fresh water pearl mussel shells  discarded by poachers copyright Peter Cosgrove

Discarded shells of fresh water pearl mussels are evidence of illegal poaching in Scottish rivers. Copyright Peter Cosgrove.

Highland list MSP Mary Scanlon who is species champion for the freshwater pearl mussel (Margartifera margartifera) has asked questions about this globally threatened species that has a stronghold in the Highlands. Fresh water pearl mussels are meant to be protected in rivers like the River Spey where the pearl mussel is an internationally qualifying interest. Climate change, pollution and illegal persecution are however all problems faced by pearl mussels in Scotland. This remarkable mollusc is one of the species about which BSCG has consistently raised concern in the context of our legal challenge to the Cairngorms National Park 2010 local plan and appropriate assessment of housing allocations with implications for rivers like the Spey. The first Cairngorms Biodiversity Action Plan recognized the fresh water pearl mussel as a key cairngorms species.

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LBAP-2002-FWPM-800

The freshwater pearl mussel is one of the priority species mentioned and illustrated in the first Cairngorms LBAP that published these photos by Peter Cosgrove and Sue Scott.

S4W-14151
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government how many people have been (a) prosecuted, (b) fined and (c) imprisoned under the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 for taking, disturbing or harming a freshwater pearl mussel.
S4W-14152
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government how many licences have been obtained to sell freshwater pearls from Scottish rivers in each of the last 14 years.
S4W-14153
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken to ensure that the freshwater pearl mussel is protected while hydroelectric schemes are being developed in rivers with pearl mussel colonies.
S4W-14154
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken to identify sites for a reintroduction programme for the freshwater pearl mussel.
S4W-14155
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government how many freshwater pearl mussel sites have been found to be criminally damaged in each of the last 14 years.
S4W-14156
Mary Scanlon: To ask the Scottish Government what action is being taken to assess the freshwater pearl mussel populations in non-designated rivers.

MP Danny Alexander is a fan of micro breweries. In a debate in March 2013 he expressed admiration for micro-breweries saying " one in my constituency has recently produced a beer called Ginger Rodent, which sold out in its first run". BSCG is delighted that Danny has indicated that were he to be a Westminster Species Champion the species would have to be the red squirrel.

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Photo BSCG April 2013 Carrbridge.

BSCG calls on Danny Alexander MP to back crucial amendment to UK Energy Bill (‘the Yeo amendment’)

A crucial amendment to the Energy Bill needs support. The amendment would bring in a decarbonisation target in 2014 that many consider is vital to drive the investment required to help meet UK climate change targets.

BSCG is disappointed that so far Danny Alexander MP Liberal Democrat Treasury chief secretary has not supported this amendment. MPs and over 100 businesses and organisations including Siemens, ASDA, the Women’s Institute and Stop Climate Chaos Coalition have all backed this amendment which is also supported by independent experts.

Ed Davey, the Lib Dem energy and climate change secretary, has said that most businesses he has spoken to support the target contained in the Yeo amendment.

Danny’s lack of support to date is all the more disappointing because in April 2013 he said, “it is never too soon to tackle climate change” and in 2006, commenting on climate change, stated, there is “no more important concern on a global level” and "climate change is one of our biggest policy concerns”.

A WWF spokesperson, warning that the government was not aligning its policies with the advice of the statutory Energy and Climate Change Committee, has commented that, "The government has started to show a disturbing willingness to question the committee's advice. Ignoring it brings into question their commitment to deliver on the UK's world-leading Climate Change Act."

He has pointed out that the Yeo amendment “will give confidence to businesses and investors now, not at some vague point in the future as proposed by the government. A carbon intensity target would help the UK attract investment in a new British supply chain with thousands of jobs across the country and show that we're serious about reducing emissions and embracing clean renewable energy."

Only last year Danny Alexander accused some Conservatives of waging a "constant war of attrition" on green issues, warning that it is endangering billions in green investment, as well as the whole government growth strategy. He described how the government has to deal with conservative backbenchers – including those he calls "luddite" climate change deniers – opposing green technologies. He was reported as saying "I just don't think the British economy can any more afford to have a blue roadblock to green growth," We agree he is right to criticise those trying to claim that green policies will hinder growth if they make British industry less competitive (See Danny Alexander: Tories must stop trashing green agenda http://www.guardian.co.uk/politics/2012/sep/21/danny-alexander-stop-tories-trashing-green-agenda }

We hope Danny Alexander MP will eventually decide to back the Yeo amendment.

 

Continuing legal challenge to inappropriate developments in the Cairngorms National Park.
The treasured landscapes and wildlife of the Cairngorms need your help. Developers are planning a whole new town and several  large housing estates in sensitive areas in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. BSCG has joined with the Cairngorms Campaign and the Scottish Campaign for National Parks to challenge this. We are appealing an important point of law in the September 21st  2012 Opinion  of Judge Lord Glennie that related to these potentially damaging proposals.
 
We and our QC respectfully believe that Lord Glennie misinterpreted the terms of the European Habitats Directive relating to the 'appropriate assessments' of Natura 2000 sites.
If we win this appeal, which is being heard on March 12th 2013,  it will be a significant judgement that should force the Cairngorms National Park Authority to revise its whole approach to safeguarding European sites. More widely it should help to ensure a stronger application of the Habitats Directive that would be more in line with a precautionary approach to planning development.
 
This challenge comes in the year of ‘Natural Scotland’. It also comes soon after the National Geographic magazine listed the Cairngorms as the only British entry in the Top 50 of the World’s Last Great Places, along with such locations as Madagascar and the  Gobi desert.
Legal action is serious and expensive: we need to urgently raise £30,000 to cover the cost of the court hearing.
 
All donations are most gratefully received and can be made by clicking the 'Donate' button to the right. For more information please visit safeguardthecairngoms.org.uk

 

Cairngorms-An-Camas-Mor-01

An Camas Mòr - Site Of Proposed 1500 House New Town Development

 

The treasured landscapes and wildlife of the Cairngorms need your help. Developers are planning a whole new town and several  large housing estates in sensitive areas in the heart of the Cairngorms National Park. BSCG has joined with the Cairngorms Campaign and the Scottish Campaign for National Parks to challenge this. We are appealing an important point of law in the September 21st  2012 Opinion  of Judge Lord Glennie that related to these potentially damaging proposals.

We and our QC respectfully believe that Lord Glennie misinterpreted the terms of the European Habitats Directive relating to the 'appropriate assessments' of Natura 2000 sites.If we win this appeal, which is being heard on March 12th 2013,  it will be a significant judgement that should force the Cairngorms National Park Authority to revise its whole approach to safeguarding European sites. More widely it should help to ensure a stronger application of the Habitats Directive that would be more in line with a precautionary approach to planning development. 

This challenge comes in the year of ‘Natural Scotland’. It also comes soon after the National Geographic magazine listed the Cairngorms as the only British entry in the Top 50 of the World’s Last Great Places, along with such locations as Madagascar and the  Gobi desert.Legal action is serious and expensive: we need to urgently raise £30,000 to cover the cost of the court hearing.

All donations are most gratefully received and can be made by clicking the 'Donate' button to the right. For more information please visit www.safeguardthecairngorms.org.uk

 

The case will be heard in the Court of Session in Edinburgh on Tuesday 12th and Wednesday 13th March 2013 starting at 10am each day. If you wish to attend simply go to the Court of Session on Parliament Square, Edinburgh (map), ask for the Cairngorms National Park case and the staff will tell you where to find the public gallery. We would welcome your presence in court.

VioletOilBeetle

Three cheers for those MSPs who have agreed to champion one of the Highland species affected by human impacts such as development, habitat loss, climate change and pollution.

Over twenty parliamentarians have signed up to the scheme. Champions for Highland wildife include Dave Stewart (Greater yellow bumblebee), Rhoda Grant (Golden eagle and wildcat), Mary Scanlon (Freshwater pearl mussel), Jamie McGrigor (narrow-headed ant), Rob Gibson (rusty bog moss), and Dave Thompson (sandeel). Mr Stewart recently tabled a parliamentary motion encouraging more MSPs to become wildllife champions, while Mr McGrigor has officially asked the government what it is doing to protect the narrow headed ant.

baby_-_triungulin_-_of_an_oil_beetle_hitching_a_lift_under_the_wing__of__a__mining_bee

But other species are in danger of being left on the shelf. They include -otters; adders; juniper; the one-flowered wintergreen; the dark bordered beauty; the pine hoverfly; the aspen hoverfly; the northern damselfly; the kentish glory, a moth extinct in England but found in the Highlands.

One species yet to find a champion is the Violet oil beetle (Meloe violaceus), a cuckoo of the insect world. The beetle's larvae find flowers likely to be visited by a solitary bee. When an unsuspecting bee appears, the larva hitches a ride to the bee's underground nest .Here it devours food the bee has gathered for its own young and eats the bee's own eggs. Oil beetles also produce a bitter 'oil' from their leg joints that wards off enemies. Intriguingly, this oil attracts midges that feed on the 'oil' without harming the beetle. Some oil beetle species are extinct in Britain.

PineHoverfly

Many species with no parliamentary champions are associated with the Cairngorms. We hope that before Valentines day is over more of the unclaimed species will have found partners.

Adult_Violet_oil_beetle__finding_a_flower_photo_BSCG_m

CNPA wants over 20 percent rise in Park population

The Cairngorms National Park Authority’s housing policy in Badenoch and Strathspey assumes a 20 percent increase in population over the next 20 years, accepting the Highland Council’s highest growth predictions (Cairngorms National Park Authority, 2011). Not content with this, however, the Authority wishes to push for increased economic growth and increased migration into the area (Miles, 2012) (Cairngorms National Park Authority, 2011).  It does not accept that this will have a detrimental effect on the Park’s “special qualities” (Cairngorms National Park Authority, 2011).


Increase in holiday homes marker of CNPA success?

Duncan Bryden, the new Chairman of the CNPA, evidently regards the cherry picking of local homes as holiday homes as an indicator of the Park’s success.  In an article in The Geographer (Spring 2012) heralding the CNPA’s successes, Duncan Bryden writes: “Every year, over 1 .3 million visitors enjoy outdoor pursuits [in the Park], with affluent walkers and skiers snapping up surplus rural properties for holiday homes…” (Bryden, 2012)


CNPA draft national park plan consultation – response rate plummets

The CNPA has repeatedly extolled the success of its consultation process, and used this to justify its more controversial decisions (Strathspey and Badenoch Herald, 11 January 2012).  Despite this the inhabitants of the Park are increasingly unconvinced that it is worth taking part.  From 2006 to 2011 the number of individual responses to the Draft National Park Plan consultations halved (2006 - 61 : 2011 - 33); the number of people attending public consultation meetings dropped by almost 200 people (from 588 in 2006 to ‘nearly’ 400 in 2011) and even the number of public bodies consulted dropped from 21 to 13 (Cairngorms National Park Authority, 2007) (Miles, 2012).  Not surprising given that the views of those who do make the considerable efforts needed to take part in CNPA consultations are so often ignored or dismissed as ill-informed or naive.


Scottish park board members – we voted for you but we can’t contact you

Despite the fact that the CNPA is proud of the fact that it numbers directly elected members amongst its board it makes it extremely difficult for those who elected these board members to contact them to make their opinions known.  Out of the 15 British national parks, only the two Scottish national parks refuse to publish contact details for board members on their websites.  While the English national parks give postal address, telephone numbers and e-mail, the Scottish parks do not even offer an e-mail address!


References

Bryden, D., 2012. The Cairngorms National Park- A Park for All. The Geographer: The newsletter of the Royal Scottish Geographical Society, Issue Spring 2012, p. 14.

Cairngorms National Park Authority, 2007. Consultation Report on the Cairngorms National Park Plan, Grantown-on-Spey: Cairngorms National Park Authority.

Cairngorms National Park Authority, 2011. Cairngorms National Park Local Development Plan Main Issues Report Background Evidence 1: Housing and Population, Grantown-on-Spey: Cairngorms National Park Authority.

Cairngorms National Park Authority, 2011. Minutes of Board Meeting, 16 March 2011, Grantown-on-Spey: Cairngorms National Park Authority.
Miles, G., 2012. National Park Plan Review Consultation Report, Grantown-on-Spey: Cairngorms National park Authority.

Strathspey and Badenoch Herald, 11 January 2012. Bosses accused of 'paving over' national park, Inverness: Scottish Provincial Press Ltd

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