Uplands such as the Cairngorms have enormous potential

Scottish Natural Heritage has reported to Scottish Ministers on the possible development of a strategic vision for Scotland’s uplands.

Acting on a commitment in their Land Use Strategy for 2016-2021, the Scottish Government asked SNH to scope the potential.

The SNH has explored the multiple benefits the uplands provide – including how they help to reduce the impacts of climate change – and has actively involved a wide range of people and organisations with an interest in uplands.

The report summarises SNH’s work and the views expressed. It includes a number of broad recommendations that could inform the development of a strategic vision if ministers decide to proceed.

“A strategic vision would be a high level aspirational statement about the benefits that we want the uplands to provide for Scotland, both now and in the future, and the balance of land uses that we need to achieve this,” said SNH chair Mike Cantlay.

“Key benefits our uplands provide include the production of food and timber; water supply and food regulation; carbon capture and storage; renewable energy and biodiversity. They also provide fantastic recreation opportunities, such as for hillwalking, mountain biking, deer stalking, grouse shooting and wildlife watching.

“Our discussions with stakeholders, and our report, indicate that there is widespread agreement about the social, economic and environmental benefits that our uplands provide. There are many views about how best to maintain and enhance these benefits for the future, but amongst all those we met we found a keen willingness to work together to address the challenges that would be involved. We would like to thank everyone who contributed to this work.”

The report says that any vision should be developed collaboratively to help achieve wide ownership across all sectors: it should be concise, focused and inspiring, with the greatest possible consensus and support of stakeholders. The process should create a “neutral” forum that encourages fair, balanced and open discussion, and agreement where this can be achieved.

“Ensuring that the benefits nature provides us with are better understood, appreciated and managed is one of the ‘Six Big Steps for Nature’ set out in the Scottish Biodiversity Strategy.”

Mr Cantlay added: “If ministers decide, in due course, to proceed with the development of a strategic vision for the uplands, the broad cross-sectoral input that we received would provide a strong foundation, and SNH is happy to assist in whatever way is considered to be appropriate.”

The full report, Scoping a strategic vision for the uplands, is available on the SNH website at http://www.snh.gov.uk/land-and-sea/managing-the-land/upland-and-moorland/scoping-upland-vision/