Stagecoach Founder Bars Travelling Public
Last year, Stagecoach founder Anne Gloag, said to be Scotland's wealthiest woman, erected a six foot, barbed wire-topped fence enclosing some twelve acres of her Kinfauns Castle estate. She thus became the first private landowner in Scotland to challenge the access rights provisions of the Land Reform (Scotland) Act. She has now applied to Perth Sheriff Court to exempt the area within the fence from statutory access rights on the grounds, arguing that the fence is necessary for her security and that of her family and guests and the case is being heard at the time of writing. The fenced area encloses a substantial tract of native woodland, including some unusual conifers. Historic Scotland was not consulted over the planning application and subsequently protested, describing the new fence as having a "significant and detrimental impact on the designed landscape" of Kinfauns. Mrs Gloag's application is being opposed by the Ramblers Association Scotland and by Perth and Kinross Council. Ramblers Scotland is concerned that a victory for Mrs Gloag would constitute a dangerous precedent for other landowners who would like to undermine Scotland's hard won access legislation.
The Scottish tartan industry, long renowned for its ability to find a clan to match the surname of any potential customer has now extended its reach to another species. Earlier this year, Lochcarron of Scotland launched a capercaillie tartan, designed to represent and promote the importance of protecting one of Scotland's most iconic and endangered birds. A range of tartan goods is being produced and can be bought at RSPB reserve shops or online at www.rspbshop.co.uk. RSPB Scotland will receive a royalty on all sales which will go to fund capercaillie conservation. As yet there are no reported sightings of capercaillie resplendent in items from the new range.
In a probably unconnected development, SNH have reported that the capercaillie population on Deeside has remained stable and in some woods has increased. Numbers are still too low to sustain a long-term viable population but work on habitat improvement is continuing
Crossbills Are True Scots
Research carried out on the RSPB's Abernethy nature reserve has finally established that the Scottish crossbill is a species, in fact the only bird species, endemic to Scotland. Although it has been classed as a separate species since the 1980s, genetic similarities to common and parrot crossbills which also inhabit Scottish pinewoods had cast some doubt on the Scottish crossbill's special status. The long-term field study programme run by the RSPB has shown that the bird's bill size is genetically inherited rather than being related to the feeding conditions in which the birds grow up. The study also demonstrated that crossbills only mate with birds with a similar size of bill and so each of the three species will only mate with birds of its own species. So the Scottish crossbill is indeed a true Scot. The RSPB warns, however, that while the three species do differ in bill size, the differences are small and not a reliable field indicator of which is which. So, unless we are well up on the different crossbill flight characteristics and excitement calls, a crossbill's a crossbill for a' that.
Skye Footpath Upgrade
Earlier this autumn, work began on a major upgrade to the Quiraing footpath on the Trotternish ridge. More than 30,000 people a year are estimated to use the footpath and, as a result, it has become badly eroded. The Skye and Lochalsh Footpath Initiative has been restoring footpaths and reducing environmental damage since 1992 and this latest venture is supported by funding from the European Agricultural Guidance and Guarantee Fund.
CNP Looks After Its Voles
The water vole, aka "Ratty" in Kenneth Grahame's classic book "The Wind in the Willows", has undergone a massive decline throughout lowland Britain. The Cairngorms are one of its remaining strongholds and a vole conservation officer has recently been appointed to help monitor and protect vole populations in the Cairngorms National Park. The post is part of a project jointly funded by the Park Authority in partnership with Aberdeen University and SNH. Predation by the American mink is one of the main causes of the vole's decline and the conservation officer will work with landowners to help eradicate mink from the park and surrounding areas.
Marine Park On The Horizon
Scottish National Heritage has advised Scottish Ministers that much of Scotland's seas and coastline have the potential to be our first Coastal and Marine National Park. SNH staff have identified five areas as top priority for further conservation, including North Skye and Wester Ross and Small Isles and the South Skye Coast but recognise that other areas such as Orkney, Shetland and the Moray Firth also have strong potential. Earlier this month, the Scottish Executive launched a three-month consultation on the proposal. Concerns have been expressed in West Coast communities that national park designation would do nothing for local people and would restrict economic activities such as fishing. The consultation paper is available on the Scottish Executive website at www.scottishexecutive.gov.uk.
New Convenor For Park Board
Cairngorms National Park Board members have chosen David Green as their new convenor following the departure of Andrew Thin in August to become chairman of Scottish Natural Heritage. Mr Green, a crofter and tourism business operator from Ross-shire, is currently chair of the Crofters Commission and is a former convenor of Highland Council.
Journey For The Wild
'Journey for the Wild 2006' (was organised by the John Muir Trust this summer to raise awareness of the importance of wild land in the UK. Participants travelled across the UK from north, south, east and west, aiming to travel light and with the least possible impact on the environment through some of Britain's wildest places and most spectacular scenery. A hand carved message baton was passed along on each of the four routes. The four batons came together on Ben Nevis on August 26 and then travelled together to Perthshire, along the Tay to Fife and then through the Lothians to Edinburgh. The journey ended at the Scottish Parliament, where they were presented to Presiding Officer George Reid.
Extension For Speyside Way
The Cairngorms National Park Authority has consulted on a proposal to extend the Speyside Way. There is considerable support for the idea of extending the long-distance footpath from its present western end at Aviemore to go as far as Newtonmore. Some difficulties have arisen over the section from Aviemore to Dalraddy and the consultation aims to identify the best route for this section. The consultation report is available at www.speysideway.org
Will Campbell, December 2006
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