It wasn’t so long ago that a vibrant, wild forest stretched across much of Scotland. Beavers and cranes found sanctuary in extensive wetlands, salmon and trout filled Scotland’s rivers and lynx, wolf and wild boar stalked woodland glades.
Scotland has become an ecological shadow of its former self with many species extinct and habitats degraded. It doesn’t have to be this way. A bold vision for Scotland’s future is slowly evolving; a vision that would see native woodland regenerating, damaged peatlands restored and tree-lined rivers running freely; a vision that would see a wilder, revitalised landscape driven by natural processes, supporting a much broader range of wildlife.
The great news is that this is already happening. In places like Glenfeshie, Creag Meagaidh, Abernethy, Glen Affric and Carrifran, whole communities of plants and animals are coming back to life and as the land regenerates so too will communities of people, as they see the value in wild nature and start to explore new business opportunities.
There is plenty to celebrate already – sea eagles are breeding once more, osprey populations are prospering and pine martens have recolonised former haunts. And soon, beavers will be free to revitalise Scotland’s wetlands after an absence of 400 years. These stories prove that a wilder Scotland is entirely possible but we need to work together to make more of these things happen.
The Rewilding Charter
Be a rewilder for people and nature
You can increase the wild space around you by being a personal rewilder. There are a number of simple ways of making your local patch a little wild haven. The space could be your garden, playground, window box or unloved grass verge. If we work together on small areas it adds up to making a big difference.
Give children a wild childhood
Children have become disconnected from nature and instead increasingly spend time gaming, using social media and watching YouTube. Research shows that children in Britain can name more Pokemon species than native species of plants or animals. The problem as described by David Attenborough is that “No one will protect what they don’t care about; and no one will care about what they have never experienced.” Our children are the future policy makers and must be given opportunities to experience nature and wild spaces.
Bathe in wild spaces and revitalise your physical and mental health
There is a clear positive relationship between nature and your health. Thus we must see wild space as a natural asset as important as material or money. Nature has therapeutic power by allowing our minds to find a stillness in the parks and wooded glades. The scents, textures and sights of nature soothe our hearts and spirits from the frantic modern technology-driven world. It’s time to rewild our hearts.
Stop the tide of abuse and let our seas and oceans recover
Ecosystems under the sea require stewardship as much as those on land. Scotland has the longest coastline of the British Isles and Scottish waters make up 60% of the UK’s seas. Uniquely, Scotland neighbours the North Sea, Irish Sea and Atlantic Ocean (with the Arctic Ocean not that far north of Shetland) so we have an essential part to play protecting our blue planet.
Use your money to support a wilder Scotland
Mighty oaks from little acorns grow. If we all contribute, together we can make a big difference.
Be a rewilding advocate
Many voices together can hugely amplify the case for a wilder Scotland. If we all reach out to family, friends, companies, local councils and government, our voices can’t be ignored.
Support reintroduction of key missing species
There is a moral and ecological case for the science-based reintroduction of species that have become extinct in Scotland. White-tailed eagles, red kites and beavers have been successfully reintroduced and are now playing their part as essential members of complex ecosystems. Many people believe that Eurasian lynx should also be reintroduced to the Scottish Highlands. Any successful reintroduction would require the expertise of the scientific community as well as the understanding of the general public and the support of the local community. As rewilding advocates we can support this process.
Plant trees in whose shade you know you may never sit
Scotland has around 15% woodland cover, much less than other countries in Europe. Woodland not only provides space for nature but also employment, reduced flood risk, clean water and mitigation of climate change. By planting native trees and shrubs in suitable locations we can support biodiversity and create crucial wildlife corridors. As the Greek proverb says, “Society grows great when old men plant trees whose shade they know they shall never sit in.”
To see how to get involved and make these principles work in practice, go to the Scotland: the Big Picture website for further ideas, where you can also read about their inspirational vision for a wilder Scotland.