The march of the Cairngorms National Park was drawn to include our communities

Posted on September 25th, 2017
by An Camas Mor

The Cairngorms National Park march was drawn to include our communities

The Cairngorms National Park boundary was drawn around our towns and villages to include the 18,000 people that are part of the areas communities. The inclusion of people, and the aims of the National Parks make Scotland’s National Parks different from other National Parks around the world.

The first aim of the Cairngorms National Park Authority is

‘to conserve and enhance the natural and cultural heritage of the area’

and the fourth is to

‘to promote sustainable economic and social development of the area’s communities’.

Some see these as two different and opposing ambitions: but distant history and the recent past both show that they are complementary. A rich natural environment and thriving economy mutually benefit each other.

>Highland principles of stewardship

When the Scottish Executive drew-up the National Parks Act, they foresaw no conflict in the first and last aims of the National Park, and this is natural when you look at this law in the landscape of our Gaelic culture.

To see a conflict in the first and last aim of the National Park, is to misunderstand the intimate relationship between people and place is part of the Gaelic heritage of Badenoch and Strathspey.

According to Highland principles, the community are the stewards of the land for future generations. The Gaelic word ‘Duthchus’ describes ‘the land to which we belong’ rather than the land that belongs to us.

This Gaelic sense of belonging is different from valuing property as a commodity.

It is a relationship based on responsibilities as well as rights. It speaks of rights based on kin and community, and responsibilities based on our duty to the next generations. In essence, taking care of our communities is fundamental to what it means to take care of our environment.

>The Scottish Government and self-government

Many of us support devolved government because we believe it is best placed to embody our culture. The Scottish Parliament was renewed, it enshrined in our laws a relationship with the land that has always been embedded in our customs. The Scottish Outdoor Access Code (2004) grants people the right to access land when exercised responsibly: the law trusts people to self-govern their own behaviour in the countryside so we may all take care and responsibility of our environment.

By the same highland principle of granting people collective responsibility for our future, the development of our communities should go hand in hand with the conservation of our environment.

‘Wild land’ and the re-population of the Highlands

Since industrialisation and the de-population of the Highlands, our landscape has become the archetypal image of a ‘wilderness’ in the Romantic imagination.

Today, people are anxious that urbanization ‘threatens’ a place that for many has become a symbol for Scotland’s past: the Highlands is part of our myth of National origins. Paradoxically, ideas of what makes a land ‘wild’ can only ever be imagined in relation to what is urban and tamed.

Some want to halt peoples’ return. It threatens their view of what makes the ‘wild’ character and Romantic setting of the Highlands. They may prefer a barren land of hills and lochs, no trees, lots of deer and very few people.

People native to the Highlands, however, do not see the land from this historical point of view. Ours is a land to be lived in, and worked, and nurtured for our children’s future. ‘Wilderness’ in this landscape, wholly depends on people.

For many people in the Highlands, environmental sustainability is inherent to our way of life. After all, sustainability is about sustaining all kinds of life for our future.