Wolves and other apex predators could soon return to the Scottish highlands, as part of the world's most ambitious rewilding project.
The Scottish Rewilding Alliance (SWA), which is formed of over 20 conservation groups, has called on the Scottish government to support a project that would set aside a third of public land for nature.
This return of public land is one of five environmental pledges that have been proposed by the SWA. Alongside re-introduction of 'keystone' species and marine reserves, it has been called the most ambitious project of its kind. The pledges have caught both the imagination of Scottish naturalists and politicians.
With 30 SMPs backing the motion and polls showing support of almost three quarters of the population, the return of once eradicated species to the wild has become a key voting issue.
Ahead of parliamentary elections this month, the alliance has called for Scotland to declare itself the world's first "Rewilding Nation" by the following:
•Committing 30 per cent of public to the rewilding project
•Create marine reserves and ban trawling or dredging from the coast
•Establish community fund for rewilding Scotland's urban spaces
•Re-introduce key species that have been eradicated from the wilds, such as beaver and Eurasian Lynx.
•And finally, control wild deer population and prevent overgrazing of the Highlands
The last two of these steps are perhaps the most closely linked and controversial. The group has previously called for the reintroduction of apex predators such as European wolves and Lynx wildcats to deal with wild deer populations.
A trial to reintroduce Beavers was launched in 2009 and was wildly successful. However, less than two decades into the project the Scottish government has had to intervene, issuing culls and hunting licences to control the population.
Wolves are a more emotive subject. More than 300 years since the last wild wolf was shot in the far north of the country, the suggestion that they could return has been met with mixed opinions.
Wolves have become a totemic issue.
A 2015 wolf-reintroduction programme in the US Yellowstone National Park won recognition for the idea, among both nature lovers and conservationists.
Reintroducing the apex predators was shown to not only control populations of rampant elk but also saw an improvement in overall forest ecology. More trees were able to reach maturity, with unexpected benefits for whole swathes of ecology.
However, nowhere have wolves been reintroduced after such a prolonged absence in the ecosystem.
The difficulty of reintroducing beavers in the early 2000 has led to concerns over the unintended consequences of 'rewilding'.
The voice for rewilding has become increasingly influential, and ahead of elections at Holyrood the SWA is expecting solid commitments from politicians.
"We know the public wants to see politicians make real progress on rewilding, and we would encourage people to take these issues into account when they're looking at the parties' manifestos," SWA convenor Steve Micklewright told Euronews.
"The opportunities here are substantial, for our climate, biodiversity, and for a wide range of potential social and economic benefits associated with making Scotland the world's first Rewilding Nation."
In February, 30 SMPs led by the Scottish National Party brought a motion to parliament to recognise popular appeal for rewilding and Scotland's "potential to be a rewilding nation, where social, economic and environmental opportunities are available much more widely across the country".
What is rewilding?
Rewilding is the process of returning land to a state of pre-agricultural wilderness.
The aim is to create self-regulating and self-sustaining wilderness areas, which require minimal human intervention.
It involves not just abandoning claimed land, but the reintroduction of "keystone" animal and plant species.
This often involves large predators, like wolves and wildcats which have been eradicated by humans.
First proposed in the late 60s by Canadian and American ecologists Robert Helmer MacArthur and Edward Osborne Wilson, the theories have been put to large-scale experiments in US national parks since the late 1980s.
In New Zealand rewilding has been taken in a different direction. The rewilding projects of the Department of Conservation have been not only about reintroducing threatened endemic animals, but eradicating introduced species. The Predator Free movement might be New Zealand's best known rewilding project.