right policies and leadership, we can ensure we not only begin to tackle the climate and nature emergency we face, but do so in a way that creates sustainable employment and that is what I will continue to a argue for as one of your local MSPs.

In the meantime, thank you once again for your email and please do get in touch if you would like to discuss this or any other matters further.

Kind Regards