Board Meeting - 03 February 2021
Please note the attached document downloads are not accessible pdfs. Should you require accessible copies, please contact the Executive Office
Open session confirmed minutes - 3 February 2021
ONE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY-NINTH MEETING OF THE BOARD OF NATURESCOT
BOARD VIRTUAL MEETING SPACE, 03 FEBRUARY 2021
OPEN SESSION CONFIRMED MINUTES
Mike Cantlay Chair
Angus Campbell Deputy Chair
Cath Denholm Deputy Chair
Kate Broughton Member
Bob Furness Member
Ian Gillies Member
Jackie Hyland Member
Aoife Martin Member
Susan Murray Member
Francesca Osowska Chief Executive
Robbie Kernahan Director of Sustainable Growth
Jane Macdonald Director of Business Services & Transformation
Eileen Stuart Director of Nature and Climate Change
Stuart MacQuarrie Deputy Director of Business Services & Transformation
Graham Neville Deputy Director of Nature and Climate Change
Claudia Rowse Deputy Director of Sustainable Growth
Jason Ormiston Head of External Affairs
Graham Boyle Chief of Staff
Ivana Curuvija Greening Officer (item 9)
Katie Gillham Head of Marine Ecosystems (item 12)
Sara Lewis Governance Support Manager (minutes)
Michelle Turner Planning and Performance Officer (Young Employee Panel)
AGENDA ITEM 1: OPENING REMARKS AND APOLOGIES
- The Chair opened the meeting by welcoming everyone to the one hundred and eighty-ninth meeting of NatureScot. Particular welcome was given to Michelle Turner from NatureScot’s Young Employee Panel. The Chair informed that Kate Broughton would provide an oral update on recent Audit and Risk Committee activity after agenda item 5.
2. There were no apologies.
3. The Chair updated the Board on his recent activities including work on the Board member recruitment campaign which had recently closed for applications, liaison with the Scottish Gamekeepers Association and Scottish Land and Estates. In addition, the Chair and Chief Executive had met with His Royal Highness Prince Charles to discuss a number of issues of common interest including his “Earth Charter”. Chair also informed of staff changes within Scottish Government, including the anticipated change of Cabinet Secretary (Environment, Climate Change and Land Reform) the newly appointed Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment, and the forthcoming appointment of a new Director of Environment and Forestry.
AGENDA ITEM 2: DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
4. There were no declarations of interest.
AGENDA ITEM 3: MINUTES AND ACTION POINTS
5. Board members were content to approve the minutes of the Board of NatureScot Meeting on the 09 December 2020 after being proposed by Ian Gillies and seconded by Angus Campbell.
6. The actions points were discussed and the following updates were provided:
Action Point (AP01/181) (Future Paper on Protected Areas Committee Review) Board members acknowledged that this action remains ongoing and is expected on the agenda for the March Board meeting.
Action Point (AP13/181) (Future Options for Kinloch Castle) Board members acknowledged that this action remains ongoing.
Action Point (AP01/188) (Dashboard to Show Progress in Tackling Biodiversity Loss and Climate Change) Board members noted that measures of success will be incorporated into the 2021/22 Business Plan, and agreed to discharge this action point.
Action Point (AP02/188) (Update to Board Members on Development of Green Finance) Board members acknowledged that this action remains ongoing.
AGENDA ITEM 4: MATTERS ARISING
7. There were no matters arising.
AGENDA ITEM 5: DEPUTY CHAIRS’ REPORT
8. Angus Campbell updated on his involvement in the following:
- Winter Carnival
- Protected Areas work
9. Cath Denholm updated on her involvement in the following:
- Winter Carnival
- Board member recruitment
- Board member induction
- JNCC where a new CEO, Gemma Harper and Chair, Colin Galbraith had been appointed
ADDITIONAL ITEM: AUDIT AND RISK COMMITTEE UPDATE
10. Kate Broughton took the opportunity to update members on the recent work of the Audit and Risk Committee (ARC), which met on 01 February 2021. The update covered the following work:
- Audit Scotland Annual Audit Plan
- Risk Management
- Internal Audit Programme – 2020/21
- Draft Internal Audit Programme – 2021/22
- Peatland Action Follow-Up Audit
- Biannual Information Management, Cyber Security and GDPR Update
- ARC Self-Assessment
11. Kate informed that the Committee was satisfied with the monitoring controls and actions relating to the Peatland Action audit recommendations, including the planned appointment of a dedicated programme manager. In addition, the Committee were satisfied that the organisation is taking appropriate steps to review their cyber security measures following the cyber-attack on SEPA in December 2020.
12. The update concluded with members hearing that improvements had been suggested as part of the ARC Self-Assessment exercise, which should increase the effectiveness of the Committee.
AGENDA ITEM 6: COVID-19 UPDATE
13. Board members received an update on Covid-19, which featured the following key points:
- Infection rates continue to fall within Scotland, but are affected by newer more transmittable strains of the virus.
- Vaccination programme is underway.
- Scottish hospitals are at capacity.
- Astra Zenica version of the vaccine reduces the risk of spreading the virus.
14. Members discussed the order in which the vaccination programme is being rolled out.
AGENDA ITEM 7: CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S REPORT
15. The Board noted the contents of the CE Report, including the following highlights:
- COP15 and COP26 preparations.
- Potential challenges post EU Exit.
- Arrangements for agricultural support.
- Visitor management plans for National Nature Reserves (NNR).
- Wildlife Management.
- Response to cyber-attack on SEPA.
- Winter Carnival and staff wellbeing.
16. Board members discussed the CE’s recent meeting with Scotland’s Rural University and College, positioning NatureScot in response to the Dasgupta Review, and the effect of the extended lockdown restrictions on NNR based research work. Jackie Hyland offered to liaise with Jane Macdonald on the impact of Covid-19 testing for those involved in outdoor working. On visitor management Eileen Stuart said there were anticipating issues similar to last year but were better prepared from lessons learnt.
17. Noting the severity of the cyber-attack on SEPA, the Board requested assurance that all possible measures are in place to reduce the risk of a similar attack on NatureScot. Jane Macdonald said that due to differences in network infrastructure and set up, there was a lesser risk to NatureScot systems, and that work is underway as further mitigation. She confirmed that none of NatureScot’s staff data was affected through the attack on SEPA.
AGENDA ITEM 8: NATURESCOT BUDGET ALLOCATIONS 2021/22
18. Stuart MacQuarrie presented this paper, which gave details of the next step in the development of the NatureScot Business Plan 2021/22. Specifically, budget allocation scenarios that, in the absence of a draft Scottish budget when the paper was written, would help ensure that decisions could be taken quickly when the budget announcement was made. The budget announcement was made on 28 January, just a few days prior to this meeting.
19. The paper asked that the Board confirm whether the budget allocations and draft business plan priorities sufficiently set the ambition for NatureScot in the last year of the current Corporate Plan.
20. The Board was informed that the confirmed budget allocation was close to planning scenario 1, a flat cash settlement. Increasing the number of youth employment opportunities as well as applications for the Biodiversity Challenge Fund during 2020/21 had put pressure on both paybill and project budgets. Angus raised concerns that this would impact on commitments made on youth employment. He was assured that this was included in the forward plan for 21/22
21. Stuart informed that project budget approvals would now be aligned with the available budget. In relation to the capital budget, members noted additional funding which will further progress NatureScot’s Net Zero plan.
22. During discussion, Board members voiced their desire to further increase youth employment opportunities, particularly for those between 16-18 years old. It was agreed that further work would be done to find out what else is possible within the existing targets for youth employment, particularly for those between 16-18 years old.
Action Point 01/189
23. Members requested that the additional work required in para.25 of the paper was completed in time for the March 2021 Board meeting, when they would then would then decide on the suitability of the ambition for Nature Scot in the last year of the corporate plan.
AGENDA ITEM 9: NATURESCOT NET ZERO PLAN
24. Stuart MacQuarrie set the context of this paper for members by recapping that NatureScot had a target of 2035 to reach zero net emissions. The target is 5 years ahead of that required by the Scottish Government. Working towards this target would be transformational within the organisation, changing the way staff work, including how the NatureScot estate is managed, and introduction of new technologies. The paper asked the Board to endorse the target date and ambition stretch target proposed, and to approve the net zero statement.
25. Ivana Curuvija outlined the plan, which focussed mainly on buildings and travel, and stated that the organisation’s fleet of vehicles would be solely electric by 2025.
26. Board members held the following areas of discussion:
- Significance of use of 2020 as baseline year, and whether an earlier year was more appropriate.
- Paper does not credit progress already made towards net zero in recent years.
- Current bids for CivTech funding may enable use of technology for survey work, replacing helicopter use. It was noted that there was the option of ceasing use of helicopters straight away, while seeking a replacement.
27. Members endorsed both recommendations in the paper.
Robbie Kernahan joins the meeting
AGENDA ITEM 10: RESTORING SCOTLAND’S PEATLANDS – OUR AMBITION AND ROLE
28. Claudia Rowse gave a presentation to the Board on NatureScot’s ambition and role in restoring Scotland’s peatlands. The ambition and role were summarised as:
- Delivery - build capacity to scale up and expand quickly
- Advisory - support land owners and managers
- Training - develop contractor capacity, training and skills 47
- Evidence – co-ordinate monitoring and data across Delivery Partners
- Financial - promote private investment and Peatland Carbon Code
- Strategic – evolve our Delivery Role in response to changing context
Jackie Hyland leaves the meeting
29. Following the presentation, members made the following comments:
- The scale of peatland restoration required, and the need for significant private investment to balance ambition with feasibility.
- NatureScot’s role in advising Ministers on ways to achieve the significant targets set for peatland restoration.
- Issues encountered with the use of rolling contracts for Peatland Action staff, and future planning towards permanent posts being dependant on multi-year funding.
- NatureScot’s contribution of peatland restoration towards the Scottish Government (SG) net zero target. The move from measuring in hectares target to carbon equivalent.
- Noted that NatureScot had increased staff capacity for securing green finance.
30. The Board requested that this item return to a Board meeting around May/June 2021 to discuss the situation at that time, and agree advice to give to Scottish Government (SG), to include multi-year budgeting and governance arrangements. The links with the SG Climate Change Plan, nature-based solutions, the next corporate plan, and staff capacity were noted.
Action Point 02/189
Susan Murray leaves the meeting.
AGENDA ITEM 11: Q3 PERFORMANCE REPORTS 2020/21
31. Stuart MacQuarrie presented the Q3 performance reports to Board members, giving the highlights of the period as progress on green recovery and action plan with the launch of the Better Places fund. The Winter Carnival was taking place for staff engagement. The paper asked that the Board note the Quarter 3 report and confirm it is content with overall progress to date, the headline achievements and the opportunities & issues identified.
Outcomes 1 and 2
32. Eileen Stuart provided the following highlights on behalf of Outcomes 1 and 2:
- Newly approved Marine Protected Areas.
- Publication of the SG Statement of Intent showing government focus on biodiversity, committing more land to protected area status.
- Focus on COP15, COP26 and visitor management in Q4.
- Some slippage in marine work due to Covid-19 restrictions and related re-prioritisation of staff resource.
33. Robbie Kernahan provided the following highlights on behalf of Outcome 3:
- Supporting SG on their response to the Werritty Report and grouse/muirburn.
- Work towards Agri-Environment Climate Scheme for 2021/22.
- Supporting Marine Scotland with the Blue Economy Action Plan.
- Casework on renewables projects.
- Forward focus will be on the SG response to the Deer Working Group Report, peatland work, agricultural support relating to beef, arable and upland reviews, and support to Marine Scotland’s ScotWind project.
34. Jane Macdonald provided the following highlights on behalf of Outcome 4:
- Staff working on competing priorities of providing business services, responding to Covid-19 and accelerating transformation work including the introduction of MS 365 and MS Teams.
- Staff wellbeing and engagement continues to be priority, with the offering of the Winter Carnival events.
- Net zero plan work.
- Increased cyber-security work following the attack on SEPA systems.
35. David Johnston gave the following detail on the financial position as at 2 February 2021:
- Forecast underspend, which has reduced due to the expectation of meeting the target spend on peatland restoration.
- Opportunity to invest in green recovery work through the Better Places fund.
- Project delivery and slippage continues to be under review, with active budget management taking place and control mechanisms working well.
36. Jane Macdonald gave the following detail from the People Report:
- Aware that staff wellbeing may have been affected since lockdown restrictions were reintroduced in December.
- Decline in sickness absence reflects trends in other organisations.
- Expected increase in use of Special Paid Leave due to closure of schools and nurseries.
- Lower levels of employee relations casework being seen.
- New staff wellbeing tools being introduced – Work Happy and Hive.
37. Board members noted the information in the risk report, and that it had been discussed at the Audit and Risk Committee meeting on 1 February 2021.
38. Board members discussed the Q3 performance reports, raising the following points:
- Stakeholder engagement in light of the Werritty Report and Deer Working Group Report.
- Slippage in two successive quarters on work towards the Health and Resilience of Scotland’s Nature. In addition, delay on completion of the Protected Areas Review due to the effect of Covid-19 restrictions on stakeholder sessions. There had been slippage in the delivery of projects funded through the Biodiversity Challenge Fund, as well as marine work, due to Covid-19. Discussions with Marine Scotland have aligned their priorities with NatureScot’s, to target effort more effectively.
39. The Board was content to agree the recommendations.
AGENDA ITEM 12: SCOTLAND’S MARINE ASSESSMENT 2020
40. Katie Gillham gave a presentation to Board members of the work involved in Scotland’s Marine Assessment 2020. The assessment took place in order to assess the health of the marine environment around the country, including trends of species, and the condition of the seas.
41. Members discussed with Katie various areas of the assessment, including:
- Levels of toxicity in sea mammals.
- How the assessment could lead to species management plans.
- Potential for data to be misleading if taken out of context.
- Knowledge of those who took part in the assessment.
Year of Coasts and Waters – Progress Update
42. This information paper provided Board members with an update on the delivery of key Year of Coasts and Waters projects in 2020. It also outlined plans to complete work that was not possible during 2020, in 2021. The Board noted the contents of the paper.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
43. Aoife Martin requested use of an alternative video conferencing facility for the next Board meeting in March. Graham Boyle informed of plans to launch MS Teams within NatureScot in Q1 however would explore the possibility of trialling this for the next meeting.
44. Michelle Turner offered her thanks to the Board for her attendance at the meeting, and on behalf of the Young Employee Panel, appreciated that youth employment was still a focus for members.
Forward Agenda – 17 March 2021
45. The Board noted the forward agenda for 17 March 2021.
Date of Next Meeting
46. The next Board of NatureScot meeting is planned to take place on 17 March 2021, via video conferencing.
47. The Chair thanked all those in attendance, particularly Michelle Turner of the Young Employee Panel. Chair then closed the meeting.
Agenda for 3 February 2021 - Board/189/01
One Hundred and Eighty-Ninth Meeting of the Board of NatureScot - 3 February 2021
- Unconfirmed Minutes and Action Points*
- Deputy Chair’s Report – oral report
- Covid-19 Update – oral report
- Chief Executive’s Report – oral report
- NatureScot Budget Allocations 2021/22
- NatureScot Net Zero Plan
- Restoring Scotland’s peatlands – our ambition and role
- Q3 Performance Reports
- Scotland’s Marine Assessment 2020
- Year of Coasts and Waters – Progress Update – Info paper
* indicates the paper is Official-Sensitive.