Scottish Highlands: Dewildered & Depopulated

I met some university professors at the end of the summer on a tour of Scotland’s nature reserves. They’d read a lot of academic papers regarding how well this country was doing; reintroducing this and replanting that. Apparently Scotland is ahead of the game and fiercely proud of its re-wilding successes on the world stage. Sadly, what the professor of Wildlife Ecology at Oregon State University actually found here on his visit to the Highlands was, he described to me, a ‘dessert’. Aghast, he pointed out the gap between what he had read in academic literature and what was found in reality. The professors mean to come back with a group of students next year to analyse the disparity. Im hoping to help out.

I was embarrassed but I know it to be true, Scotland has been dewildered, I’ve been lucky enough to see real wilderness stretching from horizon-to-horizon abroad, I’ve seem managed forests too, you know life in balance when you see it. If we are to be honest, rural Scotland is quite a lot of: monoculture, sheep here, sheep there, sheep everywhere, empty villages (not counting the holiday houses), miserable toxic fish farms… this country’s natural state is in a bad way and hearing from the professors that our academics are proudly describing (questionable) successes is a little worrying. I think they must be dewildered!

As for the inhabitants: in a previous post I highlighted a recent report which contained the horrifying statistic: 80% of people in Lochalsh and Skye describe difficulty in finding a house in this part of the Highlands.

More bad news: in December Highland Council warned of the “significant risk” parts of the Highlands are being “drained” of people. Here’s the news article from the BBC. This again is obvious to anyone living in these parts.

When a representative from Highland Council visited Glenelg to speak at our Community Council (where I currently live) I made the point that the enormous increase in short-term lets (Air B&Bs etc.) must be the major factor, must be having a HUGE impact on the number of private rentals (long term lets) in the Highlands. The Council’s man completely refused to engage with my point. This once again is obvious to anyone living in these parts.

It is now my belief that this will be the fate of the Highlands. It’ll be: The Cheviot, The Stag and the Short Term Let.

More on that next time.

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