Scottish Ministers grant a stay of execution to Coul Links wildlife

Tuesday 31st July 2018

Scottish Ministers have decided that they need more time to consider the controversial proposals for a golf course at Coul Links, near Embo, East Sutherland.  

The plans which threaten an internationally important wildlife site(1), were approved last month by Highland Councillors despite recommendations for refusal by Council officials.   
This led to Scottish Ministers having the opportunity to ‘call in’ the planning application to reconsider the decision.  However, with just one day to go before the deadline to do this they have decided they need more time to consider the implications of the application and so have extended their review period for another 28 days. 

There has been overwhelming public support to protect the internationally important wildlife site. A campaign involving many Scottish nature conservation organisations, including Buglife Scotland, Butterfly Conservation Scotland, the Marine Conservation Society, the National Trust for Scotland, Plantlife Scotland, RSPB Scotland, and the Scottish Wildlife Trust has already attracted over 10,000 signatures while Highland Council received over 1,800 objections to the planning application. 

These organisations have welcomed the decision by Ministers to allow more time to consider the details of this proposal.   

Aedán Smith, Head of Planning and Development at RSPB Scotland said: “Coul Links is an incredibly special place for wildlife and it is encouraging that Scottish Ministers are taking more time to fully consider the nationally and internationally significant implications for nature of this damaging proposal.  However, if Scottish Ministers genuinely want to show to the world that Scotland can hold its head up alongside other nations as a world leader on environmental issues, they shouldn’t hang about in stepping in to save this special place.  Ten years after a previous Scottish Government gave approval to Donald Trump’s environment wrecking golf course, the eyes of the world are watching us again.”

Alistair Whyte, Head of Plantlife Scotland said: “Scottish Ministers clearly recognise the national and international importance of this decision. The world is watching the Scottish Government to see if it will uphold its hard-won environmental credentials. The future of the rare and endangered habitats and species of Coul Links depends on Ministers doing the right thing for this protected place.”

Jonny Hughes, Chief Executive of the Scottish Wildlife Trust said: “The tens of thousands of people across Scotland who have signed petitions and sent objections about the Coul Links golf proposal will be breathing a collective sigh of relief today. The Scottish Government have recognised the need for further scrutiny of this extraordinarily reckless proposal for golf on a triple protected area and must surely now call in the application in the coming weeks.

“Local community campaigners along with experts from national and international environmental organisations are united in their view that a golf course on this site will fatally comprise the integrity of one of finest coastal dune and wetland habitats in Scotland. We cannot allow that to happen.”

The decision comes only weeks after reports that the Trump golf course at Menie, Aberdeenshire, is likely to be stripped of its conservation status due to the environmental damage inflicted, despite assurances that the course would be 'first class'.