Ramsar sites in Scotland are given legal protection through co-designation as special areas of conservation, special protection areas or sites of special scientific interest. That is the legal position, which I set out in my answer of 21 February. Further to that answer, I can clarify and confirm that it continues to be Scottish Government policy to apply the same level of protection to Ramsar sites as that which is afforded to designated Natura sites. That provides Ramsar sites in Scotland with the same level of protection as Ramsar sites throughout the rest of the UK.
Given that the
Scottish Government has committed to applying that welcome level of protection, how does the cabinet secretary expect that that will affect planning authorities’ consideration of planning proposals that affect Ramsar sites, and Scottish Natural Heritage’s advice to planning authorities regarding them?
I need to be careful not to stray too much into the planning side. There has been no divergence in policy. The policy was expressed in the Scottish planning policy in 2010, which reflects the legal position. We are not aware of non-governmental organisations having raised any issues when the SPP was published.
Nothing has changed since then. It remains our policy to treat Ramsar sites as though they were Natura 2000 sites. I confirm that SNH is aware of the long-standing Scottish Government policy, as well as the legal position in relation to Ramsar sites in Scotland.
Government policy has not changed since it was stated in the answer that was given to a parliamentary question in 2004 by the then responsible minister, Lewis Macdonald.