No more “it’s aye been”

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“I’M going to be fairly blunt. We have to work together in the next 50 years, either we do it or die.”

So says Borders environmentalist Chris Badenoch who will speak at a land use debate in Melrose on Monday.

The Tweed Forum director is one of three south of Scotland speakers, alongside Southern Uplands Partnership chairman John Thomson and Hawick farmer Jim Shanks, at the free “How can Scotland’s land best contribute to sustainable economic growth?” discussion.

The former Scottish Natural Heritage area manager will tell the meeting: “We cannot continue our land use with a sort of minor modification of “It’s aye been”. We urgently require quite radical rethinking of our priorities, their planning, research and practical methods of application if we are to survive future demands. We must integrate.”

Mr Badenoch will note the planet’s finite nature – “Under existing production methods, it will be unable to feed its nine billion in 50 years time.”

Climate change will bring water imbalances and we must take care of water systems as “everything we do eventually goes down the stream”.

Most of the population will become vegetarian. And he continued: “Hill stock will demand a premium because in the lowland everyone will be growing crops to eat.

He says: “There’s a big row again between sheep and forestry, but if we manage our hill farms properly in the way that was shown about 50 years ago by the former Hill Farming Research Organisation (now part of the Macaulay Land Use Research Institute), we can have both.”

Hill grazing across south Scotland is “generally under-utilised”, he says: “A proportion of every hill could quite easily be put into forestry and woodland without jeopardy to agricultural production, with a gain for carbon sequestration, timber production, fuel, flood alleviation, shelter, amenity, game, and wildlife and habitat networks.”

Land owners should respect their wider responsibilities, for example says Mr Badenoch: “Bad grazing practices cannot be permitted to allow unfettered erosion; poor application of nitrogen fertiliser cannot be allowed to jeopardise internationally important wildlife habitats downstream.”

Southern Uplands Partnership chairman John Thomson will talk about land use from a landscape, wildlife and cultural heritage perspective and its role in recreation and tourism.

He said: “It’s very important and is easily neglected because of a tendency to look at land use from a single perspective, usually fairly exclusively farming or forestry. When we are managing land and producing whatever it is, we are affecting a resource that lots of other people make a living from or derive enjoyment from. The whole community really does have an interest in the way land is managed.”

Mr Shanks will argue that farmers have to make the best use of natural resources, become better, lower the pollutants they produce and “be part of the carbon solution rather than the problem.” They need to become “less dependent on subsidies and more tolerant of market fluctuations” and help fill the energy gap in a post peak oil world, he will say. 
Also speaking will James Hutton Institute’s Professor Bill Slee, Anderson Strathern Solicitors’ Alastair McKie on renewables and Holyrood’s Ian Davidson on Common Agricultural Policy reform.

To register for the talk, hosted by RSA Fellows’ Media, Creative Industries, Culture and Heritage Network and James Hutton Institute, visit