Imagining a New Scottish Landscape

Much of the world we inhabit is based on deep assumptions we aren’t even aware of. Much of the way the world is – is based on a history we barely acknowledge. Who owns the land, how it is used and what is thought of as productive are issues that we struggle to get perspective on because of this. This is true of much of our political structures and social organisation. If you had to make the case for dependence and joining the Union today, you would struggle. If you had to make the case for private ownership of housing you would likewise struggle to make a convincing argument.

The case for much of the current (mis) management of land in Scotland is completely unsupportable. It is completely irrational for land to be held in such concentrated forms for the benefit of a wealthy elite, yet it is often thought of as axiomatic and unchallengeable.

Revive – the coalition for grouse moor reform – is really a campaign about far deeper change about land and power. The same arguments about grouse can and are made about deer and salmon, and it is no coincidence that the three iconic symbols of Scotland – are also ones that represent both a bedrock of landed power and aristocracy – but also a festering sore of environmental injustice, pollution and contamination. The things that we hold up as our greatest symbols of nature and wilderness are the very things that distort our society and destroy our environment.

Today MSPs were shown the following video by Revive. ‘Government’s Den’ satirises the world of entrepreneurs and business gurus in the TV show Dragon’s Den and imagines a world where grouse shooting doesn’t exist.  Instead it puts two lobbyists in front of the Dragons, arguing for up to a fifth of Scotland to be managed for the bloodsport. The film sees the lobbyists put forward their case for ownership of a huge part of Scotland in return for a 0.02% contribution to the economy, with only ‘a few Government subsidies’ required. They also argue that they will use predator control to systematically wipe out all species that pose a threat to grouse to enable them to cultivate tens of thousands of game birds to be shot for entertainment.

Reform’s Campaign Manager, Max Wiszniewski said: “The video is intended to be taken tongue in cheek, but behind the humour is a very serious issue. Driven grouse shooting is an intensively managed bloodsport which depends on turning vast swathes of Scotland into barren monocultures. The circle of destruction which surrounds grouse moor causes untold suffering to many thousands of animals, depletes our peat reserves and causes environmental damage on an industrial scale. The Revive coalition has alternative visions for our moors to address the environmental crisis in our countryside caused by intensively managed grouse moors and we hope this video will raise awareness of these issues and show just how ridiculous the current situation is.”


Comments (10)

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  1. Mae McKenna says:

    A brilliant piece.

  2. Lesley Docksey says:

    Hi Mike
    Had just watched this video when your post came into my mail box. Brilliantly done; I couldn’t fault it, and I’ve sent it round some of our West Country wildlife people I have a lot of respect for Revive and perhaps we should ask their team to come and do something for our English foxes, hares, badgers, buzzards, red kites, pheasants….
    Some of the Scottish short film makers are great – very funny and their barbs so pointed. So, thank you Scotland!

  3. Andrew says:

    Fair enough. A novel way to make your point. I do not wish to defend having so much land dedicated just to grouse shooting but isn’t covering all this land with trees as you seem to wish just as bad from the point of view of ecological diversity. You criticise the grouseshooters for killing lots of animals which they deem as vermin but blanket trees are very bad news for many animals and lots of rare flora. Moorland is a valuable habitat too and I should hate to see it all disappear under forestry. We could do with some more trees but not to the point where they cut off access to the high tops so be careful what you wish for.

    1. I think you’re maybe thinking of commercial monocrop forest? Proper reforestation requires native trees and would aid biodiversity, re-wilding and climate massively. Moorland and diversity of habitat is of course essential – just no the land management as presently conceived by and for a tiny elite of landowners and their clients.

      1. Wu, says:

        Andrew, Have a look at Carrifran Woodland restoration in the Borders to see the blossoming of life which is possible on previously barren, moorland. Bountiful nature is sat there, just under the soil, waiting for the overgrazing, burning and intensive mis-management of our land to stop. This is not about planting dense blankets of cellulose-factory sitka spruce, it is about letting the land live again, and us with it.

        From Carrifran Woodland website: “It is important to note, there is no plan to establish a continuous blanket of trees over the summits of the Moffat Hills. The aim is to create a natural looking woodland mosaic including much open ground, with patches of bent and wind-clipped dwarf trees, ribbons of woodland along watercourses and clumps of bushes hugging the ground in damp hollows. This will enhance the interest of the landscape and increase biodiversity, the woody species providing cover for several kinds of birds, along with resources for a whole array of insects and other animals.”

        Can any of us imagine any other country where 18% of the land would be kept aside, scorched and sterile, so that a tiny fraction of one percent of the population could dress up as Victorians to enjoy a silly, pointless, state subsidised, hobby that scatters toxic lead waste around? Have a wee think about that. It is bonkers.

  4. Muiris says:

    The comment about current land use being axiomatic, reminds me of the (? apocryphal) story of the 1840s Irish tenant farmer, who on being asked to think abouit ‘getting rid of the landlords’, responded ‘but who would we pay the rent to, then?’

  5. Alistair Taylor says:

    Brilliantly well done.
    I remember as a lad on Speyside in the 70’s, making a wee bit of extra dosh on a weekend, grouse-beating for the toffs, and thinking “this is just wrong”.
    Some of the posh twits might have been funny, in a way, to our teenage minds, but at the heart of things, it felt wrong.
    Onward to better land use, and out with the old servile ways.
    Thanks Bella for showing this, and more.

  6. David Cole says:

    Very clear about the damage driven grouse moors are already doing to Scotland. It’s time the government legislates to deprive these landowners of government support that foreign companies and individuals are banned from acquiring this land, that stringent laws are introduced to tackle wild life crime and local communities are given every support to purchase this land. The government has for too long been dragging its feet over these issues and it is imperative action is taken now.

  7. David Cameron esq, former PM says:

    Now look here chaps, it’s all very well to indulge in a little bit of tomfoolery, but if England wanted a union with Scotland in the first place, one of the reasons was that the hunting and fishing up there are really quite splendid.

    For centuries now we English upper class have come up to Scotland to shoot wildlife and you should be jolly well glad that we still do. So enough of your jock whingeing. That was my first thought on seeing this merry little skit which deserves great credit for effort.

    The thing to remember always is that Britain is a great country and we, the patrician class who have been running it for 300 years, are just the dogs bollocks. We have a very successful partnership whereby we the upper class English overlords provide the men with the guns and you jocks provide the wild fowl and the nice countryside. You know, gushing rivers, craggy bens etc etc. Why fix something which isn’t broken I say?

    The only thing we perhaps could think about trying was something Michael Gove suggested to me the other day in my shed where he came to masturbate with me over a copy of my best selling memoirs. Now as we were finishing our game of soggy biscuit, the subject of the undeserving poor came up. And Michael said something like “if only we could just shoot them all”.

    So here’s an idea. If you jock whingers are really feeling all squeamish about the environment and wildlife, we could always try replacing the grouse and deer for the undeserving poor, the malingerers who as George Osborne famously said, don’t get out of bed in the morning. If we used the undeserving poor to shoot instead of game, it would reduce our carbon footprint and our welfare bill too and would show Britain leading the world again as ever. I think the advantages are all too clear, and there is even some scope for using those of them who know how to swim as salmon substitutes according to Michael.

    So, tally-ho, chaps, and well done on this playful endeavour though I ought to say I had to ask my Glaswegian window cleaner to translate what the actors were saying into English….

  8. Gavin says:

    Scotland’s land is almost wholly dedicated to the killing of other animals by humans.
    According to, ‘grouse moors cover between 12-18% of the country’.
    And according to
    ‘Fifty-five per cent of Scotland’s agricultural land is dedicated to upland sheep farming and mixed sheep and beef cattle farming.’
    55 + 15% (the midpoint of the scale for grouse moors) = 70%, and that’s before we’ve taken into account land used for to grow fodder for those and other farmed animals.
    As if the impact on the farmed animals themselves wasn’t bad enough, animal farming is also the most ecologically destructive industry of all time.
    Its only rival is the fishing industry; fish farming (a cross between the two) is possibly even worse than both together. Fishing and fish farming help ensure that the disastrous impact of eating animals on our country isn’t confined to its land.
    All this has to stop. Let’s ensure that in an independent Scotland, non-human animals are allowed to live their lives unmolested by the human lust for their flesh.

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