STUART HOUSDEN is to step down as director of RSPB Scotland at the end of May 2017, after 22 years of leading the biggest wildlife conservation charity in the country.

Recruitment to fill the post will begin before Christmas with a view to holding interviews early in the New Year.

Mr Housden will continue working for the RSPB until he retires in October 2017, focussing on strategic corporate projects to help the organisation’s transition through the impacts of Brexit – including the need to maintain the regulatory standards of the European Directives and wider public policy reform.

Under his leadership, RSPB Scotland’s landholding has grown to encompass 77 nature reserves, from the far north of Shetland down to the Galloway coast, and from the Western Isles to the coast of Aberdeenshire, totalling some 177,985 acres (72,028 hectares).

RSPB Scotland employs approximately 350 full time staff in some of the remotest areas of the country, represents 80,000 supporters and members in Scotland, and has more than 1800 volunteers contributing over 120,000 hours of time to help realise its conservation goals every year.

The RSPB now works across all four countries of the UK and overseas. In response to on-going devolution and the increasing need to be open and accountable in each of these jurisdictions, the governance structure of the organisation will also be strengthened in the coming months, enabling RSPB Scotland’s “Committee for Scotland” to represent the charity more effectively at a country level. In parallel, the RSPB will establish a new committee to oversee and guide its work in England – meaning each of the four countries of the UK will have its own bespoke committee and director.

Professor Colin Galbraith, the Chairman of RSPB Scotland’s advisory committee and one the Board of Trustees that governs the RSPB, said: “Stuart has made a great contribution to nature conservation in Scotland over many years. He has been instrumental in shaping the work of RSPB across the UK, and has been a fantastic advocate for the organisation and for wildlife conservation more generally. He leaves a legacy in the organisation to be proud of; providing a sound basis for the future.

"Whilst the next few years will undoubtedly be challenging, the new structure and ways of working being put in place now will help continue to demonstrate RSPB’s commitment to working locally across all parts of Scotland and the UK.

Mr Housden said: “I feel so enormously privileged to have had the opportunity to lead such a dedicated and outstanding team of people striving to improve the fortunes of Scotland’s magnificent nature and environment for these past 22 years. Scotland has the very best of the UK’s nature – from the majestic peaks of our Munros to the teeming mudflats and wetlands of our unrivalled coasts – there is simply no other part of the UK with the rich diversity, scale and importance of the habitats that are here. We must treasure and invest in this resource for all our sakes.

“So much of Scotland’s business and commercial interests rest heavily on the outstanding quality of its environment and landscape; ensuring that this quality remains and that it can continue to underpin and contribute to the country’s economic success and prosperity whilst delivering much needed wider benefits for the public’s enjoyment and recreation is absolutely critical. I am confident that RSPB Scotland will continue to go from strength to strength and build on past success for the future.”