A Mountain of Conferences...

As I put forefinger to mouse for this report I appreciate I have to be brief. Here goes...

Reforesting Scotland
(4th - 6th October, 2002) The Gathering. Having received their excellent magazine and enjoyed their website: www.reforestingscotland.org I thought I should get myself off to the highly acclaimed annual "Gathering" held last year in Beauly. Yes, it was a great experience and I learned a lot about Scotland's untapped timber potential.
Scottish Parliament Rural Development Committee
(11th October, 2002) 24th Meeting. Well this one was a cracker! The Committee had arranged to hear views of local people on Cairngorms National Park (CNP). It considered Bill Wright's Petition PE481 - to give our CNP the same powers as Loch Lomond and Trossachs National Park (LLT) plus Campbell Simon of Laggan Farmer's Action Group's Petition PE555 - to include Parish of Laggan in the Park. Those who wished were then given a 90 second slot to state their concerns. At the risk of sounding "Lord of the Ring-ish" one white knight shone through amongst the MSP's. I have to tell you when it came to considering Bill's Petition, Mike Rumbles MSP was the only MSP who was prepared to state he could see no good reason why CNP should not have the same planning powers as LLT. To continue the theme, MSP Fergus Ewing has to take the role of Saruman - he openly misled the meeting by stating the Park's budget would be used up on domestic planning issues if the Park Authority were given planning powers. You did not have to look too far to see the preferred route is to divert these back to Local Authorities who currently handle them in any case. Yes, we sure saw new Scottish Politics in action that day!
Cairngorms Community Councils Group
(2nd November, 2002) Local Communities and CNP. Dr Jim Hunter, Chairman of Highland and Islands Enterprise chaired this day in Kingussie and included, as a throw away remark, a wish to find a new buyer for the Funicular Railway!! Simon Pepper of WWF presented on the European perspective and a group from LLT gave a very interesting insight into the experience of their already established National Park. The comparable difficulties we would face in creating a Park with 5 separate Planning Authorities did not go unmentioned!
Centre for Mountain Studies (CMS) and SNH
(6th - 9th November, 2002) Nature and People: Conservation and Management in the Mountain of Northern Europe. This was introduced in our last issue and was the highlight of Scotland's contribution to IYM. Graham Neville and I attended for NEMT and, with 2 days of talks, and 1 full day field trip, the event was superb. John Markland, SNH Chairman chaired the first session which included Martin Price, Chairman of CMS and an absolutely first class presentation by Magnus Magnusson KBE. Siv Frioleifsdottir, Minister for Environment and Nordic Co-op. for Iceland spoke and her presentation was top class. Other European speakers included individuals from Sweden, Czech Republic, Norway, Finland and Italy. On Sunday I joined a trip to Glen Coe and Craig Meagaidh and leaned a lot from fellow delegates plus our knowledgeable and charming 'tour guide' John Mackay of SNH. Overall the whole event had a strong pan-European feel to it, united in a common concern for our mountain heritage.
Cairngorms Campaign
(16th November, 2002) Roots to the Summit. This late addition, including Robin Harper MSP, was noticeably well attended with healthy participation by all. NEMT made our mark by raising a motion if Scottish Parliament insisted on creating a CNP with the now "in-place" planning and boundary arrangements the whole NGO movement should launch a mass rejection. While the latter did not ultimately happen, the motion received unanimous support and a significant seed was sewn...
(20th - 21st January, 2003) Summit to Sea. Despite a New Year's Resolution to attend less conferences (!) this one was not to be missed. With an overall theme of the interactions between Water and Land, Day 1 included papers by each conference organiser body plus several others. Day 2 was an Open Session designed by our Founder Member, Drennan Watson. To conclude this report I want to share with you a few "gems" that Drennan gave us. He told us that "Tomorrow, Scotland is another country - right now she is in a malleable state and between us we can do a lot to shape the years ahead." Does that not just say it all?

Jennifer A Cook, April 2003

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