The new SPAs, which are home for some of Scotland’s most important birds, will provide extra protection for black-throated divers and an ‘internationally significant’ breeding population of common gulls. This brings the total area protected in Scotland under the terms of the EU Wild Birds Directive and the Wildlife and Countryside Act to nearly 480,000 hectares.

“Today’s announcement brings Scotland’s SPA total to 126 and confirms our commitment to improve the protected status of these nationally and internationally important species,” said Galbraith. “With the classification of these areas Scotland is making another important contribution to the European network of conservation sites aimed at ensuring protection for a whole range of rare and migratory bird species.”

“I would like to stress that SPA status does not mean that these sites are nature reserves – rather it is a guarantee that in the future, as in the past and present, these sites will be managed sustainably for the benefit of both people and nature,” he added.

The two sites are the Tips of Corsemaul and Tom Mor SPA, and the Assynt Lochs SPA, both in Sutherland. The former is an 84 hectare site, which has special significance for nature conservation within Britain and the EU because it supports 20% of the British breeding population of the migratory common gull.

The Assynt Lochs SPA is a series of seven lochs in the Assynt area of north-west Scotland. The site has 4% of the British black-throated diver breeding population and has the greatest density of diver territories in Britain.

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie