Scotland sea

10 years of Nature Champions in Scotland

2 minute read

Catherine Gemmell

Catherine Gemmell, Scotland Conservation Officer

26 Sep 2023

This year marks a decade of Members of the Scottish Parliament (MSPs) taking part in the Nature Champions project and acting as voices to protect and conserve our precious marine life.

The Nature Champions initiative was created by Scottish Environment LINK, of which we’re a member. It was set up to encourage parliamentarians to give a voice to nature in Scottish Parliament by championing threatened and iconic species and habitats. It has since inspired similar projects in Wales, Northern Ireland and England.

Working with ScotLINK, we pair MSPs with a marine species or habitat that is linked to their constituency or region in some way, or is related to a particular work area they’re passionate about.

We currently have seven marine Nature Champions, covering a range of species and habitats like kelp forests, sandeels, basking sharks, and native oysters.

As a marine Nature Champion, we keep the MSPs up to date on our campaigns and ask them to take action in parliament on behalf of their species or habitat.

Nature Champions have the power to make a real difference, and we’ve seen them bring about real, positive change.

Stuart McMillan MSP, Nature Champion for the basking shark, put down a parliamentary motion highlighting the importance of a proposed Sea of Hebrides Marine Protected Area, using data gathered by us and others on basking sharks in the area.

This resulted in a public consultation which gathered thousands of public responses in support. The site was designated in 2020.

Stuart McMillan MSP - Species Champion

Head of Conservation Scotland, Calum Duncan, and Stuart McMillan MSP

Credit: Catherine Gemmell

Maree Todd MSP, a previous Species Champion for the flame shell, asked a parliamentary question about the damage caused to a flame shell bed in Loch Carron, which is the largest known in the world.

Supported by Seasearch evidence, and analysis by Scottish Government, this led to the emergency designation of the Loch Carron MPA, which has since been made permanent.

Maree Todd MSP - Species Champion

Head of Conservation Scotland, Calum Duncan, and Maree Todd MSP

Credit: Catherine Gemmell

Our Nature Champions also work for their species or habitat outside of the chamber, with many taking part in citizen science projects or meeting with local supporters to talk about marine issues that matter to them.

As we look ahead to the next decade, it’s more vital than ever to have champions for the ocean in parliaments across the UK.

We’ll be working to ensure our Nature Champions are equipped with the latest evidence, science and policy asks to ensure our incredible marine species and habitats are front and centre of new laws to protect, restore and celebrate our ocean.

Calum Duncan, our Head of Conservation Scotland: “It's been a privilege to work with Nature Champions to help progress crucial marine protection measures and raise awareness of Scotland’s amazing ocean life. We look forward to seeing what else the Nature Champions scheme can achieve for our ocean.”

Brian MSP - Species Champion

Calum Duncan and Brian Whittle, the Nature Champion for leatherback turtles

Credit: Catherine Gemmell

Learn more about our work in Scotland

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