Major RSPB conference to debate sustainable economic growth and investment in environment


A unique international conference organised by RSPB Scotland will examine how investment in our natural heritage can secure sustainable economic growth across the nation in the 21st century. John Swinney MSP, Cabinet secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, will give the keynote speech at the conference, which will look at how Scotland's economy can thrive at the same time as enhancing and restoring the environmental assets that underpin it. Delegates will also hear the perspective of the BBC TV The One Show naturalist and wildlife presenter Mike Dilger.

Red Kite
Red Kite, Laurieston, Dumfries & Galloway (Photo: Brian Rafferty)

In recent years the assumption that large-scale economic development and environmental damage inevitably go hand in hand has started to be challenged. Protecting wildlife sites is just the first step, but now we must go much further, seeing environmental investment as a catalyst for economic development. RSPB Scotland believes the two must converge, as we seek to build a secure future for people and wildlife.

Already, in the National Planning Framework, the Scottish Government has clearly acknowledged that the country's environmental assets can deliver major important benefits for the economy and communities. Delegates at the conference will get the opportunity to attend workshops debating how to develop national ecological networks that create a better environment and new opportunities for local commerce and communities.

Topics for the workshop will focus on parks and restoring green spaces, and how they can enhance people's health and well being whilst benefiting wildlife; major environmental projects that restore lost habitats at a 'landscape scale'; how developers and development can help the process of regenerating such areas; and the opportunities for the 2014 Commonwealth Games to deliver a lasting environmental legacy that contributes to social and economic development.

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Crested Tit
Crested Tit, undisclosed site, Highland (Photo: Marcus Conway)

John Swinney, Cabinet Secretary for Finance and Sustainable Growth, said: "Our purpose as a Government is sustainable economic growth — the right purpose in 2007 and just as important now. As we tackle the immediate economic difficulties, our environment and natural heritage play to our strengths to build a stronger, greener economic future. Key sectors like tourism and renewable energy are already seizing the new opportunities of our natural assets and we will seek to use those benefits to position Scotland for new commercial opportunities and long-term competitive advantage as we emerge from the downturn."

Stuart Housden, director of RSPB Scotland, said: "For too long, the environment has been seen as an after-thought in many planning and infrastructure decisions in Scotland, but this needn't be the case. The reality is that a high-quality environment rich in biodiversity supports economic regeneration by attracting inward investment, improving land values and attracting visitors. At our conference we will learn from the experience of communities elsewhere in the UK and on the Continent who have given a lead and shown what can be achieved when Government, NGOs and business work together with common purpose. We now have the opportunity for a fresh approach to create large areas, near to population centres, that are truly world-class environmental assets. We owe it to future generations to leave our countryside and urban environment and the wildlife they support in a healthy state that will support their future as well as ours."

Scotland's Natural Wealth conference will take place at the Glasgow Science Centre on Monday 2nd February. Places can be booked in advance for an all-inclusive price of £90 — for more information download the conference leaflet available via the web links on RSPB Scotland's website.

Snow Bunting
Snow Bunting, Lecht Ski Centre, Aberdeenshire (Photo: Chris Jones)

Other speakers at the conference include Councillor Allan Morris from Newport City Council, which has breathed new life into Newport Wetlands; Jacob Ladenberg, senior research fellow at the Danish Institute of Governmental Research, which has been instrumental in transforming Denmark's Skjern River; and Ed Taylor, senior urban designer at the Prince's Foundation for the Built Environment.

The conference is sponsored by the Centre for Scottish Public Policy, Scottish Law firm Tods Murray LLP, and Glasgow city Council.
Written by: RSPB