National data for a National Park

Blog written by Andy Ford, Head of Conservation, Cairngorms National Park.

Before I get stuck into what the SBIF Review might mean for the Cairngorms I just wanted to acknowledge what a phenomenal job it has been to get to where we are now. Others have described, more eloquently than I ever could, how needed the SBIF review was and how complex the history of trying to unravel it all has been. I’ll not add to that, except to say I think we are in the strongest position ever. Collaboration and co-ordination has been fundamental. The common desire to see resolution to the issue is our strongest asset and I’m really positive and look forward to taking the next steps together.

The business case SBIF makes is compelling. Money is tight just now, every pound spent must be well justified. Scotland’s nature and wildlife underpin a prosperous Scotland. Better management of, and access to, the data that informs policies, monitors and evaluates success, and indeed stirs the emotions and makes us proud of our amazing country, makes a very strong case for being ‘in the public interest’.

People and nature thrive together in the Cairngorms National Park.

So what does the SBIF Review mean for the Cairngorms National Park? The Cairngorms has outstanding natural heritage and provides homes and livelihoods for thousands of people. It’s where everyone can get out into nature and is a shop window for recruiting a chorus of supporters and citizen scientists. It’s a place where people and nature thrive together.

Getting the balance right between environmental, social and economic factors – delivering all four aims of the Park – can mean making some tough decisions. Good data, and, more importantly, good information, underpins the decision making process and is a key tool in engaging people, getting public support and recognition for the benefits nature brings.

Being a National Park means that an area with a ‘distinct character and coherent identity’ is managed in ‘a collective and co-ordinated manner’. The National Park is sub-divided into lots of different agency and organisation regions, five Local Authority areas, public, private and charitable ownership – each with their own geographic and sectoral remit. It is a web of policies, plans, targets, outcomes, groups, forums (and egos!) all going in their own directions at their own speeds. Sound familiar?!

Being a National Park rubs out all those sub-divisions. It provides one overarching vision, looks for the common goals, agreed priorities and maximum public benefit, then supports collaborative working to get there. And I think that’s what the SBIF Review is looking to do in the complex world of biological data. The recommendations of the SBIF review will help us direct resource, influence grant schemes and policy, inform development management, monitor delivery and support recorders.

We’ll keep the best interests of the Cairngorms in mind while seeking to be part of a single infrastructure that will be the beating heart of biodiversity knowledge in Scotland.  This will be far easier with the implementation of the SBIF Review Recommendations.

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