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29 Sept 2020

Scotland’s Landscape Alliance launches ‘Landscape and Place for Success’

Written by Stuart Brooks, Head of Conservation and Policy
The front cover of a booklet entitled Landscape and Place for Success. It features a large portrait photograph of the Salisbury Crags in Edinburgh, taken from above. The city of Edinburgh can be seen in the distance.
Our call to action: ‘Landscape and Place for Success’
Scotland’s Landscape Alliance (SLA) is led by the National Trust for Scotland and the Landscape Institute Scotland.

In April 2019, over 60 national organisations attended the launch of this new collaborative forum, a policy think tank that aims to ensure that Scotland cares for, improves and maximises the economic, social and environmental benefits from its landscapes.

Discussion at the inaugural event led to the creation of three working groups, who took on the challenge of developing responses to three recommendations from the SLA:

  • Increase Scotland’s resilience to climate change and associated environmental challenges
  • Improve the health and wellbeing of people in Scotland and reduce health inequalities
  • Support integrated land uses and deliver inclusive growth in Scotland’s economy

This work is now complete, and detailed position statements addressing these recommendations have been published on a new dedicated SLA website.

Cloud swirls around both the base and summit of a pyramid-shaped mountain as the sunrise shines upon it. The valley floor is in the foreground, with a small white cottage at the base of the mountain.
Scotland’s Landscape Alliance has set out a call to action as we respond to the effects of the 2020 global pandemic.

A constant challenge for landscape policy makers is to make sense of the interconnected nature of the drivers of change, and how we all use and benefit from the landscapes and places that we live in and visit. There is no single right or wrong answer but there are key principles, enshrined within the European Landscape Convention, which can guide our decision making. Fundamentally, it recognises the cultural value of landscapes and the benefits that protected, well-managed and planned landscapes can bring to individuals and society.

Much has happened in the world over recent months and much more change is on the immediate horizon. The climate emergency, biodiversity crisis, Brexit and the COVID-19 health pandemic all have implications for how our landscapes are, will be and could be managed. We have seen an upsurge in appreciation and use of outdoor spaces and the value that quality green spaces have for our mental and physical wellbeing.

More than ever, this is a moment to take stock and appreciate the contribution that our landscapes and places play in the health of our nation and their essential contribution to Scotland’s National Outcomes and a green recovery.

Five cyclists ride along a narrow path in a wide glen, with heather-covered hills either side. A river flows beside them leading into a loch.
There is now a wealth of evidence demonstrating the importance of natural environments for good physical and mental wellbeing.

The SLA is a unique forum for landscape debate, spanning interests across public health, design, land management and community development. Its contributors have collaborated to produce a Call for Action – Landscape and Place for Success. This document highlights our vision, recommendations for change, 10 outcomes including the ongoing actions of the SLA, and what we would like stakeholders to do to support these outcomes.

“Our vision is a Scotland where the benefits of landscape are recognised and strengthened to support delivery of Scotland’s National Outcomes, the UN Sustainable Development Goals and the principles of the European Landscape Convention.”
Stuart Brooks
National Trust for Scotland

It’s important to see the big picture; this is a defining characteristic of effective landscape policy, management and planning. When we ignore that, we create problems: we disconnect wildlife habitats, we disconnect ourselves from our cultural identity, we starve ourselves of beauty. Our Alliance and Call for Action recognises that we all have a role to play but we need to be more active in our decision making if we are to avoid an erosion of our existing world-class landscape qualities. Our urban places demand better design, and our natural landscapes require better protection and integration with biodiversity and land use decision making. We also need better systems of monitoring the health and benefits of our landscapes.

A river meanders through an urban landscape, with most town buildings on the right bank. Hills can be seen in the distance,
Scotland’s landscape must be recognised as part of the critical infrastructure and solutions needed for our recovery.

I hope that our work to date acts as a stimulus for debate and a catalyst for change. We know that some of the challenges we have identified are not easy and we don’t have all the answers to hand. The next stage of our journey is to encourage debate to find those solutions.

We are planning to do this at an online event on the 20th anniversary of the signing of the European Landscape Convention and International Landscape Day on Tuesday 20 October.

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