SCOTLAND: Parliament passes Nature Conservation Bill
The Scottish Parliament today approved the Nature Conservation Bill. Environment and Rural Development Minister Ross Finnie called it a major step forward in improving the conservation of Scotland's natural heritage.
Mr Finnie said:
"The Nature Conservation Bill will make a real contribution to the Executive's long term vision for sustainability and responsible stewardship of our natural environment.
"The Bill not only brings together important new measures to protect Scotland's most precious places and our rarest birds, plants and animals.
"It goes beyond traditional nature conservation measures. For the first time, the Bill introduces a new general biodiversity duty which will apply to all Scotland's public bodies. In future they will have to ensure that biodiversity issues are at the heart of both their policy-making and their day-to-day operations.
"This duty will be supported by the Executive's biodiversity strategy to be launched later this month. This will be a 25 year vision to conserve biodiversity for the people of Scotland.
"The bill will also improve protection for Scotland's important Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI's) which provide natural habitats for our vulnerable species; enhance our ability to protect those species; and further strengthen powers to tackle wildlife crime."
The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Bill was introduced to the Scottish Parliament on 29 September and completed Stage 1 on 7 January. The general principles of the Bill were agreed to without dissent following the Stage 1 debate. Stage 2 finished on 3 March and saw 252 amendments considered by the Environment and Rural Development Committee. 54 amendments were lodged for Stage 3, the final stage in the Scottish Parliament's legislative process.
The Bill delivers the legislative components for a "new system of nature conservation". It has three key Parts, reflecting the three central themes of that new system:
- Part 1 - Conservation of biodiversity - A new general biodiversity duty will apply to all Scottish public bodies and office holders. The duty will oblige public authorities to "further the conservation of biodiversity" in the course of exercising their functions.
- Part 2 - A thorough revision of the SSSI (Site of Special Scientific Interest) system for protecting Scotland's most precious natural places.
- Part 3 - Further effective action to combat wildlife crime - The Bill builds on the Criminal Justice (Scotland) Act 2003. The bill contains a number of additional measures to improve the existing species protection provisions of the Wildlife and Countryside Act.