Are we killing Scotland?

Updated: Oct 9, 2020

Knapdale is under threat by Scottish Forestry
Despite this sign, Scottish Forestry continues

Environmental depredations come in many forms, all of which are linked directly or indirectly, to making money. There is no doubt that sectors like forestry, and to a lesser extent aquaculture, make a significant contribution to the Scottish economy (over £1 Billion in forestry in 2015). But there is no gain without pain, I’m afraid.

So come here, Mr Environment, and give us all you’ve got. Yes it will hurt a bit, but really, it’ll be worth it.

I am not an ‘environmentalist’ and let us be brutally honest we generally don’t care about effects we can’t see, do we? So it was with some dismay that I recently took in the view of the hillside of Barnluasgan in Knapdale, Argyll (famous for our Beavers recently re-introduced there) because it appeared that several thousand of these animals had been busy overnight.

Beavers not responsible for tree loss
'Honestly, mate, it wasn't me!'

The hillside, previously brimming with lush green trees, was now utterly bare as far as one could see. Of course, even I realised that Beavers had not done this. No it was a much more destructive mammal. One that operates heavy machinery but is less inclined to operate common sense.

My first thought, no actually my second thought, was “What are our tourists going to make of this when they round the bend to see the set of The Martian?”

My first thought was unprintable.

Land management is an amazingly civilised term and conjures up images of Tweed-suited rangers, carefully going about their business. The truth is far less picturesque, so when upon making a politely incandescent query to Forestry and Land Scotland (I think I may have used the term “War zone”) and being told that part of the reason was to ensure ‘slope stability’, I simply sagged with relief. Thank goodness, because for a moment there I thought it was just about making more money.

Irresponsible forestry in Scotland
Just a pile of cash to Forestry and Land Scotland

I once thought that cutting down forests in large swathes was bad. Don’t we actually need them to stop erosion and leaching, absorb CO2 and provide some habitats? So cutting down trees in an area well known for heavy rain, delicate ecosystems and in a warming world does not seem particularly clever. I was further confidently informed that native trees will start to grow on the scorched hillsides through ‘natural regeneration’.

Perhaps a big sign saying ‘All Hazel Trees This Way’ would help?

Our world is in a precarious state: overpopulation, over-consumption and over-warming are all contributing to a bleak future. Let us use Scotland’s and indeed all UK resources sensibly and wisely.

If Forestry and Land Scotland must recreate something that resembles a direct hit with a meteorite let us see some bigger investments in bringing back tree cover quickly because many of these places now litter the Highlands with no new planting in evidence even many years later.

And for goodness sake please don’t tell me, ever, that deforesting our hillsides is a good thing.