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Restoring Scotland’s Nature – the importance of collaborative working

By Charles Banner KC, Interim Chair

Partnerships JNCC in Scotland

Following a recently held successful event, 'Restoring Scotland's Nature', read our latest blog post from our Interim Chair, Charles Banner KC, who reflects on the value of partnerships and collaborative working in integrating the value of nature into decision making. 

On 27 September 2023, JNCC and NatureScot co-hosted an evening reception, 'Restoring Scotland’s Nature', at the Scottish Parliament at Holyrood, kindly hosted by Ariane Burgess MSP.  Around 65 delegates, including Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) and representatives from the Scottish Government and partner organisations, heard how JNCC’s vital convening role integrates the value of nature into decision making. 

As the UK’s only statutory nature adviser to all four governments, JNCC is  uniquely positioned to facilitate the sharing of experience, tools, evidence and ideas to meet common goals and challenges.

Delegates were joined by Minister Lorna Slater who made an impassioned plea for nature conservation bodies to hold their nerve and focus on the importance of using evidence and collaboration to protect Scotland’s biodiversity.

NatureScot Chair, Professor Colin Galbraith, spoke of the impacts of declines in certain species on the wider fabric of ecosystems in Scotland and beyond.  He also encouraged delegates to promote a positive message of the benefits of successful work on nature recovery across communities.

The reception was a great opportunity to showcase the creativity, commitment and innovation that underpins the joint working between our two organisations in tackling the nature-climate crisis and in helping deliver urgently needed nature restoration in Scotland and the UK.

In my speech at the event, I said:

"We have been collaborating closely to ensure a joined-up approach in the management of the marine environment both inshore (NatureScot’s remit) and offshore (JNCC’s remit) – and in doing so maximising biodiversity outcomes for the waters around Scotland. For example, NatureScot and JNCC worked collaboratively with Scottish Government to establish a comprehensive network of Marine Protected Areas across Scotland’s seas. This includes the West of Scotland MPA, otherwise known as the Deep Sea Reserve, which is the largest Marine Protected Area in UK waters by some considerable margin.

"Nature conservation and recovery policy do not exist for their own sake. They need to have an impact, for the benefit of nature and our environment.  A key part of JNCC’s role is maintaining an evidence base on how nature across the UK is changing, so that we can objectively compare what difference our policy interventions are making.

"Joint working has also been essential in the context of the Global Biodiversity Framework and other international commitments. Under international law there is a need for UK-wide responses to track our progress towards meeting these commitments. Balancing this on the one hand, and the need to recognise and respect the differences of approach between the four countries of the UK, requires great care.  JNCC’s UK-wide convening role, working in partnership with NatureScot – as well as the other statutory nature conservation bodies in Wales, Northern Ireland and England – lies at the heart of making this work.

"It would, however, be a lost opportunity to do no more than recognise and respect the differences of approach between the four countries of the UK.  We also need to make the most of them.  In a world where many fear there is an increasing risk of an environmental race to the bottom, JNCC’s bird’s eye view as the UK-wide nature conservation adviser puts us in a position to help us all instead race to the top.  The autonomy of each of the four countries of the UK to adopt its own bespoke policies and approaches to the nature-climate crisis provides an opportunity for us all to learn from each other, for the common good.  Enabling and facilitating this lies at the core of JNCC’s mission, as recently set out in Together for Nature – JNCC’s strategy to 2030.  We do this by, amongst other things, understanding what approaches each country is promoting to particular issues, seeing how effective the implementation of these is and sharing those lessons with the other countries. 

Whatever the future may hold, one immutable certainty is that the four countries of the UK will always be neighbours; and nature of course does not respect boundaries.  Collaboration will always be essential if we are to make the most of our common ambitions to leave the state of our nature in a markedly better place than we currently find it.”

 A copy of the full speech is available in PDF format.

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