River Tweed doesn’t find favour with SNH

The River Tweed, Hoe Bridge, Gattonside.
The River Tweed, Hoe Bridge, Gattonside.

THE condition of the River Tweed has been described as poor in a Scottish Natural Heritage report.

The government wildlife conservation agency said almost two-thirds of the river and its indicators are in an “unfavourable” state in a national survey of more than 5,000 natural features and important species.

Among those features deemed “unfavourable” was the river itself – designated as a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) and Special Area of Conservation (SAC) – three species of lamprey fish and plant groups.

However, Atlantic salmon, as well as fly and beetle life which live in and around the Tweed, were rated “favourable”.

In total, the SNH report said only 35.7 per cent of the river and its associated features were in favourable condition. The Tweed was among 22.8 per cent of Scottish landscapes and species described as unfavourable – well above the SNP Government’s target of just five per cent in 2010.

Angus Laing, SNH’s protected places unit manager, said: “We are disappointed that there’s been no improvement this year, but changes to entire ecosystems have to be measured over decades, not years.

“Since 2005, the 5,478 protected habitats and species in Scotland have improved by more than six per cent – this is no mean feat when you look at the range and area involved.”

However, Mr Laing admitted there were “bigger challenges” now facing Scotland’s landscapes and wildlife which may increase in the coming years.

He added: “Dealing with invasive species is also difficult on many designated sites, without destroying the vegetation we’re trying to protect. Added to this, climate change may be affecting many of our habitats and species unpredictably.

“But we are working as hard as we can to improve the condition of Scotland’s protected natural areas.

“A huge amount of work has been carried out by public bodies, conservation organisations and private individuals and companies, and we all must continue to work together to reach the Scottish Government’s ambitious target of 95 per cent in favourable condition and make sure Scotland’s nature thrives.”

Clerk to the River Tweed Commission, Nick Yonge, said he knew nothing of the SNH report’s results, pointing out the last known survey of lamprey on the waterway was conducted by his organisation “several years ago”.

On the “favourable” rating for Atlantic salmon, Mr Yonge added: “Salmon is such an important part of the Borders economy, and to the biology of the River Tweed.”