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Sites Of Special Scientific Interest

Volume 175: debated on Tuesday 3 July 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what advice he has received from the Nature Conservancy Council on the designation of extensive sites of special scientific interest as a means of protecting the natural environment in Caithness and Sutherland; and what response he has made.

[holding answer 2 July 1990]: The Nature Conservancy Council provided advice on the need to protect peatland areas of international significance in Caithness and Sutherland in its two publications: "Birds, Bogs and Forestry" and "The Flow Country". The council also gave detailed evidence to the Highland regional council working party on land use strategy in Caithness and Sutherland and set out a two-stage notification programme of SSSIs. The working party report listed the areas of actual and potential SSSI and recommended an indicative forestry strategy. My right hon. and learned Friend endorsed that report and in his announcement of 21 March 1989 encouraged the relevant public agencies to use it as a framework for land use change.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what steps he will take to ensure that the recommendations of the Highland regional council working party report on land use strategy are followed by the Nature Conservancy Council in its proposed descriptions of sites of special scientific interest in Caithness and Sutherland.

[holding answer 2 July 1990]: The Nature Conservancy Council was one of the bodies which gave unanimous support to the report produced by the Highland regional council on land use strategy in Caithness and Sutherland. I have no evidence to suggest that any of these bodies, including the Nature Conservancy Council, have taken any action contrary to the indicative forestry strategy recommended in the report and endorsed by my right hon. and learned Friend on 21 March 1989.

To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland if he will take steps to ensure that the 20,000 hectares of land in Caithness identified by the Highland regional council working party report on land use strategy as possible forestry area contained in stage 1 SSSI proposals are retained as a reservoir of plantable land eligible for assistance within the woodland grant scheme.

[holding answer 2 July 1990]: The Highland regional council working party report provides a framework within which relevant public agencies can exercise their statutory duties, whether in approving an application for grant under the woodland grant scheme or notifying an area as an SSSI. The total amount of land in the possible and preferable forestry areas, taking account of the whole of NCC's actual and intended notification programme, is greater than the area of land required to establish a viable forestry industry.