SCOTLAND’S rarest species face being obliterated in the fall-out from Brexit unless urgent new laws and funding is brought in to safeguard vital conservation work, a coalition of more than 30 leading charities will warn next week.

They say at-risk animal species such as the red squirrel, some birds of prey and sea mammals are in jeopardy because of lack of action in ensuring vital environmental protections are provide in Scotland after the UK quits Europe.

The Scottish Environment LINK (SEL) union of conservation groups will on Tuesday outline the need for legally binding measures to ensure that the nation’s natural environment, wildlife and air and water quality are safeguarded.

And among their immediate concerns is that there is no mechanism to replace the European Commission's LIFE-Nature Fund which has given £25 million over 25 years to Scotland to help with more than 25 vital conservation projects protecting the country's at-risk wildlife and landscape.

They say all are at risk if no alternative funding is found through matching contributions from government or elsewhere if there is no way of continuing access to the fund through the Brexit negotiations.

Charles Dundas, chairman of SEL said: “Scotland has hugely benefited from EU funding and protections with the LIFE Fund alone supporting conservation projects.

“If and when Brexit happens, Scotland (along with the rest of the UK) will lose the unrivalled support of EU bodies and funding. With only months to go, this poses a serious threat to our fragile and precious natural environment."

HeraldScotland: Red squirrel by Peter Trimming.

Losers would include a bid to stop Scotland's red squirrels from becoming extinct. Habitat loss, disease and competition from non-native greys have taken a huge toll on the furry favourites and Scotland retains 120,000 of the 138,000 reds thought to remain in the UK.

At risk too are moves to protect the hen harrier which is said to be heading to the brink of extinction. Last year it emerged numbers have fallen by nine percent in Scotland since 2010 and the total population was estimated to be less than 500 breeding pairs.

SEL say it would also hit moves to properly protect porpoise populations which receives LIFE funding. Numbers have been falling rapidly due to a variety of threats including tangling in fishing gear, chemical pollution and disruptive boat noise.

Harbour porpoise have already virtually disappeared from the Baltic Sea and are almost extinct in the Mediterranean.

Scottish Natural Heritage video on harbour porpoise being a big attraction for marine wildlife watchers in Scotland.

The Court of Justice of the EU last month rules that Britain is failing to protect numbers with environmentalists citing scientific evidence showing that more protection areas are needed, particularly in Scotland.

The fund also supported moves to save the corncrake, one of Scotland's rarest birds which remains "vulnerable" according to the latest survey of numbers by RSPB Scotland. This year 884 males were recorded, a "marginal increase" of 18 birds from last year.

It also supported work to protect Atlantic salmon, part of what SEL says is one of the most important conservation projects ever undertaken in Scotland.

This significantly improved the natural freshwater habitat for Atlantic salmon on eight key salmon river conservation areas.

The Woodland Trust's video 2016 appeal for help in preserving ancient Scottish pinewood.

Also hit would be programme to save the freshwater pearl mussel from extinction that supported 19 sites in Scotland - key breeding areas for the whole of Europe.

The mussel is one of the most endangered molluscs in the world and illegal poaching and pollution issues in Scotland threaten its future. Up to half of the world's remaining population is believed to be found in Angus, the Cairngorms and the north-west of Scotland.

LIFE has also helped preserve some of Scotland's treasured landscape because of their European importance.

Receiving support was the restoration of the Flow Country peatlands in Caithness, one of the last great wildernesses in the UK and the preservation of primeval Celtic rainforest, the native Caledonian pinewoods and Scotland's coastal meadows, called machair.

Video of the Flow Country peatland restoration

SEL said: "Without proper funding, a lot of Scotland’s internationally important protected areas will be protected in name only, as projects to maintain and manage them will lack funding.

"We need to make sure that actions/ambitions are backed by funding. Without funding we can't deliver action on the ground.

"Without what we are pushing for, we will lose the best tools we have to protect our environment – and this at a critical moment in terms of climate change and loss of wildlife."

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “The uncertainty of Brexit is a huge concern for many sectors in Scotland, not least for nature conservation.

"Access to EU funding has for many years played an important role in supporting our conservation efforts. It is essential that the UK Government make clear how such funding streams will be maintained and safeguarded in the long term  if the UK leaves the EU.”

Conservationists are concerned that Scotland risks becoming the "dirty man of Europe" again with polluted air, sewage-filled beaches and flimsy conservation laws after Brexit, because 80% of Scottish protections stem from EU legislation.

Scottish Natural Heritage's video devoted to red squirrels.

Environmental activists regularly use EU laws to challenge governments across Europe on a wide range of issues, including air quality, nature, wildlife, toxics and transparency.

Within the EU, rights and responsibilities of citizens are given legal form through the United Nation’s Aarhus Convention on the public's access to environmental justice which requires governments “to remove or reduce financial barriers to access to justice”.

Last year a report to the UN on access to environmental justice criticised he Scottish Government for breaching commitments to ensure that legal challenges to property, energy or other developers weren’t “prohibitively expensive” - in contravention of the convention.

A report by academics of the Scottish Universities Legal Network on Europe, warns that one of the main risks arising from Brexit... is "losing the 'hard, enforceable edge' that EU law provides to the Aarhus Convention’s provisions..."