Conservation Conversation

This issue we focus on JNCC Committee member David Crawley. A Scottish Natural Heritage Board member, David is also Chair of the Central Scottish Forest Trust. David is a former senior civil servant and spent much of his career in the Scottish Office and Scottish Executive.


David Crawley, JNCC

Q. Species that inspired you as a child?

A.  The robin, one of the many hundreds of birds which used to fill the Sussex country sky with the dawn chorus in the 1950s; and the frogs and tadpoles which suffered rather than benefited from my attempts as a 6 year old to help them on their way.


Q. What are your main concerns for the natural world?

A. There are almost too many to count: it is the cumulative effect of less than 300 years of industrial end economic development that I fear. It is such a short period in the life of the planet and yet is causing irreparable and growing damage through exploitation, biodiversity loss and climate change. The modern world has lost all sense of this historical perspective.


Q. What do you do away from the office?

A.  Happily my only office is at home, overlooking the Galloway hills. I am away from it a lot for my work with SNH, JNCC and the Central Scotland Forest Trust among other things. I look after my garden (keeping an eye on the wildlife – deer, red squirrels, slow worms and birds ) and I like to walk on the beach, in South west Scotland and in East Lothian. I travel by train to France whenever I can. I read, often history, and listen to music.


Q. What is your favourite place?

A.  The wide open beach at Yellowcraigs near Dirleton, East Lothian with its backdrop of maritime grassland, the rolling surf, the view to the Bass Rock and the majestic Firth of Forth. Also the calmer beauty of Carrick shore looking up to Cairnsmore of Fleet or over the Solway to the Isle of Man.


View from Carrick © David Crawley

Q. Who is your human hero in the natural world?

A.  Jane Goodall who inspired me several years ago – at a conference near Chicago - with a presentation of her work with gorillas and chimpanzees in Africa. She conveyed a rational and controlled passion along with her dedication to – and fears for – these fantastic animals.


Q. If you could dine with any four guests who would they be?

A.  If I am allowed a currently deceased guest, it would be Winston Churchill, not least for his love of good champagne. Also my oldest friend Robert Binyon, a banker who still does much to promote SMEs in India, Africa and the Far East and is the most convivial of guests; David Cameron both for the debate with his historic predecessor and to discuss his desire to lead the greenest of governments; and my wife Anne who couldn’t bear to be absent at such an evening.


Q. Desert Island Disc?

A.  Verdi’s Requiem in a recording with Claudio Abbado conducting and the soloists Jose Carreras, Margaret Price, Jessye Norman and Ruggiero Raimondi. An unforgettable performance at the Edinburgh festival in 1982.


Q. What would you like to achieve in your time at JNCC?

A.  Having already been a JNCC member for 4 years I think we have achieved quite a bit in refocusing JNCC’s strategy and adjusting to the new world of devolution in the UK. For my remaining 18 months I want to make sure that JNCC remains respected and effective as a provider of the knowledge policy makers in our field need in all four countries of the UK. And that they in turn use that knowledge to secure better outcomes for nature and biodiversity despite all the financial problems we face.


Q. If you could choose another job or career, what would it be?

A.  I’m not sure I would have chosen anything very different. As a fairly senior civil servant I have been part of some of the most exciting events of the last 38 years – in politics, in Europe and in constitutional change. I would quite have liked to be an Ambassador to an interesting country. And of course, as a train spotter growing up in the 50s being a steam engine driver still appeals!
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