They are the champions


If you were to champion a species, which one would you choose? Something well known, majestic and exciting, or something low-key, humble and obscure?

If you’re an MSP, it seems, you’d go for the first group. Under a scheme to mark the Year of Natural Scotland, our parliamentary representatives were all given the chance to be a species champion and invited to pick a bird, animal, insect, fungus or plant from a list of 93 varieties under threat. They would then be encouraged to build up their knowledge of their species, and work with environmental organisations to protect it.

Well, we’re now three-quarters of the way through the year and 61 species have been snapped up, leaving 32 still up for grabs. Predictably, most of the big-ticket contenders – those usually preceded by the word “iconic” – have gone. The golden eagle is being championed by Rhoda Grant, who also bagged the equally high-profile Scottish wildcat. The capercaillie has come under the wing of Dennis Robertson, while the photogenic red squirrel’s interests are in the care of Aileen McLeod. The lovable puffin has the support of Claire Baker, while the awe-inspiring blue whale has Kenneth Gibson fighting its corner.

Tree LungwortSpecies still awaiting a champion generally score lower in the glamour stakes. The burrowing anenome, drooping saxifrage and tree lungwort (pictured inset) are all available. So are the one-flowered wintergreen, the Alpine sow thistle and the white stalkball.

Full marks, however, to those MSPs who have put their names down for species that lack obvious star quality – such as the pond mud snail (Fiona McLeod), the tadpole shrimp (Elaine Murray) and the bog sun jumper spider (Angus MacDonald). It’s good, too, to see Stuart McMillan unafraid to cosy up to the basking shark, and Stewart Stevenson joining forces with the spiny lobster.

Why not check the full list, produced by Scottish Environment Link, and encourage your MSP to do his or her bit? And let them know there are some champion-friendly species still unclaimed – such as the killer whale, the harbour seal and the water vole.

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