kayak by cold lake

Below Grant Moir shares his views on Dick Balharry’s vision for land use in Scotland. This article is the fourth in a series of responses that we have collected and hope you will enjoy. We will be sharing the last response next week.

A Response to Vision for Land Use in Scotland

Grant Moir

 Dick’s words, so eloquently presented in his Vision for Land Use in Scotland, have been the source of many discussions since they were first heard in Glenfeshie. I keep coming back to the following part in Dick’s speech:

“Rather it is the whole which captures my imagination: the need for quality jobs in rural areas, the need to break the dependency cycle, the need to see our wildlands as an economic asset, the need to have regard to carbon emissions and the need to think long term. We depend on our rural environment and it depends on the public being interested. It is this phrase ‘public interest’, used so freely by many, that now strikes me as of paramount importance in the land use debate and is central to our ability to make change.”

I suppose this passage sums up an awful lot of what I think National Parks are, and should be, about. The Cairngorms is a place visited by 1.5 million people each year; it is a wild landscape teeming with nature that people seek out from all around the world. It is home to a growing coterie of businesses who understand the dependency they have on that landscape, and it is home to communities who are working for the betterment of their local area. It is the whole.

Wild land, economic growth, incredible nature, thriving communities. These are not incompatible; in fact they are interdependent. They do, however, mean having to make choices about how land is managed and for whom. And this is where we get into the public interest and the private interest.

We need to work in partnership across traditional boundaries to define, agree on and deliver the public interest alongside private interests. We should not be afraid to challenge and be challenged in this endeavour. We should do it from a position of mutual respect and an openness to change on all sides. We should seek multiple benefits: for example, delivering native woodland expansion or peatland restoration is good for biodiversity, it is good for achieving climate change targets, it is good for tourism and ultimately good for rural jobs and for taxpayers.

We need to tackle the hard issues around deer and grouse management, raptor persecution and agricultural subsidies, but also discuss and reform some of the shibboleths around designations and conservation. The purity of intra-conservation arguments can be a turn-off to many who would naturally support action. We need land use that reflects the wider needs of society and which is global not parochial in its perspective.

We need most of all to engage the people of Scotland in these debates and make them relevant to people’s lives.

I felt that Dick’s vision, delivered in Glenfeshie, is a challenge to us all to raise our game, do better and attempt to resolve some of the long-standing issues in rural land management. If we do that before my beard turns white, then so much the better.