Highlands MSP voices fears over bee decline

Urgent action is needed to address the implications of a steady decline in Scotland's pollinator population, according to Jamie McGrigor MSP.
Urgent action is needed to address the implications of a steady decline in Scotland's pollinator population, according to Jamie McGrigor MSP.

Highlands and Islands MSP Jamie McGrigor has spoken of his concern at Scotland’s declining bee population in a debate on the issue in the Scottish Parliament.

Mr McGrigor said urgent action was needed to address the issues created by the falling number of bees in the countryside.

“The role of pollinators to the economy and environment is vital and this makes the decline of a broad variety of pollinators a matter of great concern,” he said.

“The European Union demands that all farmers set aside five per cent of their land for ‘greening’, which falls under the first pillar of the Common Agricultural Policy.

“It is important that a compromise is found that would ensure that there is enough natural habitat for our pollinators to not only survive but to flourish, whilst ensuring the sustainability and successes of our agricultural sector.

“The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates that out of the 100 crop species that provides 90 per cent of all food worldwide, 71 are animal pollinated. The number for Europe is even higher at 84 per cent (valued at £12.6 billion per year). This only shows our reliance on pollinators, thus making the decline of these species a matter of great concern.

“It is important to find the balance between environmental and commercial interests, but it is clear that we must take urgent action to avoid widespread environmental and economic implications.

“Whilst I reject the doomsday scenarios that tend to appear in the media about the extinction of bees leading to the extinction of mankind, this can well be seen as our canary in the coal mine.”

Dr Maggie keegan, head of policy for the Scottish Wildlife Trust, said: “The debate on pollinators is extremely timely and reflects the public’s increasing concern over the plight of bumblebees and honeybees. A recent YouGov poll showed that 85 per cent of the British public see the reduction of bees as the most serious environmental issue – even more serious than climate change.

“The Trust believes the decline in wild pollinators and honeybees may act like the ‘canary in the mine’­ – indicating that Scotland’s landscapes and ecosystems are not being managed sustainably.

“Everyone can do their bit to help these wonderful creatures recover by creating a window box and planting wildflowers in the garden, but it is vital we tackle this issue at the landscape-scale to create a ‘nectar network’ across Scotland.

“The Trust hopes this debate converts words into action from the Scottish Government.

“At the very least, the Trust would like to see the Scottish Government commit to banning harmful pesticides such as neonicotinoids outright and supporting research into pollinators and low-pesticide farming systems.”