Page last updated at 23:20 GMT, Sunday, 14 June 2009 00:20 UK

Bid to reform outdated nature law

American signal crayfish
The American signal crayfish got into Scottish waters about 15 years ago

Reforming Scotland's "outdated" wildlife legislation will be the subject of a public consultation.

The Scottish Government said current laws, some of which go back more than 200 years, contain anomalies and weaknesses which need to be addressed.

The consultation proposes action to address problems created by non-native invasive species like Japanese knotweed and the American signal crayfish.

The natural environment is said to be worth about £17bn to the Scots economy.

Environment Minister Richard Lochhead said it was vital to protect and enhance the environment because it was one of the country's "most valuable assets".

He added: "Any legislation of this kind must take into account the views of those living and working in our countryside which is why I am seeking the views of experts from both land-owning and conservation organisations during this consultation process."

Japanese Knotweed
Ministers say more action is needed to tackle species like Japanese Knotweed

A big part of the consultation will focus on how to tackle non-native species, such as the signal crayfish, which got into Scottish waters about 15 years ago and has been blamed for eating young fish and destroying their natural habitat.

It has been branded one of the most invasive and aggressive species in the country alongside the grey squirrel, Japanese knotweed and American mink.

The consultation also suggests reforming game laws, some of which date back to the 18th Century, and how to introduce more robust and sustainable deer management practices, including raising the standards of those involved in shooting the animals.

Duncan Orr Ewing, from the RSPB Scotland, said: "The management of deer populations and game species ought to be as modern as possible, to protect and enhance the countryside of the 21st Century, and the wildlife and rural businesses that rely on it."

The Scottish Rural Property and Business Association said they wanted to see systems that operated in a straightforward way for the managers and users of the countryside.

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