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I absolutely commend those groups. Jenny Gilruth raises an extremely important point about invasive non-native species which, as I said in my response to Finlay Carson, are one of the biggest threats to our biodiversity. We get more of a sense of the scale of the problem when we look at its financial impact. I think that I mentioned this in portfolio questions a couple of weeks ago, but it is worth repeating that invasive species cost Scotland in the region of £250 million a year. The involvement of communities and local groups is vital if we are to get on top of the problem and tackle it.
I visited the Scottish invasive species initiative, which is a four-year project, to see some of the work that it does on the River South Esk in my constituency. Figures from that project show that 342 volunteers have taken part, 736km of giant hogweed has been treated and 195 volunteers have helped to monitor mink rafts. Community involvement and volunteer work are vital there, too, and I commend the groups and volunteers in Jenny Gilruth’s constituency, my constituency and across Scotland for the work that they do. We depend on them to be the eyes and ears to monitor invasive species spread in their local communities.
The member is right to ask what more we can do to make more people aware of the issue. Scottish Natural Heritage leads on tackling invasive non-native species such as Himalayan balsam, and it will work with the plant health centre to raise awareness of the issue across networks and among groups, and to encourage more people to get involved, in order to minimise the threat to our native plants. I will give more thought to that as we go into international year for plant health, and I will explore what more can be done with our lead agencies in that regard.