SCOTLAND’s landscape must return to its original beauty under a dramatic multi-million-pound rewilding vision, the nation’s nature watchdog will declare today.

Scientific advisers to the UK and Scottish governments earlier this month called for one-fifth of all farmland to be turned back into peatland, wetland or woods to both help reduce global heating and limit the damage it causes.

Now Francesca Osowska, chief executive of Scottish Natural

READ MORE: Jim Crumley: 'Wolves are expanding across Europe – it's time they returned to Scotland'

Heritage, is to outline how huge and visible changes to land and sea use must take place north of the Border.

In a lecture to the Royal Society of Edinburgh, Ms Osowska will admit challenges in following May recommendations from the Climate Change Committee or CCC report on getting to “Net Zero” – when the UK stops contributing to man-made climate change.

First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has set Scotland on a path to get to Net Zero by 2045 but green campaigners and many scientists argue the world has far less time to change.

They also say it must include restoring natural carbon sinks, such as peat bogs and leafy woodlands. According to a draft of her lecture seen by The Herald, Ms Osowska will say: “The [CCC] Net Zero report argues we should be releasing 20 per cent of agricultural land to support emissions’ reductions through afforestation, peatland restoration and biomass production.

“For us in Scotland this is difficult when so much of our food production is underpinned by rural agriculture and fishing communities that are, in places, fragile.

“The same goes for timber production, with ambitions to increase the extent of land under forestry, with inevitable competition with other uses.”

Ms Osowska and other public sector agencies are keen to send out a message that they want to work with farmers and other landowners rather than against them.

Some voices in agriculture have already argued that a climate crisis agenda could spark a gradual return to traditional Scottish family farming and crofting, with sustainable practices such as field rotation.

Ms Osowska will add: “In Scotland, we are now world leaders in peatland restoration, but we can do more to scale up our efforts and keep the carbon locked up in what are some of the world’s deepest peat deposits.

“The Flow Country, which I am delighted to see is currently being consulted on as a potential World Heritage Site, is arguably our greatest single asset as a lung for nature.

READ MORE: Charity steps up debate on rewilding 

“In northern Scotland the massive tracts of deep peat, with their fantastic open landscapes and some of the highest densities of wading birds recorded anywhere globally, are treasures for nature.

“For farming and forestry we need to think radically and constructively about the transformations needed in how we use the land to simultaneously reduce emissions, protect and enhance nature, and help build resilience against the inevitable impacts of a changing climate. “

Global heating may be “unprecedented and phenomenal” but Ms Osowska will add: “It’s not too late to act, and a nature-rich future is our best insurance against the climate emergency. “

Ms Osowska’s mantra at SNH has been to lure the people in to caring about nature by helping them to enjoy it - with all the social and health benefits that brings.

Authorities, she will say, must work with people “so that everyone understands that healthy, diverse nature plays a full and key part in sequestering greenhouse gases and regulating water flows to reduce flood risk.

“Healthy nature encourages us to be healthy – we want to get out and see nature, enjoy it, and be inspired by it. We want to be outdoors, and develop an educational culture of learning outside the classroom.

“We need to be nurtured by places around us, and not cooped up and seeing nature ‘out there’ unconnected with us.”

Consumers, Ms Osowska believes, will play a key role in driving change in agriculture, food and fishing, not least by not throwing away what they do not eat.

She will explain: For food production, we have to devise pathways to sustainable food systems which build on existing land use and marine planning which shift to the sustainable management of both the supplier/producer and the demand/consumer sides of food systems.

“Well-structured regulations, incentives and subsidies are needed. And these have to operate at landscape and sea-scape scales.

“And we can act now through stopping the use of plastic straws and cups, and drastically reduce our food waste.”