Where now for the IYM
A Scottish Mountain Network?

The International Year of Mountains project in Scotland has had some success in terms of raising awareness of mountain issues and placing the wider aims of IYM higher up the agenda of the relevant agencies and Non-Governmental Organisations within Scotland. It even managed to get a commitment from the Scottish Parliament, although their real dedication to mountain issues remains to be proven.

Some of the highlights to come out of IYM discussed at the wrap-up meeting held in Perth on the 25th February this year included;

  1. Press coverage, including the report in the Press and Journal of NEMT's own contribution, our Ballater IYM Weekend in May last year (See last issue of Mountain Views for the write-up).
  2. Awareness raising, firstly amongst MSPs and SNH staff of Mountain Issues. We did manage to get a ministerial launch for IYM in Scotland, way back in November 2001 at Dynamic Earth in Holyrood. However, it was felt that awareness amongst the general public remains low, with many mountaineering groups still unaware of the existence of IYM.
  3. Events- including as mentioned our own Ballater event, but also the highly successful SNH / IYM Conference in Pitlochry last November, and the Summit to Sea Conference in January which served to link IYM with the International Year of Freshwater this year, did all attract significant public interest and press reporting. Of course the timing of the launch of the Designation Order for the Cairngorms National Park with the Pitlochry event may have had an impact here.
  4. Reporting of key issues for mountain management and the publication of the report by Martin Price, Andy MacPherson, Ben Dixon and Charles Warren (published by SNH and CMS jointly) Scotland's Mountains - Key Issues for their future Management. However some could say that we were preaching to the converted, and that within the larger aims of IYM, little has been achieved in Scotland. The failure of the UK Government to sign up to the Year signifies what little interest and awareness there is of mountain issues at Westminster and to an extent Holyrood.

Following on from the International Year of the Mountains, co-ordinated by Andrew MacPherson at the Centre for Mountain Studies in Perth, it was felt that some form of carry-through was required. The coalition represented, many of whom formed the partnership for the International Year of Mountains project, agreed that in order to encourage more debate and research on mountain issues, a Scottish Mountain Network could be formed with some or all of the following functions listed below;

Comments made by Simon Pepper (WWF Scotland) at the end of the Nature and People conference in Pitlochry in November 2002 seem the most appropriate rationale for the establishment of such a Network. With the recent developments such as land reform, the Water Framework Directive legislation, National Parks and changing European support mechanisms, the future for Scotland's mountain areas is very much an open book. The issue of a predominantly urban population getting back in touch with its rural roots also deserves mentioning, linking into the Executive's targets for a healthy Scotland. Informal outdoor recreation deserves a place in this strategy. Therefore it is felt that we need some way of ensuring that mountains get the proper place in such strategies- for they are so very important- and are also protected from inappropriate development.

However we must be careful that this Network does not become another organisation, another talking shop where the same faces continually rehash the same issues. The General Council, at the meeting on the 5th March, expressed some real concern over this point. We feel that strengthening the mountain focus within LINK would therefore perhaps be best, rather than re-inventing the wheel.

So our vision for a Scottish Mountain Network would be that it exists under the existing framework of LINK and consists of LINK members, with perhaps wider input from some non-Link members such as the Centre for Mountain Studies. The need for high quality research in Scotland's mountains has been highlighted before and is still a real issue; if any of the outcomes of the International Year of the Mountains are directly important for Scotland, it is this one. We also feel that such a Network could benefit from the contribution of, and make a significant contribution to, the work of SNH and SEPA. This is particularly relevant where SEPA is required under the WFD to encourage participation in the creation of Catchment Management Plans. It is under this role that we feel that a Scottish Mountain Network would be most effective.

Graham Neville, General Council, April 2003

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