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New environment protection laws
New laws to protect wildlife and better regulate the management of Scotland's natural environment have been presented to the Scottish Parliament.
They are designed to update ancient gaming laws, introduce robust deer management policies, minimise confusion and prevent invasive non-native species gaining a foothold in Scotland's unique landscape.
Introducing the Wildlife and Natural Environment Bill, Environment Minister Roseanna Cunningham said:
"Scotland's natural environment covers a staggering 95 per cent of our land and contributes around £17 billion to our economy every year.
"Yet some of the laws governing what people can and cannot do in that environment have been unchanged since the 1800s and many more remain ambiguous in a modern age.
"As millions of people enjoy our environment for sport and recreation in ever changing and diverse ways, the laws governing how best to protect our wildlife need to be updated to adapt to modern pressures.
"This bill aims to strengthen and clarify the rules surrounding activities which could potentially damage protected sites and to provide Scottish Natural Heritage the power to demand restoration if damage occurs. In this way, recreation and economic activity need not automatically be foes.
"Similarly, as our deer population adapts and increasing numbers are found in and around the urban environment, clarity is needed on their management to ensure that both man and nature can live in harmony.
"And, as more is known about the potentially devastating effects of non-native plants and animals on our indigenous environment, tougher action is needed to ensure that the exotic garden plants we throw on our compost heaps do not germinate into nuisance species."
Among the proposals in the Bill, presented to the Scottish Parliament on June 9, are:
- making it an offence to take or kill hares during the closed season
- ban the release of an animal or growing a plant outwith its native range
- allow Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH) to issue species control orders to ensure owners eradicate or control non-native plants and animals
- greater enforcement powers allowing SNH to take action and recoup costs from owner/ occupiers
- improve protection for badgers
- snares to be tagged and operators trained in their use
The Scottish Government conducted a consultation to obtain views on potential reform to a number of areas of wildlife and natural environment legislation in June 2009. The consultation closed in September 2009 and 456 responses were received from both individuals and organisations.