ARC's Scottish Project Officer, Rachael Cooper-Bohannon explains how ARC works with Scottish Environment LINK (ScotLINK) to raise awareness of amphibians, reptiles and other environmental issues through a variety of initiatives

Scottish Environment LINK (ScotLINK) is a forum for the wide range of Scotland’s eNGOs. ARC is one of 40 members represented, and together our voices are amplified for nature. It is fantastic to be a part of such a diverse and supportive community and as a small NGO, we have been able to raise awareness of amphibians and reptiles throughout the various workstreams. Partnership working has been really helpful to highlight our Saving Scotland’s Amphibians and Reptiles (SSAAR) Project, which started in October 2021. We sit on a number of working groups and have also signed up to ScotLINK’s ‘Farming for Scotland’s Future’ – a campaign to make farming work for nature, climate and people. Farmers and crofters manage ¾ of Scotland’s land and are crucial in making a difference to how we restore nature. The campaign urges the Scottish government to invest and support farmers and crofters to transition to a more sustainable way of farming (for those who don’t already).

Thanks to ScotLINK and members, Scotland is leading the way on a new Nature Champions initiative. Previously known as Species Champions, Ministers of Scottish Parliament (MSPs) are invited to champion threatened species and priority habitats. We have joined up with other partners to co-host and this has been a wonderful way to collaborate and work together with Buglife Scotland, CIEEM (Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management), NTS (National Trust for Scotland) and Plantlife Scotland. We have been absolutely delighted with how MSPs are getting behind herps in Scotland! Currently, we have two species – both with champions, and seven habitats.

  • Smooth newt - Jenny Gilruth MSP
  • Common frog - Shirley-Anne Somerville MSP (co-hosted with NTS)
  • Blanket bogs - Fiona Hyslop MSP (led by CIEEM)
  • Coastal sand dunes – tbc (co-hosted with Plantlife Scotland)
  • Gardens and designed landscapes – Sharon Dowey MSP (led by NTS)
  • Heathland – tbc (co-hosted with Buglife Scotland)
  • Road verges – Mercedes Villalba MSP (led by Plantlife Scotland)
  • Traditional orchards - Pam Gosal MSP (led by NTS)
  • Upland Flushes, Fens and Swamps – tbc (led by NTS)

With our dual biodiversity and climate crisis, nature has never needed more urgent support. The Nature Champion initiative is a partnership of over twenty organisations putting forward their threatened species or habitats – accounting for 105 species or habitats! Collectively, we are raising awareness of Scotland’s nature, but also the concerns of the significant risks to our biodiversity. MSPs have been keen to engage and get involved and we are now starting to arrange site visits.

Our first site visit was on the 20th January this year! On a very bright but frosty Friday morning, we met with Fiona Hyslop MSP (blanket bogs Nature Champion) at Blawhorn Moss National Nature Reserve (NNR) - in Fiona’s constituency (West Lothian). The site visit was kindly organised by Annie Robinson from CIEEM and accompanied by Amee Hood (NatureScot Reserve Manager) and Barry Dunne (NatureScot Peatland Action Project Manager). Blawthorn Moss NNR is sadly now a rare habitat across central Scotland and is an important carbon store and site for a range of species. Around 80% of blanket bogs have been degraded by damage or drainage across the UK. To find out more about the visit to Blawthorn Moss and blanket bog conservation and threats read Annie’s CIEEM article.