“FINDING OPPORTUNITIES TO THRIVE ALONGSIDE NATURE”
An investigation of Scotland’s discourses of rewilding and re-peopling

Submitted in partial fulfilment for the Degree of Master of Science in Climate Justice

Glasgow Caledonian University

August 2021

This study addresses two important issues: the challenge of ensuring social and economic sustainability in remote rural communities of Scotland and the need to regenerate sustainable ecosystems to combat biodiversity loss. Through a mixture of desk-based research and semi-structured qualitative interviews, I examined the intersection between two alternative land use practices, rewilding (restoring degraded ecosystems) and re-peopling (restoring human populations). Often positioned in opposition to each other, these practices represent different visions for the use of Scotland’s remote rural places.

To gain perspectives on potential points of common ground in this often contentious debate, I conducted series of 11 semi-structured qualitative interviews during June and July 2021 with research participants representing a cross-section of stakeholders in the discourse around land use in Scotland.

Participants endorsed a place-based approach, in which local communities have power in the design and implementation of biodiversity projects, and receive the benefits that emerge from them. Embedded within this approach is a critique of current concentrated patterns of land ownership in Scotland, and a desire to de-centralised both land ownership (through the breaking up of large estates and the generation of more land-owners, both community and individuals) and decision-making (through the empowerment of this new cohort of landowners).

In these proposed community rewilding initiatives, human communities exist alongside and within healthy ecosystems, entangled in both space and function. Seen through the lens of a multi-species landscape justice, this model offers a path forward that requires land use decisions to made with recognition of the health of both human and non-human systems.

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