REINTRODUCING wild carnivores such as the Lynx to Scotland would create a 'richer and wilder' natural environment, conservationists have said.

The John Muir Trust are calling on Ministers to back schemes aimed reintroducing lost species, ahead of the publication later this year of the results of a five-year beaver trial at Knapdale, which saw European beavers released into the wild in Argyll.

The charity has urged the Scottish Government to welcome the beavers' return, and to go further by bringing back other keystone animals that disappeared from the wild in the past.

The environmentalists have launched a new policy statement declaring its support for the principle of rewilding, which they say could help repair damaged ecosystems and restore natural processes.

Trust chief executive Stuart Brooks said: "The Trust has taken a rewilding approach to the management of its properties for 30 years, long before the term was coined.

"Rewilding is about intervening to repair damage and restart natural processes - for example, by managing deer to allow native woodlands to regenerate; or by re-introducing missing species, such as beavers, that perform key functions in our ecosystems.

"That in turn will ultimately allow nature to take its own course and be more resilient in the face of climate change."

The Trust stressed that any moves to bring back lost species would have to be carefully thought out and involve public consultation and support, and that these proposals could include future plans to reintroduce of carnivores.

It has previously said there was "no ecological reason" why wolves could not be reintroduced to Scotland, more than 300 years after the last member of the species died out.

A group of 16 beavers were introduced into lochs at Knapdale between 2009 and 2011, with their comings and goings closely monitored by scientists.

While several died, others bred successfully and produced a litter of kits within a year of being set free.

However, there were unexpected results. Some of the animals vanished from the trial, with one male beaver eventually turning up in a stream six miles away, while another abandoned the female it was released with and set up home with a different mate in a loch nearby.

Mr Brooks said he expected the policy of rewilding to come in for criticism, but argued it would enhance Scotland's natural heritage.

He said: "It is not about excluding people, imposing unwanted policies on rural communities or damaging peoples' livelihoods. We recognise that rewilding is not suitable everywhere, for example, in areas of high agricultural value.

"But for other areas it can provide the step-change we need to bring back the full diversity of our natural heritage. Much of our land is impoverished - for humans and wildlife - and we believe that returning nature in these areas to its former glory would benefit everyone.

"Our hills, rivers and seas should be teeming with wildlife that people will want to see and experience. By bringing visitors from all over the world, some of our most fragile communities in our most remote areas could start to thrive once again, as is happening in other parts of Europe where nature has been encouraged to flourish."