Event rationale

The Scottish Forum recently held a joint event in partnership with Scottish Environment LINK, which sought to answer the question, “What are the top 5 opportunities for Scotland’s land based natural capital in the context of a green recovery?” The rationale for the event was captured neatly by a quote from Dieter Helm, formerly Chair of the Natural Capital Committee, who said, “I struggle to think of anywhere in the world where natural capital is more important to the economy than it is in Scotland.” This notion was underlined by a recent report by SRUC, which found Scotland’s natural economy to be worth £29 billion per annum, over one fifth of Scotland’s entire economic output. With approximately one third of the UK land mass, Scotland’s natural capital can be an area of comparative advantage. We wanted this event to provide some pointers as to where these advantages might lie.

Event format

The event was structured around the three Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) themes, ‘Biosphere’, ‘Economy’ and ‘Society’, with our five panellists each outlining a corresponding opportunity, and also some of the barriers to realising the opportunity.

We were delighted to host a distinguished panel, with a broad range of experience across different sectors, composed of Jo Pike, Chief Executive, Scottish Wildlife Trust & Deputy Chair, Scottish Forum, Deborah Long, Chief Officer at Scottish Environment LINK, Hannah Whyte, Executive, at Green Investment Group, Alan Thornburrow, Director for Scotland, Business in the Community, and Professor Wayne Powell, Chief Executive of Scotland’s Rural College. The event was chaired by Professor Colin Campbell, from James Hutton Institute.

A Q&A from our 80 plus audience then followed, in which we attempted to discuss and refine the opportunities further. Post-event, the job was to finalise the opportunities and to create “enabling actions” based on the barriers. It was important too, to collate the questions from, and discussions among, our audience, with the final aim to produce an infographic that captured the event outcomes.

Building on audience feedback

As one of our panellists described it, this was a ‘pleasing exam question’, which was borne out by high levels of engagement we received before, during, and after the event. The importance of “storytelling” was one key message we took from both panellists and attendees when engaging all audiences, and we wanted the infographic to reflect this.

Starting at the Ice Age, a “Timeline for our Future”, tells the story of Scotland’s natural capital within a world-wide environmental context, winding through the industrial revolution to the present day. It is in the present day where we have our opportunities, which in turn lead to enabling actions and end with important future dates, whether near, such as COP 15 and COP 26, or more distant, but hugely significant, such as the Scottish Government’s net zero emission target by 2045. These final parts of the story are yet to be told, and will depend on our ability to take advantage of the opportunities that currently lie before us.

A second recurring discussion point centred on socio-economically disadvantaged communities, and the potential to deliver multiple benefits through greater engagement with nature, by working in partnership with these communities. As a consequence, we decided the five opportunities should become six, and so “Communities connected to nature with reduced health inequalities” can be seen as a second priority within the “Society” SDG theme. (please see graphic)

A final key piece of feedback centred on the importance of the recent Dasgupta report. A key principle from Dasgupta is that the economy and society are embedded within nature, rather than natural world an economic externality. As such, the “Economy” and “Society” and be seen to flow from the “Biosphere”, and this is also a nod to the Stockholm “wedding cake” graphic, which was an an important influence.

Post event

We want this infographic to help inform thinking and influence discussions around where Scotland’s greatest opportunities lie in terms of its land-based natural capital. The infographic is now a free-to-use jpeg, pngpdf, gif, which we would encourage members of the Scottish Forum to share, for use in documents or presentations between now and the end of the year. We hope that stakeholders from across the private, voluntary and public sectors will find it useful in the context of both a green recovery, and twin environmental emergencies.

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