NatureScot Board meeting - 16 March 2022
Board Meeting – Wednesday 16 March 2022
Start Time: 09:30
- Unconfirmed Minutes and Action Points*
- Strategic Development Update 2022/2026
- 2022/23 Business Plan*
- Future Risk Appetite
- Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and COP15
- Cyber Security – oral report
- ARC, SAC and PAC Review of Terms of Reference
- Chief Executive’s Report – oral report
* indicates paper is Official-Sensitive.
Open session confirmed minutes
- Mike Cantlay Chair
- Kate Broughton Member
- Ian Gambles Member
- Peter Higgins Member
- Jackie Hyland Member
- David Johnstone Member
- Colin McPhail Member
- Wayne Powell Member
- Heather Reid Member
- Nikki Yoxall Member
- Francesca Osowska Chief Executive
- Nick Halfhide Director of Nature and Climate Change
- Robbie Kernahan Director of Sustainable Growth
- Jane Macdonald Director of Business Services & Transformation
- Stuart MacQuarrie Deputy Director of Business Services & Transformation
- Claudia Rowse Deputy Director of Sustainable Growth
- Jason Ormiston Head of External Affairs
- Sara Lewis Governance Support Manager (item 9 and minutes)
- Yvonne McIntosh Planning and Performance Manager (items 6 & 7)
- Des Thompson Principal Adviser on Science and Biodiversity (item 8)
- Jeremy Watson Freelance Journalist – Public Observer (open agenda items only)
- Bethia Pearson Practical Placement – Conservation Management (Young Employee Panel)
- Cath Denholm Deputy Chair
- Aoife Martin Member
- Eileen Stuart Deputy Director of Nature and Climate Change
- Graham Boyle Chief of Staff
AGENDA ITEM 1: OPENING REMARKS AND APOLOGIES
1. The Chair opened the meeting by welcoming everyone to the one hundred and ninety-seventh meeting of the Board of NatureScot. Particular welcome was given to Bethia Pearson from the Young Employee Panel. The Chair informed that freelance journalist Jeremy Watson would join the meeting as a public observer from agenda item 5.
2. Apologies from Cath Denholm, Aoife Martin, Eileen Stuart, and Graham Boyle were noted. It was also noted that Nikki Yoxall and Pete Higgins would join the meeting at a later point.
3. The Chair updated on his latest visit with the Chief Executive (CE) to Hopes Estate in East Lothian, and on his recent meeting with Sir William Worsley, Chair of the Forestry Commission.
4. Lastly, the Chair highlighted that this would be the last Board meeting for members Kate Broughton and Jackie Hyland, and also for absent member Cath Denholm.
AGENDA ITEM 2: DECLARATIONS OF INTEREST
5. There were no declarations of interest.
AGENDA ITEM 3: MINUTES AND ACTION POINTS FROM 03 FEBRUARY 2022
6. Board members were content to approve the minutes of the Board of NatureScot Meeting on the 03 February 2022.
7. The actions points were noted:
Action Point (AP13/181) (Future Options for Kinloch Castle) Board members acknowledged that this action remains ongoing, with Savills engaging with their client list to determine any parties interested in purchase.
Action Point (AP02/188) (Update to Board Members on Development of Green Finance) Board members acknowledged that they would receive a presentation on this topic at their May 2022 meeting, therefore this action was discharged.
Action Point (AP03/192) (Plan for Board Engagement with Staff). Members acknowledged that suggestions for engagement had been circulated, therefore this action point was discharged.
Action Point (01/195) (Production of Detailed Annual Plan of NatureScot Planned Progress). An update was received that this detail had been incorporated into the Corporate Plan. It was therefore agreed that this action point would be discharged.
Action Point (02/195) (Information on the Meaning and Function of the Transformation Steering Group to be Shared with Board Members). The Board noted that this action point remains ongoing.
Action Point (01/196) (Information on Impact of Blogs and Activities on Equality and Diversity). Board members noted that this action point remains ongoing.
AGENDA ITEM 4: MATTERS ARISING
8. Members requested comment on the recently published ‘Is Scotland Climate Ready?’ report, in terms of how the report findings related to the ongoing work on the next Corporate Plan. The CE acknowledged that there was a need to double existing efforts in using nature-based solutions to address climate change, through an adaptation/mitigation lens. In addition, she informed that the response to the report regarding agriculture would be covered in later agenda items at this meeting.
Jeremy Watson joins the meeting.
AGENDA ITEM 5: STRATEGIC DEVELOPMENT UPDATE 2022/26
9. This agenda item summarised the remaining steps to conclude the new Corporate Plan and build a strong foundation while approaching the Resource Spending Review in May. Stuart MacQuarrie updated members that since the last Board meeting, feedback from members and staff had informed the plan, and that Ministers had also engaged with it. It was expected that the forthcoming spending review and publication of the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy would also inform the content of the plan.
10. Plans were being made for internal engagement with staff during the Staff Conference taking place in April. External engagement opportunities were also being developed.
11. As well as considering they could play in engaging with staff during the Staff Conference on the Corporate Plan, the Board were asked to:
- Approve the Corporate Plan for formal submission to the Minister.
- Agree next steps to support effective transition into year 1 of the new Corporate Plan through Board’s role in both internal and external engagement.
12. The CE asked members whether they were in agreement for the Executive to make any minor adjustments to the Corporate Plan which may be necessary after it had been reviewed by Ministers. Members were in agreement, noting that they would only be asked for further input should there be substantial changes to make.
13. The Board wished to ensure that there was the expectation for NatureScot to lead the work required on the green skills agenda, while driving collaborative working with partner organisations. It was confirmed that NatureScot does not have the resources to achieve this work, and nature-based solutions skills work, alone. Alignment with other bodies, and the Scottish Government’s (SG) Climate Change Action Plan vision and ambition would be needed to effect progress, and members advised that a convening approach is explicitly made within the Corporate Plan. Stakeholders had already been engaged in the content of the plan.
14. Members also heard that year 1 of the Corporate Plan should be seen as a transitional year, within which continuing external engagement with partners would take place, while priorities were being adjusted in line with budgets, once confirmed for years 2 – 4.
15. Members offered their support and input regarding engagement with the public on the Corporate Plan, particularly opportunities with schools and science festivals.
16. The CE thanked those members who had taken part in the Board Corporate Oversight Group, giving support and input to the Corporate Plan.
17. Members agreed the recommendations provided in the meeting paper.
Jeremy Watson leaves the meeting.
AGENDA ITEM 6: FINAL DRAFT OF BUSINESS PLAN 2022/23
18. This agenda item covered the final stage of production of the Business Plan for 2022/23. The Business Plan is a key part of Scottish Government’s framework of governance and accountability. It sets out NatureScot’s contribution to the 6 NPF indicators reported on, and how outcomes will be delivered during the first year of the Corporate Plan 2022/26. The Business Plan focuses on leadership ambition, and the work NatureScot will undertake to position nature-based solutions in response to the climate emergency and the loss of biodiversity, moving towards a nature-rich future.
19. The Board were asked to consider the following recommendations:
- Finalise and agree sign off of the content of the Business Plan.
- To note the position of reprioritisation and approve the budget allocations.
- To note the position of the progress towards resourcing the plan.
- To note the measurement framework to support performance dashboard reporting.
20. Members were informed that NatureScot had been encouraged by SG to present them with the nature-based solution interventions needed to achieve climate change and biodiversity targets, and therefore impacting on the portfolios of Mr Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Infrastructure and Connectivity of Scotland and Ms Slater, Cabinet Minister for Green Skills, Circular Economy and Biodiversity. These were being collated by Nick Halfhide, who will share the paper with members on completion.
21. Refocused priorities within year 1 of the Business Plan were acknowledged as deer management, licencing, Marine Protected Areas, Natural Capital Pilot Programme, beaver translocation and grouse moor management. There were areas of work that were not able to be resourced at present, however it was expected that during year 1 of the Business Plan, progress in these areas would resume, through the recycling of available resource as part of the 90 day business planning process. Progress will be tracked via the measures gallery, developed as part of the quarterly performance report dashboard.
22. It was noted that in addition to grant-in-aid received, NatureScot had been successful in gaining additional resources for ScotWind, transformative land use and peatland restoration projects, which would help offset resourcing pressures in other areas.
23. Members queried how far the organisation had investigated the possibilities of partners taking over some of the work that NatureScot will be unable to continue due to prioritisation of resources. Nick Halfhide confirmed that where appropriate, environmental non-government organisations (eNGOs) will be redirected to other funding sources. Through the transitional year 1 of the Business Plan, engagement will take place with partners to talk through any impacts of the Business Plan on their organisations. It was agreed that a structured plan would be produced on the management of stakeholder interaction with the Business Plan.
Action Point 01/197
24. While monitoring work for example has had little NatureScot involvement, work has been ongoing for some time to grow the use of Citizen Science, as well as encouraging eNGOs to increase their capacity and skill base in this area, via the Environmental Economy Leaders Group.
25. In addition, it was recognised that the resourcing decisions made within the Business Plan provided opportunities for some partners, for example by utilising funding from the Nature Restoration Fund in order to complete projects previously undertaken by NatureScot. The importance of the CivTech programme was also recognised as an important tool in being able to achieve certain areas of work with reduced resourcing.
26. The Board asked how the Youth Employment programme had freed up funding. Jane Macdonald explained that the dedicated programme for increasing youth employment within NatureScot, over the past two years, would not be continuing under the new Business Plan. Instead, opportunities would be sought through the recruitment process to support youth employment. Members recognised the reputational risk in this area which needed managing.
27. Further discussion took place on the Nature Restoration Fund, and whether it was possible to gauge the interest and capacity for partners to continue particular areas of work via their applications for this funding. It was confirmed that although the fund is mainly for capital works, applications for longer term larger projects will be received by May.
28. Members queried the absence of targets within the Business Plan, and how success would be measured. It was confirmed that Key Performance Indicators had been agreed within the organisation, and that some further work was to be done before the Corporate Plan and Business Plan is presented to Ministers for approval.
29. Members were content to agree the recommendations.
AGENDA ITEM 7 – FUTURE RISK APPETITE
30. This agenda item invited Board members to contribute to the development of a risk appetite statement that reflects the organisation’s approach to risk in strategic decision making. A more specific statement on the organisation’s appetite to risk will be used to inform and support strategic-related decisions during the life of the Corporate Plan.
31. The Board were asked to:
- Discuss and agree a new risk appetite for the 2022-2026 Corporate Plan.
- Confirm whether one risk appetite level should be set for each category.
32. Members took part in a Menti poll in order to determine their levels of risk appetite in certain areas. The poll results will be used to identify the manageable range of risk appetite. It was suggested that risk appetite is discussed more regularly by the Board, rather than once per Corporate Plan period.
33. The Chair requested that the results are presented to the Board at their next meeting on 18 May, and compared with the results from the Senior Leadership Team, along with plans for next steps.
Post meeting note: Future Risk Appetite has been added to the agenda for the Board meeting on 18 May 2022.
AGENDA ITEM 8 - Scottish Biodiversity Strategy and COP15
34. This agenda item outlined to Members the significant key themes and choices emerging from the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy (SBS) development work. It also informed how the SBS links to COP15 (CBD, Kunming China, August/September 2022) - the international platform for ratifying the international global biodiversity framework for action.
35. The Board were asked to:
- Agree that the most significant key themes and policy choices have been identified, and offer their insights into how these should be approached.
36. Members heard that the draft strategy will be published on 24 April, leading to consultation in May. During discussion of the strategy and its key themes and policy areas, the following points were made:
- Some choices which could be made more explicit within the strategy include how plans for agriculture reconcile with achieving food security (vertical farming and gene editing), inclusion of reference to soils and fresh water, priority given to ecosystems over iconic species, favouring a resilience approach to climate change.
- The importance of science based evidence driving the approach to climate change.
- Restrictions on access can be contentious, however educating the public in access considerations could be helpful.
- The opportunity to address the issue of invasive non-native species at scale through legal incentives or land owner participation.
- Opportunities to experience an increase in agricultural productivity and biodiversity rather than a decline. Des Thompson agreed to discuss this further with Wayne Powell and Nikki Yoxall outside of the meeting.
Action Point 02/197
37. Des Thompson informed members that there was a strong drive to use scientific evidence to support the outcomes of the SBS in the vision for 2045, via the Rural Environment Science Analytical Services (RESAS) and the Scottish Environment, Food and Agriculture Research Institutes (SEFARI). This had also been requested by Ms Slater. He also confirmed that the large scale agricultural work referred to within the strategy related to the collaboration with multiple land owners rather than purely a few land owners of large areas.
38. Members further commented on the opportunity to include specific focus on lowland farming systems, not purely upland.
39. The Board was keen to add value to the development of the SBS, therefore Nick Halfhide agreed to follow up on this outside of the meeting.
Action Point 03/197
Pete Higgins joins the meeting.
AGENDA ITEM 9 – ARC, PAC, SAC, AND SAC EXPERT PANEL TERMS OF REFERENCE REVIEW
40. This agenda item presented to the Board the opportunity to endorse the Audit and Risk Committee, Protected Areas Committee, Scientific Advisory Committee, and the Scientific Advisory Committee Expert Panel’s bi-annually updated Terms of Reference.
41. Minor changes had been made to the Terms of Reference, which Members were content to endorse.
AGENDA ITEM 10: CHIEF EXECUTIVE’S REPORT
42. Board members noted the contents of the Chief Executive’s report, in particular the following key themes:
- Recent engagement visits to projects which directly support the Corporate Plan.
- Ways of working charter being produced to support staff in their approach to blended working location arrangements.
- Progress in the production of the Corporate Plan in conjunction with SG’s Sponsor department.
- Stakeholder meetings undertaken.
- Excellent media coverage including that of the South of Scotland Golden Eagle Project, the plight of the capercaillie, and pressure on SG for positive news on beaver translocation.
43. The CE specifically made mention of the end of financial year outturn figures for the delivery of peatland restoration. The target set was for 5600 hectares to be restored, however a total of 5800 hectares had been achieved. This represented a 40% increase in delivery when compared with the previous year.
AGENDA ITEM 11: DRAFT AGENDA FOR 18 MAY 2022 MEETING
44. Members noted the draft agenda for the Board meeting taking place on 18 May 2022.
ANY OTHER BUSINESS
45. Stuart MacQuarrie updated Members that the year-end financial position was now available following the Board’s consideration of the Q4 Performance Reports in March, particularly on structural funds, indirect capital expenditure, and holiday leave accrual. A statement outlining the financial position will be produced, and forwarded to Board members via the Executive Office.
46. Members asked the Senior Leadership Team (SLT) for their views on the recent National Beaver Strategy Group meetings. SLT reported mixed feedback, but confirmed that the process for developing the strategy was as inclusive as possible, with indications that a valuable strategy would result from the group.
47. The Chair and CE recognised that this was the last Board meeting during the tenure of members Cath Denholm, Kate Broughton and Jackie Hyland. They offered their thanks on behalf of both the Board and Executive for their input throughout their time on the Board, and wished them well in their future endeavours.
48. Kate Broughton and Jackie Hyland gave their appreciation to Board, SLT and NatureScot colleagues for their support, having greatly enjoyed their time in the organisation, and being involved in the work address the twin crises of biodiversity and climate change.
Date of Next Meeting
49. The next Board of NatureScot meeting is planned to take place on 18 May 2022, via MS Teams.
50. The Chair thanked all those in attendance, particularly Bethia Pearson from the Young Employee Panel, and Jeremy Watson. The meeting was closed.
Please note, that these documents below may not be fully accessible at present.
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