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I thank the minister for early sight of her statement, and I welcome the opportunity that we all have in 2020 to celebrate the international year of plant health, and to raise awareness of the importance of plant health to the economy and, indeed, to the natural environment and the biodiversity of Scotland—particularly now, when the “State of Nature 2019” report says that, of the 6,413 species found in Scotland, 11 per cent are currently threatened with extinction, which highlights the fact that Scotland’s wildlife has declined substantially in recent decades.
Data is important, but I question the priority that the Government places on research and data collection, given that last year Ellen Wilson, who is the chair of the Scottish biodiversity information forum, urged the Scottish Government
“to establish integrated local and national structures for collecting, analysing and sharing biological data to inform decision making processes to benefit biodiversity.”
As we heard at the Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee in September, there remain concerns over the lack of funding. A year on from her plea in 2018, Ellen Wilson stated:
“We have heard brilliant words that are often not backed up with sufficient sustainable funding that would take the pressure off the network.”—[Official Report, Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform Committee, 17 September 2019; c 5.]
Can the minister give us an assurance that the statement that we have just heard is not just about “brilliant words”, but ensures that we have the funding and a national data collection structure in place so that we will have accurate data available in order to make the best interventions to safeguard plant health and, in turn, tackle our biodiversity emergency?