More than 80,000ac to be transformed by land managers across Scotland

A new network of “landscape leaders” is meeting for the first time to bring about positive environmental change in Scotland at the biggest possible scale.

The group, participating in a new Landscape Leadership programme, includes a mix of private landowners and managers, NGO and community trust land managers, who collectively manage over 80,000ac of land.

All have diverse aims for their landscapes, but are united in their desire to restore climate and nature for Scotland’s future generations.

“A once in a generation change is needed now,” explained David Michie, deputy director of Soil Association Scotland, who will be leading the Landscape Leadership programme.

Scotland’s landscapes offer massive potential for wildlife, climate change mitigation, and carbon sequestration. This should also bring opportunities for people within these landscapes, so that we see a renaissance in the rural economy.

Pilot programme

The pilot programme, run jointly between Soil Association Scotland and Scottish Land and Estates, will bring 10 participants together at four residential sessions in inspirational settings.

Starting at Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill, part of the Buccleuch Estate, on January 27, they will learn about the potential of natural capital, how to manage large and diverse environmental projects and how to work with others on a catchment scale. Other sessions will take place at Loch Lomond, Holyrood, and the Rottal Estate.

The group will also receive leadership skills coaching, learn how to influence policy and how to plan for their landscape.

Ultimately, they will form a network of like-minded individuals able to lead a movement towards sustainable land management in Scotland.

Antony Gifford, managing partner of Kinnordy Farms Partnership and owner of Kinnordy & Balintore Estates, said: “I manage two large areas of land, and I manage them in a multigenerational timeframe – I’ve inherited them and hope my children will have an interest in taking them on, so I’m very aware I’m making decisions now that will have an impact decades into the future.

“There’s also a sense that the decisions we make for our business have an impact on our neighbours and our community.

Do you build a wind farm on a hill that’s currently unspoiled? Do you cover a grouse moor with trees? Do you try a different farming system?

“These decisions are important, but you won’t know immediately whether it was the right or wrong decision, and we’re conscious these decisions will impact on things beyond our business.

“I don’t expect to get all the answers on the Landscape Leadership programme, but I hope to gain a clearer sense of what I want our landscape to look like, learn more about where I can get help to make the right decisions, and how to bring others into that process – whether it’s expert advice, our local community, or my own family.”

Dr. Jessica Lynch Maxwell, project development manager at Loch Arkaig Pine Forest (Woodland Trust Scotland), added: “It’s important to both me and my organisation to work beyond the boundaries of our ancient Caledonian pinewood at Loch Arkaig.

“We know that ensuring that our work contributes to positive changes within the broader landscape will require considerable leadership, collaborative vision, and coordinated action.”