Wednesday, 11 June 2014

Survey of Landowners in Cairngorms National Park

The CNPA commissioned an independent study in 2013 and the report has been published today.  A news item introduces the report and provides links to view it.

The work was carried out by SRUC (Scotland’s Rural College), UHI Centre for Mountain Studies and Rural Solutions, with support from Scottish Land & Estates.

In addition to the general economic information being collated in a national survey commissioned by Scottish Land & Estates, CNPA wanted to collate information on community development and conservation within the Park.  The Authority also wanted to identify future opportunities for collaboration to help deliver the National Park Partnership Plan.

Tuesday, 3 June 2014

£4m for Peat Bog Restoration in the Flow Country

Photo: Andy Hay / RSPB Images
See the article on the BBC News website for full details, but this represents a major funding boost for peatland restoration in the Flow Country and will work alongside the £15m of funding being provided by the Scottish Government for the Peatland ACTION project.

Monday, 2 June 2014

Rural Scotland in Focus 2014 Report

The third Rural Scotland in Focus 2014 (RSiF 2014) Report has been published today by SRUC.  Previous reports were published in 2010 and 2012.  The report of the summary can be downloaded from the SRUC website.

The Report continues to monitor how rural Scotland is changing, focusing on: population trends, the lives of young people, the levels and experiences of poverty and disadvantage and how use of our finite rural land resource is negotiated through planning and other means.

Key Policy Messages from the 2014 Report
  • At a time of economic constraint there is an increased need for rural perspectives to be brought to national issues. 
  • This is a particularly timely moment to ensure that this happens since this year we are seeing the further development of the Scottish Planning Policy (SPP), National Planning Framework (NPF3), Land Use Strategy and its regional pilots, Community Empowerment (Scotland) Bill, National Marine Plan, Land Reform Review, Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reform (including changes to ‘Pillar 1’ and ‘Pillar 2’, the Scotland Rural Development Programme encompassing LEADER) and the first meeting of the Scottish Rural Parliament. 
  • It is vitally important that the needs of people and communities are taken into account and integrated effectively with the need to manage natural resources sustainably. The national policy context provides a very important driver for putting people at the centre, given its growing emphasis on community empowerment, capacity building and community ownership of land and other assets. 
  • In our RSiF Reports we are not arguing that rural should be privileged over urban. Rather, that the evidence shows that the design and deployment of policies and practices must be ‘tailored’ to the local specifics of rural Scotland. 
  • The evidence leads us to conclude that there should be an over-arching, comprehensive vision and strategy for rural Scotland, aligned with and supporting the delivery of the National Outcomes. Such a strategy will allow for rural needs to be recognised and addressed, and support the development of further resilience and vibrancy across rural Scotland. 

For more information on the work of SRUC’s Rural Policy Centre, contact: Dr Jane Atterton, Manager and Policy Researcher, Rural Policy Centre, SRUC, T: 0131 535 4256;

Wednesday, 2 April 2014

Evaluation of Measures and Policy Mechanisms to Protect Peatland

This report was commissioned by SEPA, last year, and was produced by members of the Forum and special guests.  The report also draws on a workshop that was held last year to capture input from a wider range of stakeholders.

The report contains an overview of how peatlands were viewed last year from policy and practitioner viewpoints and how the CAP review was likely to influence peatland management.

The rate of change in peatland issues is high and since this report was drafted, there have been many developments and it would be interesting to revise this report to incorporate the latest developments and thinking.  One of the biggest changes has been the development of the Peatland ACTION project and the higher level of funding provided by the Scottish Government that this report anticipates.

It was a useful exercise for the Forum and it demonstrates our ability to capture thinking from outside the Forum and deliver a valuable report.  This report has taken too long to finalise, but it had to compete for attention with other pieces of commissioned work.  The sequel would be even more valuable and it would be easier to produce.  I hope that SEPA will consider commissioning this.

Friday, 28 March 2014

Annual Land Use Strategy Stakeholder Event - 27 May 2014

The Scottish Government will host its annual stakeholder event to engage stakeholders on the Land Use Strategy.  Paul Wheelhouse, MSP, Minister for Environment & Climate Change will make the keynote address.

This year’s all-day event will take place at SNH Battleby, just outside Perth on 27 May 2014. Discussion topics will include the progress of the Regional Land Use Framework pilot projects in Aberdeenshire and the Scottish Borders, as well as the development of the next Land Use Strategy.

If you would like more information about this event, note your interest by sending an e-mail with contact details to the Land Use Strategy Team - deadline 11 April 2014.  This will record your interest only. A detailed programme of the event along with information on how to register will be sent in mid-April, when registration opens.

Further information about the Land Use Strategy from the SG website.

Thursday, 27 March 2014

The John Muir Conference: 12-13 May 2014

This conference marks the centenary of John Muir's death.  The conference is about the challenges and opportunities of managing protected areas in the 21st century - the excellent range of speakers are expected to really examine and challenge current practices! 

Part of the Conference programme includes study visits to see and hear first-hand how the challenges of balancing the protection of the natural heritage with economic development and facilitating high visitor numbers are being tackled. There is something for everyone as the tours cover a range of projects from landscape-scale habitat restoration, to renewable energy generation, to innovative visitor management.

The Conference will be of particular interest to land, conservation and visitor management professionals operating in protected or sensitive landscapes across the UK. 

Those watching budgets or who are hooked into the 'Tesco shopping' culture might want to note the current‘Buy 2 Get 1 Free’ offer!

More details

Thursday, 6 March 2014

Wildfire in Scotland - being taken seriously

The appointment of a Wildfire Project Manager by the Scottish Fire & Rescue Service (SFRS) is very welcome.  Group Manager Garry Burnett is an old friend as he had been involved with the Scottish Wildfire Forum (SWF) in its early days.

This appointment was reported in today's edition of the P&J and also Highland News.

Garry will be working directly to Assistant Chief Officer Robert Scott who is the Chairman of the SWF.  This appointment is a clear and very welcome statement of intent by the SFRS to treat the threat posed by wildfire seriously.  We have some distance to travel to provide a focus on wildfire prevention and to bring muirburn issues together with wildfire but this appointment will help us move faster in the right direction.

In my role as Vice-chairman of the England & Wales Wildfire Forum (EWWF), as well as being on the Executive Committee of the SWF, I will be seeking a more integrated approach to wildfire north and south of the border.  There are many potential benefits of closer working.  Another important group to bring into this arena is the Chief Fire Officer's Association Wildfire Group.  This is made easier as the chairman of this Group is Paul Hedley, the Deputy Chief Fire Officer for Northumberland Fire & Rescue Service, who is also a leading light of the the EWWF.

It is a world that is full of acronyms, and there are many hurdles to be jumped, but the threat from wildfire must be given a higher profile before we are forced to pay more attention by the next spate of wildfires.  It is not 'if', it is 'when'.

Well done to the SFRS for grasping this issue so positively.