Thursday 09 July 201500:00Friday 10 July 2015
Nature protection laws are under review, writes Aedán Smith
There is much talk across Europe of the UK government’s plans for a referendum on UK membership of the European Union and the implications of this for Europe, the UK and Scotland. However, there is another debate happening right across Europe now which, in many ways, is as important as the referendum. This debate is happening in response to a threat to one of the great postwar European success stories – the EU Nature Directives.
The Birds Directive and the Habitats Directive together form what are often called the Nature Directives. These laws prevent a race to the bottom between different parts of Europe. They establish the principle that no European Member State should gain competitive advantage over others by wrecking their environment for short-term economic gain. And, of course, as some species migrate across Europe, these laws also help reduce the risk that unsustainable activities in one country would prevent other countries from enjoying seasonal wildlife spectacles. For example, think how much poorer our summers would be if migratory songbirds couldn’t reach Scotland.
An integral part of the Nature Directives is the requirement for member states to establish a network of protected areas, Special Areas of Conservation and Special Protection Areas, collectively known as Natura 2000 sites, to safeguard the most important places for wildlife. In Scotland, almost 300 Natura sites have been identified.