Fort climate activists urge council to listen to groups already transforming Highland landscape

Extinction Rebellion campaigners gathered outside Highland Council headquarters in 2019. NO F20 Extinction Rebellion Inverness protest
Extinction Rebellion campaigners gathered outside Highland Council headquarters in 2019. NO F20 Extinction Rebellion Inverness protest

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If the Scottish Government and Highland Council are truly committed to reforming land use to support a green recovery and transition to net zero CO2 emissions in a fair and inclusive manner, they need to look to the organisations and partnerships that are already transforming the Highland landscape for ideas and advice.

So said the XR (Extinction Rebellion) Fort William environmental activist group, commenting on news from the Scottish Government that the Highland Council area will be one of five areas being piloted as Regional Land Use Partnerships to help develop an approach to land use in support of Scotland’s green recovery and transition to net-zero.

The Scottish Government has said it will work with the pilot groups to test approaches to partnership governance that best suit the local situation and priorities, so helping inform future decisions on wider establishment of partnerships.

It also added that the partnerships will help national and local government, communities, land owners and stakeholders work together to find ways to optimise land use in a ‘fair and inclusive way’ – meeting local and national objectives and supporting the journey to net zero.

Councillor Trish Robertson, chairperson of Highland Council’s Economy and Infrastructure Committee and chairperson of Climate Change Working Group welcomed the government announcement.

‘We are very pleased that the Scottish Government has recognised the scale of the size of the Highland area – approximately the size of Belgium – and allocated two of the five pilot partnerships within The Highland Council area,’ she said.

‘We are delighted that The Highland Council area is to become a Regional Land Use Partnership pilot area and also the Cairngorms National Park.’

But XR Fort William along with the XR Highlands and Islands umbrella group want to see action and not just more talk on the issue.

Asked to comment, an XR Fort William spokesperson referenced remarks from Scottish Environment Secretary Roseanna Cunningham on the government’s commitment to tackling the twin crisis of climate change and biodiversity loss, calling it ‘unwavering’ and that land use will be vital to achieving its objectives.

And the spokesperson told the Lochaber Times: ‘Many people may not know that Scotland is one of the most ecologically depleted countries in the world. Large areas of the Highlands continue to be managed for the benefit and profit of the few.

‘Currently, 29 per cent of rural Scotland is owned as large estates by just 500 (mainly absent) landlords – 0.01 percent of the population.

‘So, if Highland Council really is truly committed, it will use the opportunity of the Regional Land Use Partnership to act swiftly to reform land use and reverse the biodiversity decline in the Highlands.

‘Extinction Rebellion Highlands and Islands will expect to see the Partnership supporting the development of visionary community projects such as those already underway by Trees for Life, Cairngorms Connect, and the Coigach and Assynt Living Landscape Partnership, which are helping to rewild and rejuvenate the Highlands for the benefit of everyone. ‘

The Regional Land Use Partnerships will be piloted in:

  • Cairngorms National Park
  • Highland Council
  • Loch Lomond and the Trossachs National Park
  • North East Region (Aberdeenshire and Aberdeen City Councils)
  • South of Scotland (Dumfries and Galloway and Scottish Borders Councils)