A brief history of WWF Scotland
A history of WWF Scotland
1961 - 1985
WWF-UK has supported work in Scotland since its inception in 1961, although its role has changed during this time. In the early years WWF operated simply as a fund, raising and allocating moneys to support good work in nature conservation. Roughly two thirds went to WWF’s international work, with the remaining third spent in the UK. Well into the 1990s, many environmental NGOs in Scotland had the benefit of WWF’s generous grants. WWF’s UK network of regionally based staff, raising funds and membership support, was also represented in Scotland from the early years, rising to a staff of four, based in Perth. In 1984 this operation was closed down after organisational restructuring, when WWF was starting to engage more directly as a participant in its own right in environmental debate and policy-making.
1985 - 1990
In 1985 WWF-UK decided to establish a ‘conservation officer’ presence in Scotland, contributing actively to the major land use and conservation issues of the day. At the time, over 90% of the UK total of 30,000ha per annum of afforestation was taking place in Scotland, much of it in highly contentious areas such as the Flow Country of Caithness and Sutherland; fishfarming was developing at breakneck speed along the wild coastlines of the north and west, raising controversies in the use of toxic chemicals for control of parasites and in conflicts with seals; battles raged over intrusive ski developments in the Cairngorms; and Scotland’s precious vestiges of native woodland and arctic alpine vegetation were under increasing pressure from rising populations of deer.
A conservation officer was appointed (Simon Pepper), and support was given by WWF-UK for the recruitment of a team which grew at the rate of about one person per year to cover the main tasks of policy advocacy, education, fundraising, communications and public support. The team was based in the Square at Aberfeldy, and worked to contribute well researched, constructive and authoritative input to the public debate on these issues, as well as offering fresh insights from an international perspective. WWF Scotland, as it was now known, also played a leading role in the formation of Scottish Wildlife and Countryside Link (later Scottish Environment Link) as an association of the growing community of environmental NGOs, providing a valuable platform for information exchange and collective action.
The increasing emphasis on corporate fundraising in the 1980s, and the arrival of the National Lottery in the ‘90s provided new sources of funding for charitable activity, easing WWF’s own process of conversion from grant-giving to action in its own right. By the mid ‘90s WWF Scotland had established its credentials within WWF-UK as an effective outpost in a part of the UK which could not be adequately addressed from the HQ in Surrey, and within Scotland as a strong and respected contributor on Scottish issues from a Scottish standpoint, assisted by an Advisory Council of senior figures from across civil society in Scotland.
With a strong network of wildlife organisations already operating in Scotland, our efforts turned increasingly towards the wider resource management issues such as sea fisheries, rivers and national parks, and beyond these to sustainable development, education and to growing concerns on global warming and its many causes and impacts. Landmark projects such as Wild Rivers, which used a combination of demonstration sites, good practice guides and policy recommendations to further more natural management of rivers, and Bright Sparks, an education initiative which helped teachers bring sustainable development to life across primary schools in Scotland, confirmed WWF Scotland’s status as a constructive contributor and major influence in Scottish environmental debate.
1999 - 2012
These preparations proved invaluable when, in 1999, devolution led to the formation of the Scottish Parliament; WWF Scotland was well placed to wield influence, with its staff playing an important role in advising early programmes of legislation on issues such as rivers and flooding, and frequently enlisted to serve on government agency boards and advisory committees.
In 2005 the decision was made to relocate from Aberfeldy to Dunkeld. This was primarily to take advantage of better public transport routes. The move also gave us an opportunity to renovate an existing building, incorporating all the measures available to make it as sustainable as possible. You can find out what we did by visiting our Green Office pages. Simon Pepper took the opportunity to retire from WWF at this stage and the role was taken on by Dr Richard Dixon.
In more than 10 years of devolution, WWF Scotland with its partners has helped raise awareness and shape legislation and policy to improve the state of the environment and people’s livelihoods across Scotland. In 2009/2010 alone we saw three Acts – the Marine Act, the Scottish Climate Change Act and the Flooding Act – that were testament to WWF’s success and participation in alliances.
In 2012 WWF-UK carried out a strategic review of our UK operations and the decision was made to coordinate our work in line with our International colleagues. At the start of 2013 Lang Banks took over as Director of WWF Scotland.