Alison Johnstone Back to

Scotland should become the first rewilding nation

23 February, 2021 - 00:00

While more of our work and leisure has moved online, there also seems to be a growing awareness of the importance of our natural world.

I can’t have been the only person to notice the loud birdsong in recent days, heralding a Spring we all hope will bring renewal and a path out of the pandemic.

I was also heartened by an important discussion happening in cyberspace about how our nature can recover from an economy that has caused far too much damage for far too long.

The Scottish Rewilding Alliance’s online event brought a crowd of around 2,500 people, which highlighted the decline in our nature and what we must do to recover it.

Of course, this is an argument Greens have been making for decades, but now, as we face climate and nature emergencies which threaten the ecosystem we are just a part of, rewilding is increasingly seen as an urgent requirement.

Populations are in freefall, one in nine of our native species of flora and fauna is at risk and we face a choice between rewilding or extinction.

The need for the return of natural processes through restoring native forests and peatlands is obvious. Natural predators must be allowed to flourish, not be persecuted. Levels of pollution need to be reduced quickly.

And it’s very concerning that the SNP haven’t ruled out the use of bee-killing pesticide neonicotinoids by farmers, which were banned by the EU but is being allowed post-Brexit by the UK Government. These harmful chemicals are already in use in Scotland’s forests and salmon farms. It needs to stop.

But restoring nature is not just a rural affair. In towns giving nature more space requires some innovation, especially in a big city like Edinburgh. Too often we see rabbits on roundabouts or foxes in car parks. Lost wildlife will only return if we establish a network of corridors of flourishing habitats.

This doesn’t have to be about completely redesigning the layout of a city. Many cities around the world are creating green corridors between parks and retrofitting existing buildings with green walls or roofs to attract pollinators and birds.

We know rewilding would boost tourism and bring economic benefits, as well as tackle the climate emergency by capturing more carbon, addressing flood risks and so on. But it should also be done because rebalancing the relationship between humankind and nature is the right thing to do. The idea that our endless consumption dictates infrastructure and planning decisions is completely unsustainable.

As we have cleared land and diverted waterways, the lack of life in places where it should be teeming has become the norm. Land has been systematically exploited for purely economic gain. We need to shake off the assumption that this is the right thing to do. This is about thinking differently, and that starts with recognising that our future depends on it.

The call for the Scottish Rewilding Alliance is that Scotland becomes the world’s first rewilding nation. Yes, I say. And now. Because in the face of the nature and climate emergency there is no time to waste.


This article was first published in the Edinburgh Evening News.