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Hopes for nature-based jobs in the Highlands as NatureScot publish action plan to meet net-zero targets

By Louise Glen

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Woman scientist ecologist in the forest taking samples of the moss with tweezers.
Woman scientist ecologist in the forest taking samples of the moss with tweezers.

An action plan has been launched to boost nature-based jobs as Scotland steps up efforts to meet net-zero targets.

NatureScot has published an initial route map to develop the skills and opportunities needed to secure a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic and transition to net-zero by 2045.

Research has shown that nature-based jobs already make a significant contribution to the Scottish economy, amounting to at least 195,000 jobs or 7.5 per cent of Scotland’s workforce in 2019.

Significant further growth is anticipated alongside increased investment in nature-based solutions to the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss, including peatland restoration, green infrastructure, woodland creation and restoration, and blue carbon.

Evidence shows that in order to bring about these changes, the current workforce needs to be expanded and skills and training improved.

The action plan sets out how NatureScot, working with partners, aims to fill the gaps and realise the potential of jobs within the nature-based sector.

A key focus is on developing initiatives to encourage young people into nature-based careers and working with partners to address barriers to minority communities entering the sector.

Net zero secretary Michael Matheson visited the new Melfort Park Community Park in Clydebank to welcome the launch of the action plan.

The project has been supported by the Green Infrastructure Fund and aims to help the local community adapt to climate change.

Mr Matheson said: “Scotland’s natural economy is a vital asset in responding to climate change, ending biodiversity loss and creating the new, green employment opportunities of the future.

"Through this action plan for nature-based skills, NatureScot is helping to meet the aims of our Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan and ensure a green recovery from the coronavirus pandemic.

“As we approach COP26 in Glasgow later this year, we want to showcase how Scotland is leading the way equipping our citizens with skills for the future and responding to new, emerging industries to realise the job opportunities associated with a low carbon world.

"Our £100m Green Jobs Fund is underway and, over the next five years and alongside businesses and organisations, will support new and increased opportunities for green job creation across Scotland.”

Francesca Osowska, NatureScot chief executive, said: “We know that nature-based solutions can contribute around 30 per cent to reducing Scotland emissions, but that currently we don’t have sufficient skills in place in order to fully realise this potential.

“Our initial priority focusses on providing skills pathways for young people to enter the nature-based sector. From peatland ecologists, hydrologists and engineers to jobs in green finance, remote-sensing, natural flood management and low-carbon architecture, we want to inspire and engage young people with the growing number of roles and skills available.

"At NatureScot we are pleased to be contributing through our own £1 million youth employment programme supporting 37 modern apprenticeships, student and graduate placements.

“This action plan only covers the year ahead but we look forward to working with partners on longer-term actions to realise our ambition for nature-based jobs.”

Marissa Lippiat, head of climate emergency and high-value manufacturing at Skills Development Scotland, said: “NatureScot’s research has shown the increasing importance of the nature-based jobs sector to Scotland’s green recovery and net zero ambitions.

“Skills Development Scotland has been working closely with NatureScot to develop this Action Plan which will make a significant contribution to the Climate Emergency Skills Action Plan. We look forward to helping NatureScot deliver it and create high quality career opportunities that will support the just transition.”

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