Fate of precious wildlife site is in the Scottish Government’s hands

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Precious wildlife site must not go the way of Trump-wrecked habitat

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29th November 2019 by Graham Martin 0 Comments

The fate of a globally important wildlife site on the Sutherland coast under threat from golf course proposals, is now in the hands of the Scottish Government.

A coalition of conservation groups (including Buglife, Butterfly Conservation, Marine Conservation Society, Plantlife, RSPB Scotland, Scottish Wildlife Trust, National Trust for Scotland) campaigning to save the site has issued a joint appeal with Ramblers Scotland urging people to call on the Scottish ministers to make the right choice and save Coul Links for nature.

A month-long inquiry into the highly controversial proposals was held in Dornoch earlier this year. The Scottish Government appointed Reporters have now passed their recommendations to ministers who are responsible for the final decision.

The proposals would destroy nationally and internationally protected dune habitats, home to many rare and protected species, and have sparked outcry within Scotland and internationally.

Highland Council granted approval despite these impacts and widespread objections from the government’s own nature conservation advisors, Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), and numerous conservation and access organisations and local groups.

In light of the high level of objections and the rich natural heritage value of the site, this case was considered of national importance and the Scottish Government called in the proposals last year and initiated a public inquiry.

The organisations are calling on people to help Coul Links avoid the same fate as the nationally important dune habitats at Trump International in Aberdeenshire which have been damaged irreparably by the golf course. This summer SNH recommended they lose their special conservation status. SNH has warned of significant and irreparable damage to the dune habitats at Coul Links, which are of national but also global importance.

Nature is already under immense pressure due to the climate and biodiversity crises, and protecting it is crucial for the future survival of many species and habitats. Developments that lead to their unnecessary destruction should be refused by planning authorities.

Ministers could announce their decision whether to grant or refuse permission for the Coul Links proposals any day, with no deadline for this.

Anne McCall, Director of RSPB Scotland said: “The damage caused by the Trump golf course to the nationally protected dunes at Foveran Links is a devastating loss to Scotland’s environment. There is now a chance for Scottish Ministers to avoid making the same mistake again by protecting Coul Links from a similar fate. 

“Governments all around the world are waking up to the climate and ecological crises.  If Scotland can’t protect our most treasured wildlife sites, how can we expect other countries to do the same?”

Brendan Paddy, Ramblers Scotland director, added: “Now the Scottish Government has the inquiry recommendations in its hands, a decision could be made imminently – so the entire outdoors community must urgently speak up for Coul Links’ special landscape, before it’s lost forever.

“Coul Links offers people a rare chance to seek solitude and enjoy the natural environment amongst its protected dunes. These grossly inappropriate proposals for a golf course will restrict public access and permanently limit enjoyment of this wonderful place by local residents and visitors alike.”

To help save Coul Links, you can take part in an e-action here.