Invasive non-native species are a key driver of biodiversity loss. It is estimated that they cost the Scottish economy around £300 million annually. The management of INNS is fundamental to our efforts in tackling biodiversity loss. The Scottish Government provides funding streams to stakeholders seeking to manage invasive non-native species. Funding has been available through, for example, the forestry grant scheme and the biodiversity challenge fund, and there has been direct funding through NatureScot for projects of strategic national importance, such as the Scottish invasive species initiative. The new nature restoration fund also includes management and eradication of INNS in its objectives.
A survey found that there are American mink present in the Pentland hills regional park in my constituency and that their presence can have an absolutely devastating impact on native mammals and ground-nesting birds. Does the minister share my view that there is a pressing need to keep the impact of invasive species on Scotland’s ecosystem to the absolute minimum, and that steps should be taken to ensure that they do not undermine work to restore and enhance biodiversity?
I do indeed share Mr MacDonald’s view, which is why we are providing support to projects such as the Scottish invasive species initiative, which is tackling invasive plants and mink along rivers in an area of 29,500km2
, which is over a third of the total area of Scotland. In the past four years, more than £1.5 million has been invested via the Scottish rural development programme to tackle rhododendron, which threatens our precious Atlantic rain forest. However, we recognise that there is always more that can be done.
Beaver activity can have and is having a negative impact on farmland, biodiversity and rural communities, especially in Tayside, where beavers were released either accidentally or illegally. The Scottish Government’s new translocation scheme aims to help, but it lacks detail, so can the minister provide answers to the following questions? When will the new rules launch, how many trappers have been trained, how many translocation sites have been identified and for how long will the scheme be funded?
I am really excited about our beaver translocation initiative, because it is an excellent way of managing conflicts between beavers and other land users. I disagree with the member on biodiversity loss, because beavers are excellent at improving biodiversity by creating natural wetlands. [
.] Beavers are a reintroduced species. When my father grew up here in Scotland, there were no beavers—they were extinct—so this is a success.
We will publish a new beaver strategy—in June, I believe—and I very much expect that it will answer the member’s questions.
That is a live issue for us given the issues around Brexit and the delay of 18 more months to border checks, and it is a particular concern for my plant health colleagues. We are very concerned about biosecurity, and I am happy to write to the member about that in more detail.