Hello and welcome to the July edition of the Voice for Arran. It is a beautiful warm afternoon and instead of sitting inside typing, in spirit I am outside swimming in the exotic blue waters that are currently surrounding Arran! The sea in the Clyde has had a lot of interest in the past weeks, with comparisons to the Mediterranean and the tropics abounding. The colour, as Sally Campbell explains in her article, ‘So, What is Marine Plankton Bloom?’ is due to an explosion of coccolith plankton, which arises in the surface of the water when certain conditions come together.
In some land based news, a theme that has unfolded in this issue is the need for land reform to help move Scotland toward a more equitable and sustainable future. In a report published last month, ‘Woodland Nation: pathways to a forested Scotland owned by the people,’ diversifying woodland ownership is said to be key to not only a quicker rate of tree planting and reaching Scotland’s climate targets, but also to a “shift to a more socially just land ownership”. These claims, urging the redistribution of land, for the health of the climate and society, is also the focus of the recently published book ‘Reclaiming the Land’, by Rob Gibson. In his review of the book, Malcolm Kerr reminds us that “Less than 500 individuals own half of our privately-owned rural land”, a pattern which he says, is “responsible ultimately for relative economic stagnation, environmental degradation, over-dependence on tourism, and a lack of any diversity of affordable housing for islanders.”
Another report published earlier this year, ‘Community Landowners and the Climate Emergency’, also points to the fact that when land and assets are bought under community ownership and locally based initiatives, the sense of place, participation and responsibility that ensues, often means there is a far greater and more organic stewardship of the natural environment than under the present circumstances. With such a personal investment in these projects, community owners often lead the way in tackling climate change. The report says that, “This ability is rooted in the particular ability of community organisations to enjoy trust, to build credibility and to communicate with people in their area”, and concludes that, “The role of this sector in delivering on Scotland’s climate mitigation and adaptation goals is far greater than might be assumed simply on the basis of the current extent of community-owned land, buildings and other built assets (around 2.5% of the Scottish land mass)”.
In Arran, while many of the usual summer activities are on hold again, there are lots of opportunities coming up to connect with the land. Although not at the stage of community ownership, the Pioneer Project is one organisation bringing derelict spaces into use, benefitting both Arran’s environment and its people. In this issue we hear about their recent activities as well as opportunities for volunteering. Digging and planting aside, in the middle of the month there is a guided walk with the Arran Geopark and the Arran Arts Heritage Trail, exploring some of the artists that have lived and painted on the island. For poets, we have news of the McLellan Poetry Competition and the deadline for submissions is 11th July. There are also a few days left to object to the Scottish Salmon Company’s ongoing appeal against North Ayrshire Council’s decision to reject the fish farm proposal for North Arran. With the health of both land and sea in mind, we wish you a lovely month, Elsa