By Iain Ramage
A LEADING charity fears its reputation may have been tarnished by a public spat over a £10,000 grant from Highland Council.
The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) Scotland has spoken out following a failed attempt by 10 councillors to overturn a local decision to part-fund a drainage project in the Flow Country’s remote blanket bog in Caithness and Sutherland.
Objecting councillors argued that the money could be better spent in communities during a time of serious hardship and unprecedented council budget constraint.
The charity has responded, emphasising that the money was “ring-fenced for biodiversity work”.
The contribution to a £12,000 project, while miniscule compared with the £740,000 councillors have promised for public artworks relating to the Inverness flood-defence scheme, angered independent councillors Robert Coghill and Bill Fernie.
They say RSPB Scotland is a wealthy charity that failed to meet the council’s normal criteria of guaranteeing matched funding for grants.
Speaking since their defeat on the issue in a council chamber vote, Mr Fernie described the RSPB as “akin to Starbucks in the environmental world”, adding: “Our priority should be people, not peat.”
The Flow Country is an important wildlife habitat, natural carbon store and candidate for World Heritage Site status. It stores more carbon than all of the UK’s woodlands and forests.
Speaking yesterday, RSPB Scotland spokesman Alan Tissiman responded to the councillors’ comments amid “concern about the unfair and ill-informed criticism” of its application for money from the council-administered Landfill Communities Fund.
He said: “We believe the criticism is in danger of damaging our reputation and is unfair to our staff working in Caithness and Sutherland.
“We take our good reputation locally very seriously and have always striven to be open and to work closely with communities.”
The grant issue was referred to December’s full council meeting by councillors attempting to overturn an area committee decision.
Read on: http://www.northern-times.co.uk/News/RSPB-fears-reputation-damaged-by-ill-informed-criticism-10012013.htm