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Natural Heritage Agency

Volume 181: debated on Wednesday 21 November 1990

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To ask the Secretary of State for Scotland what resources will be allocated to the planned natural heritage agency; and if he will list its responsibilities.

Scottish Natural Heritage is expected to come into being only in 1992 and therefore decisions on resources for it will be taken in next year's public expenditure survey.

Does the Minister accept that hon. Members on both sides of the House have expressed concern about certain species of Scottish wildlife? Would he care to tell the House whether he thinks that 1992 might be too late to take care of members of one particular species in Scotland, who have been observed pecking each other to death and only last night tearing their hair out? I refer, of course, to Scottish Conservative Members.

More seriously, may I ask whether the Minister will ensure that, when Scottish Natural Heritage is formed, it will be composed of people who genuinely care for the countryside and are genuinely representative and not merely of yet more Tory placemen?

The hon. Lady has made a serious point. I accept that the people concerned must be experts in their field, and that they must form a representative cross-section. I have no doubt that, led by Magnus Magnusson—who is exceptional and outstanding in this regard—a much stronger environmental body will prove to be wholly in Scotland's interests.

As my hon. Friend must be aware, there is a series of proposals, including his own, concerning the future status of an important natural environment area—the Cairngorm mountains. As there is certainly no unanimity on the question of the structure that should evolve for it, would not it be better to leave decisions about the matter until Scottish Natural Heritage is established as the best body to assess and conclude what the status of that important part of Scotland should be?

I have considerable sympathy with what my right hon. Friend has said. World heritage listing is a great honour for an area, but it creates strong expectations that management will be in harmony with the status of the area, which is one of the most beautiful in Europe.