The sites in south-west Sutherland and the Cairngorms have been designated Special Protection Areas (SPAs) under the EC Wild Birds Directive which protects rare and endangered species.
In Sutherland Inverpolly, Loch Urigill and six further lochs around Inverpolly National Nature Reserve have been designated an SPA. This area supports five per cent (eight pairs) of the UK population of black-throated diver.
The existing Cairngorms SPA covers almost 50,000 hectares and is of outstanding importance for its Caledonian pine forest, moorland and montane plateaux. Two additional areas adjacent to this site, one at Glenmore Forest and the other at Fiacaill a' Choire Chais have now been designated.
The Glenmore Forest extension supports three per cent (20 birds) of the world population of Scottish crossbill and significant numbers of capercaillie.
Sarah Boyack said:
'Today's announcement brings Scotland's SPA total to 117 and confirms our commitment to improve the protected status of these nationally and internationally important species.
'Scotland is making an important contribution to the European and World Wide network of conservation sites which are ensuring the survival of the most special and endangered species.'
1. Under the EC Wild Birds Directive Member States are obliged to protect rare and endangered species and migratory birds through a combination of site classification and associated measures. The Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981) protects wild birds generally.
2. Selection Guidelines for SPAs were published by The Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) in July 1999. The JNCC is the Government's wildlife adviser, undertaking national and international conservation on behalf of the three country nature conservation agencies; the Countryside Council for Wales, English Nature and Scottish Natural Heritage. Copies of the selection guidelines are available from The Scottish Executive, JNCC or SNH.
3. The Scottish Executive, in collaboration with Scottish Natural Heritage (SNH), has developed a programme to classify as SPA the most appropriate sites. Following consultation with owners, occupiers and other interested parties about proposed classifications, SNH recommends SPAs to Scottish Ministers for classification.
4. Under the terms of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994, development which would damage the conservation interest can only proceed if there are no alternative solutions and there are imperative reasons of overriding public interest.