Hello and a very happy 2023 to all our readers!

Whether refreshed or recovering, we hope this issue finds you well and that some island news will help welcome in the New Year. While Scotland’s Year of Stories is coming to an end, we start off with some wonderful Arran tales from the community led COAST project (not to be confused with COAST of Lamlash). The project has been gathering stories from around the west coast, bringing the past alive in the present in an amazing online resource that explores the culture and heritage of Scotland’s island and coastal communities. It’s an absolute joy to read through their website, and we have published just a few of the contributions from Arran.

With both the COP 15 conference in Montreal and the publication of the Scottish government’s draft biodiversity strategy last month, nature and our role in it, has become another guiding theme. The figures as we know are startlingly bad, and the rate at which the life on which we depend is diminishing is not easy to fathom. The 2022 WWF Living Planet Report reveals global wildlife populations have fallen by 69% on average since 1970, so the agreement that was reached at the conference will hopefully start to seriously address biodiversity loss and restore ecosystems.

Such big global events as COP can seem distant and lofty, and what has really brought the biodiversity issue home to me are things happening here on Arran. Within the space of a mile or so, a tale of contrasts is taking place, one that gives a great sense of hope for nature, and another a feeling of dismay. We hear from the Arran Community Land Initiative and the brilliant work they have been doing over the past year – improving tracks, planting trees, growing food, and restoring wild flower meadows.

Yet just down the road at King’s Cross, the community is facing proposals by Forestry and Land Scotland, to develop a significant area of farmland into a timber stacking and transfer facility. The destruction of a tranquil and biodiverse rich area into an industrial site is a shocking prospect, as well as being completely at odds with the government’s strategy of restoring nature and improving protected areas. (If you are interested in getting involved in the Friends of King’s Cross campaign, please do get in touch with them, there are details in this issue).

In a piece from the Shadows and Reflections series, Lally MacBeth recounts her experience of cultivating a geranium cutting over the last year. Through her description of the progress of the plant, which originated from one first potted in 1915, and the connections it inspires, “a Geranium of generations”, I understand the care we need to take if things for our world are to change. We get a sense of how the simple process of tending a plant is the basis of a healthy living world. Lally says, “This small, and seemingly insignificant gift has, for me, brought joy to each morning of this year…. A timeless Geranium that links long lost grandmothers to the present and a sense of hope for the future.”

We hope you enjoy the issue and may the year ahead be Geranium filled! Elsa