Why do Councils need access to biological data?

Blog written by Guy Harewood, Sustainable Development Officer at Stirling Council.

First up, the formal introduction with the usual quotes from legislation and Government guidance to set the scene.

The Nature Conservation (Scotland) Act 2004 places a statutory duty on all public sector bodies in Scotland, including Councils, to further the conservation of biodiversity.

“It is the duty of every public body and office-holder, in exercising any functions, to further the conservation of biodiversity so far as is consistent with the proper exercise of those functions.”

Following an amendment in the Wildlife and Natural Environment (Scotland) Act 2011, public bodies are also required to publish a publicly available report, every 3 years, on the actions they have taken to meet this biodiversity duty.

Going beyond the requirements of the legislation, the SNH & Scottish Government’s Guidance for Biodiversity Duty Reporting states that:

“This biodiversity duty is about connecting people with the environment and managing biodiversity in the wider environment all around us, not just in specific protected sites.”

To achieve this wider conservation of our biodiversity, Councils need to embed nature in all key documents and decisions. A quick glance at the website of any local authority will show you the wide range of work that they are responsible for. You’ll find a wealth of strategies, policies, plans and projects. Some with the natural environment as their focus, some seeking to conserve or enhance our nature whilst tackling other issues and some that seem to have little consideration for our biodiversity.

The challenge, as laid down by our Biodiversity Duty, is to ensure that biodiversity is a mainstream consideration in all decision making. But Councils are not yet able to make fully informed decisions as few have the necessary data easily to hand.

Hopefully you can see why Councils need access to biological data! Data that is robust enough to enable them to make informed and defensible decisions in light of competing societal and developmental pressures.

This is where the SBIF Review and the delivery of its 24 recommendations come in.

The Review “recognises the need to improve geographical and taxonomic data coverage, and ensure that information is sufficiently up-to-date and accessible to inform action for the people and wildlife of Scotland”.

Just what Councils across Scotland need!

Now imagine how much more meaningful and powerful the consideration Councils could give to biodiversity would be if they had easy access to this reliable, high quality data. How Local Biodiversity Partnerships, Ranger Services and Partners could deliver targeted action for the benefit of nature and further inspire their existing, and new, volunteers, by showcasing how their biological records contribute to the conservation of their local area.  And finally, how Councils across Scotland could lead the way in protecting our unique biodiversity and creating a healthy natural environment that benefits the people and the economy, for current and future generations.

A read through the other SBIF blogs will allow you to see the wide range of benefits that the delivery of the SBIF Review’s Recommendations will provide and the praise from all those involved. I won’t go into this any further as my word count is limited. I’ll close by saying that it has been a pleasure to be involved in this Review and to give a Council’s perspective.  I look forward to the future.

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