Hannah Garrow, LI Policy and Influencing Manager for Scotland and Northern Ireland, reflects on a new initiative in Scotland to put landscape at the heart of policy- and decision-making
On 25 April 2019, Scotland’s Landscape Alliance held its official launch event at Our Dynamic Earth in Edinburgh. Over 90 individuals representing 65 organisations with an interest and involvement in landscape design, management and stewardship in Scotland came together to discuss the future of landscape policy.
The Alliance has been coordinated by Landscape Institute Scotland (LIS), the Scottish branch of the LI, in partnership with the National Trust for Scotland (NTS). It responds to the need for more joined-up thinking to embed landscape approaches to policy-making and delivery.
The new initiative follows the publication of the branch’s advocacy document Landscape for Scotland in November 2017. The document set out the different ways in which landscape can contribute to the Scottish Government’s national outcomes and current priorities as set out in their Programme for Government 2018/19. A debate at the Scottish Parliament in June 2018 further emphasised the need for a strategic forum to address landscape issues, which often fall between the cracks in current policy-making.
What’s significant about this approach is the effort to get a wide range of voices into the room from the multiple perspectives and aspirations for Scotland’s land and to break down the barriers of silo-based working. It was fantastic to see such a broad variety of interests represented from design and placemaking, nature conservation, public health, research, urban regeneration and rural protection. There was a real buzz about being involved at the beginning of what could be a significant step for a more inclusive, balanced discussion about the future of landscape in Scotland.
In terms of next steps, attendees at the event were asked to sign up to a series of working groups which will discuss landscape-related issues across three key themes – resilience to environmental challenges, creating healthy places and land-use and the economy – with a view to co-producing a set of recommendations for strengthening landscape policy and implementation.
Research commissioned in advance of the launch event by LIS and NTS emphasises the importance and need for such a move. Despite efforts to embed the principles of the European Landscape Convention, it demonstrated the challenges of defining landscape and the need to see landscape not just as something to protect, but as a catalyst for a wide range of social, environmental and economic outcomes. It also highlighted the difficulties of resourcing and managing change, ambitions for more just and democratic governance and and the significance of wider global influences like climate change.
Rachel Tennant, Chair of the LIS, who has been one of the key drivers behind the creation of the Alliance, said ‘This is the start of a public conversation to collectively agree on how Scotland’s landscapes can be healthy, biodiverse, beautiful, economically useful and embedded in communities. The Alliance will consider what we need to do to ensure we deliver these public benefits for the 21st century and beyond.’