Climate Change Mitigation (Peatland)

– in the Scottish Parliament at on 16 November 2023.

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Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

5. To ask the Scottish Government what its position is on the role that peatland plays in climate change mitigation and adaptation. (S6O-02740)

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

The Scottish Government’s position is that peatlands play a critical role in mitigating and adapting to the climate and nature emergencies. Peatlands are essential to our journey to net zero and to increasing our resilience against a changing climate.

Around 75 per cent of our peatlands have been degraded by drainage, extraction, overgrazing, afforestation and development. We have invested £250 million in restoration and are dedicated to achieving our targets in that regard. We are working with partners and stakeholders to ensure that our peatlands continue to contribute to our climate goals, while supporting biodiversity and sustainable land management.

Photo of Finlay Carson Finlay Carson Conservative

My constituents in Galloway are again facing a tidal wave of applications for new wind farms in an area that already has a disproportionately high number of existing wind turbines, with many more approved and awaiting construction.

Building on potential sites north of Newton Stewart will inevitably result in disturbance to peatland, which will, in turn, have a significant impact on water levels in the River Cree and the Penkiln burn. Newton Stewart and Minnigaff suffered serious flooding in 2015. Many homes were lost and businesses are only now recovering.

Although renewable energy is important, peatland preservation and restoration are equally important, as the minister set out. Will the minister assure my communities that peatland, and its role in flood prevention, will be given priority over inappropriately sited wind farms?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

Work is currently under way to assess the operation of and, if necessary, update or replace the carbon calculator. The Scottish Government will ensure that adequate tools and guidance are available to inform the assessment of carbon impacts arising from proposals to develop peatlands and other carbon-rich soils.

I am delighted that Finlay Carson recognises the importance of restoring and protecting peatland. He will be keenly aware that the Wildlife Management and Muirburn (Scotland) Bill proposes the licensing of muirburn on peatland and I hope that his interest is a signal that the Conservatives will support the Government’s bill, which will limit the destructive burning of peatland, for all the reasons that he identifies.

Photo of Mercedes Villalba Mercedes Villalba Labour

NatureScot’s peatland action programme grants funding to landowners to carry out peatland restoration, often by hiring private contractors. That means there is less scrutiny of working conditions, value for money and environmental impacts. Why is the Scottish Government outsourcing peatland restoration, rather than investing in democratically accountable and unionised public sector jobs?

Photo of Gillian Martin Gillian Martin Scottish National Party

If Mercedes Villalba has any concrete evidence of instances of concern regarding working practices in peatland restoration and wants to write to me about those, I would be happy to look at them.