ENVIRONMENT: In West Dunbartonshire, it is not just the birds that are in decline, but the trees

By Bill Heaney

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon is no twitcher, but she views with concern the decline of iconic woodland bird species in Scotland. 

Addressing the twin challenges of biodiversity loss and climate change is a central priority for the Government, she told parliament on Thursday.

She said: ” Although the index of abundance for Scottish terrestrial breeding birds shows that the long-term trend is for numbers of woodland birds in Scotland to increase, and it is likely that that will continue as we deliver our targets to expand forest cover and create new native woodland, population numbers for some woodland bird species continue to be a concern.”

In West Dunbartonshire, it is not just the birds that are in decline, but the trees.

The government have been taking action to address that, for example by providing specific support for capercaillie from the forestry grant scheme between 2016 and 2025, as well as funding through the previous rural priority scheme’s capercaillie package.

Borders Tory MSP Rachael Hamilton said: “Nature is under threat—not just the capercaillie but our waders, plovers and curlews—and this Government has failed to meet 11 of the 20 Aichi biodiversity targets.

“Farmers have told me that they can be part of the solution to the climate change crisis, and the Government has sat on its hands for too long. There is a climate emergency, and the custodians of our land are keen to protect and meet those biodiversity targets.

“Today, will the First Minister commit to give clarity on agricultural policy and ensure that biodiversity targets are improved, by extending the agri-environment climate scheme beyond 2024 to protect those iconic bird species?”

The First Minister said: “This is an important issue. I recognise that, for some species, there is cause for concern. It is the case that we are seeing an increase in some species, with increases of more than 400 per cent.

“However, where there are declines, it is important that we address them, and the biggest long-term decrease is that of more than 50 per cent in capercaillie.

“On the specifics, we consider short-term and long-term funding to ensure that we are supporting the objectives. Right now, we face a climate crisis and a biodiversity crisis. Those are obviously closely linked.

“The Government is very serious about addressing them both, doing what we need to do here in Scotland, and in so doing, setting an example for the rest of the world.

“I welcome the tone of the question. I hope that the question is a signal that, when it comes to the detail of what is needed to meet those objectives, there will be more support from the Scottish Conservatives than there has been in the past.

“Recently, we have seen scaremongering about the talks with the Greens and what that might mean.

“I know that the Conservatives do not like it when we talk about the details of some of this stuff. However, instead of just willing the ends, we must be prepared to do the means.

“That is harder and often controversial. I hope that the question and its tone, which I welcome, signal a change of heart from the Scottish Conservatives.”

Top picture: Capercaillie, the horse of the woods and scarce with it.


  1. And if Nicola needs any more advice on tree preservation, I am sure that WDC would be happy to help, especially Johnathan McColl who has put his self centred pound notes attitude first, I refer to Garshake, obviously the trees were cut down to appease the builders, I wonder who benefited on that action🤔before any tree protection issues arose, he which he must be very cosy with the prospective builders, instead of having brain to use the site as the Cemetery extension, rather than of the one near the moon, the public would have appreciated that more instead of helping greedy builders, and destroying trees on the site for the builders, Again we will now have more road havoc in that area, it is surprising that another roundabout is not proposed at Garshake, as every time new houses are built in this area, it seems that new residents cannot use a junction properly, and of course the obligatory pedestrian crossing for them as they cannot cross a road without one
    And there is Bellway at Helensburgh who have destroyed the trees and hedgerow along the main road, where many birds, animals and insects thought that this was THEIR home, and Bellway Homes are famous for this type of destruction, so no shortage of chancers that would help her policy, maybe a jail sentence for those responsible for taking trees down illegally would soon stop them, now they just laugh, as once the trees are gone, little can be done, Councils and Builders know this, so please Nicola, come down hard on illegal tree destruction, especially when your own Councils are party to tree destruction.

  2. Ok then – all this talk of commitment to the environment, bio diversity, tree diversity.

    So who chopped down all the trees at Tarbet where speculative developers want to build a luxury Bearsden on the Loch.

    Loch Lomond, one of the biggest potential property development areas in Scotland!

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