Scotland is defined very much by its nature and this is reflected in a wealth of references to nature in our literature and rich cultural heritage. We treasure Scotland's native animals and plants and enjoy the vibrant landscapes and protected areas with their great beauty and complex webs of life. Biodiversity sustains our own lives and is at the core of what makes Scotland so special.
Scotland's people have long known we are part of and reliant upon the natural world around us. However, today, in the 21st Century, we have a deeper awareness of the need to protect Scotland's nature to ensure a healthy and prosperous future for our country. Now, we need to respond to that increased understanding of how nature sustains us, and the connections between biodiversity, healthy functioning ecosystems and wider benefits to individuals and society. We must respect the intrinsic appeal of nature too, because where we lose species or natural habitats we are diminished as a nation and our nature is the poorer. Reversing such changes and restoring nature is a challenge, but it is a hugely rewarding feat.
New international targets place an equal status on the prevention of the loss of species and the preservation of the benefits from nature (which are referred to as 'ecosystem services'). It is my view that consideration of ecosystem services must be part of how we plan all policies that impact on the natural environment.
'Scotland's rich and diverse natural environment is a national asset and a source of significant international competitive advantage. We trade on its quality, so its continuing health and improvement is vital to sustainable economic growth. Many of Scotland's growth sectors such as tourism, and food and drink depend on high quality air, land and water.'
Scottish Government Economic Strategy (2011) 
Biodiversity plays an essential role in meeting the Scottish Government's vision of a smart, sustainable and successful Scotland, and lies at the heart of our economic strategy. Our natural environment plays a vital role in the prosperity of Scotland and in our national identity. It supports our tourism, farming, forestry, aquaculture and fishing industries and is crucial to attracting investment and marketing of our food and drink. It adds variety to our urban green spaces and contributes hugely to our health and wellbeing. Scotland's nature can, and does, inspire our people.
There is much that the Scottish Government can still do to improve our response to this biodiversity challenge. We need to move further in aligning policies across a wide range of areas concerned with biodiversity. We need to ensure there is adequate protection of nature. We must seize opportunities to achieve other goals in an effective and low cost way through improvements to the natural environment, e.g. in looking for further opportunities to deploy natural flood management. In working through such opportunities, we should reflect the lessons of the Christie Commission (2001)  on public services.
There is also much that can be achieved by local government, agencies and other public bodies. While there are many great examples of progress, I urge our partners to improve the way they work together and to step up to their 'biodiversity duty'. Achieving the desired outcomes for biodiversity is not something that the Scottish Government can do alone. We look forward to continued valuable contributions from the nature charities through their campaigning work and all that they do on their own land. We want Local Biodiversity Action Partnerships to provide a model for effective encouragement and coordination of local action. We urge local communities to seize opportunities to manage and improve their local environment. Businesses are rising to the challenge, but many can do more as part of their wider civic responsibilities. We need more landowners and managers to appreciate that protecting nature is a vital part of their role because so much of our nature relies on their stewardship.
Together, we can make a difference.
Paul Wheelhouse MSP
Minister for Environment and Climate Change