More than three-quarters of Scots support rewilding in Scotland, according to new study.
The research for the Scottish Rewilding Alliance, a coalition of more than 20 organisations, shows 76% support the large-scale restoration of nature to the point it can take care of itself – with 7% opposed.
It comes as the alliance launches a campaign calling on the Scottish Government to commit to rewilding 30% of the country’s land and sea within a decade, ahead of the UN Cop26 summit to be held in Glasgow in November.
Steve Micklewright, convenor of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance, said: “The world faces overlapping nature, climate and health crises, but Scotland has the opportunity to show bold leadership by becoming the world’s first rewilding nation.
“We have the space, political influence and public backing to become a world leader in saving nature and ourselves.”
The alliance claims rewilding at least 30% of Scotland’s land and sea by 2030 can be achieved by restoring and expanding woodlands, moorlands, peatlands, rivers and marine habitats.
This would be done without loss of productive agricultural land.
Only 1.5% of Scotland’s land is national nature reserves and just 4% is native woodland, according to the group.
Species identified as declining or being at risk include red squirrels, wild cats, capercaillie and great yellow bumblebees.
The survey saw 1000 people asked their views on rewilding in the opinion poll conducted by market research agency Survation on behalf of the Scottish Rewilding Alliance.
A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We are committed to tackling the twin crises of climate change and biodiversity loss. It is one of the most important challenges of this generation and is central to our Green Recovery from Covid-19.
“We are leading the world in our moves to end climate change and to restore precious biodiversity in Scotland including through our stewardship of the landmark Edinburgh Agreement.
“Currently our network of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) covers 37% of our seas – exceeding international targets currently being developed for other countries and we have made a voluntary commitment that by 2030 at least 30% of land in Scotland would be protected for nature.
“Moreover 18% of Scotland is currently designated specifically for nature compared to 6.5% in England and a UK average of 10.8%. Our protected area on land increases to just under 23% when our National Parks and National Nature Reserves are added.
“We have also committed a ground-breaking £250m for peatland restoration over ten years, which supports biodiversity, helps tackle climate change and creates green jobs. We are also already meeting our biodiversity strategy target to plant native trees as part of a very ambitious tree-planting programme.”